Street Spirit vendor Vernon Dailey, a Black man in a red Nike jacket wearing a gray plaid Santa hat.
Vernon Dailey. (Alastair Boone)

During our fundraising event in November 2022, Editor in Chief Alastair Boone introduced me as Vernon Dailey. Mind you, I’m on stage with three others, so to break the ice for the sold-out crowd I said “well she almost has my name right, my name is Billy Dee Williams.” Everyone laughed and applauded. I told them my real name, Vernon Dailey. The reason I said Billy Dee is because I’ve been told we look alike.So while on stage, Alastair asked me a question: how to people treat me in Fairfax when I’m selling the newspaper? Well, I have a story about that. This one guy walked up to me talking loudly after seeing me getting out of my CRV. He said: you have a car and you work with the homeless newspaper? He was really frustrated. I said “sir I’m homeless, not car-less.” He really had a problem with that. But one of the many reasons I love Fairfax is because the residents came to my rescue. My regular customers backed the man off of me, and at the same time, educated him about Street Spirit. They told him that I sell papers, and asked him to just let it go. So he did.

I wanted to explain this to the angry man that I didn’t always have a car, and if he had read my stories, he would have known. A Street Spirit article in September 2021 told the story of my life. Then there was an update in the May issue, where I mentioned how I was in need of a car and was looking for support. I joked, you should donate your second or third car to Vernon. But in fact, this young couple answered that request. I knew them from my time selling the paper, and they gave me a car. 

The kindness of the people who buy my paper is amazing to me. Even kids in Fairfax try to give me money. I don’t let them, unless their parents are there to give them permission. But they often want to, because they want to give back to their community and help somebody in need. It is truly amazing to me.

So the moral of the story is: don’t judge the man by his car. And if you want to give back, read Street Spirit, because you might learn a lot.

Vernon Dailey is a Street Spirit vendor who sells the paper outside Good Earth in Fairfax and Berkeley Bowl West in Berkeley.