By James Maher
Name: Brother Rasheim
Location: Tompkins Square Park
Time: Noon on Tuesday, March 22
I’m from the city. I came around here in the 1980s. I was homeless and I was checking out some church and the Bowery Mission, some resources, and I used to do volunteer work. It was beautiful. It’s not a good thing being homeless, but for a young man like I was at that time, I was actually learning about the world. I was in the street, but a lot of people told me their stories, so it was very educational, brother.
This community is just as powerful as Harlem. This is a rich multicultural place. This park was a melting pot for many cultures. So every time I come to get this pantry from this beautiful church, I never want to forget where I come from. Trinity is a powerful church. It’s been a soup kitchen for many years, where you can come. They’ve been doing that for over 20 years now, probably more. Every time I come here, it’s actually me walking into a whole historical place.
I was here for the riot that happened. I was here that night. It was pure chaos. I saved a couple peoples’ lives who were throwing bottles at the police. A policeman was going to retaliate and I just yelled out, 'Noooooo! Please!' He snapped out of it, and put his gun in his holster. It was a whole big thing that night. It was horrible.
This was the home, if you want to talk about Woodstock, if you want to talk about Harlem, there was a powerful history here. There were a lot of things that were done here that were beautiful, that brought community. There are a couple community gardens that have been here forever. The Charlie Parker House is right here. That’s where he used to live. That’s a historical landmark right there, brother. A lot of jazz artists came down here from Harlem and did a lot of powerful things here. People used to be out here at three, four, five in the morning playing jazz music and singing love songs from the old 1960s. This is a beautiful melting pot.
And there’s Diane. Diane feeds the homeless here and she helped a lot of people. She has a food ministry, where she comes right out in the park on certain days. She comes here and preaches in this park to the homeless. She was part of the spiritual reform here. She’s a powerful person. She was out here in the early 1980s, preaching when it was rough in this park, telling people to get their lives together.
As a matter of fact, she told me to get myself together. I met her 25 years ago. She told me the truth. I never forgot her for that. She said, ‘You’re a very good, nice young man,’ but she told me I had a very nasty attitude. That hurt my feelings, you know, but she told me the truth. She told me that I was a young man and I had to work on my attitude. She was telling the truth. I have had a lot of issues that I worked on with family and stuff like that, and I worked on it now, and now I’m getting ready to go to my brother’s wedding ceremony in about two weeks, so I got my family in my life.
And me, I’m Brother man, I learn from everybody. I help everybody. And that’s pretty much who I am. So I come here to get this little beautiful pantry here, just to remember where I came from. And soon I’m going to be starting my food ministry, in the same way all of these beautiful people are out here. I’m going to be doing everything. I’m going to be giving referrals to shelters and pantries. I’m going to be feeding people. I’m waiting on some paperwork to come through, so I can receive donations. You have to have things in place, your documents, in order for restaurants and the Salvation Army to donate stuff. So I’m waiting on that. It’s a beautiful place. Life is beautiful.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.