With photographs by Ovie Carter accompanying the essays, Sidewalk is a literal portrait of people in unconventional urban America who have traditionally been marginalized. People like: Hakim, a book vendor who chose to leave corporate America to work on the street; Keith, a "panhandler" who "likes to talk to babies and dogs"; BA, a "place holder"; Rock, a "table watcher"; Mudrick, a man who pees in a cup (sometimes to get back at Rudy "Gulliano"); Ron, a magazine vendor who lets people hold his money so he cannot get high; and "Mitch" the author of this book and the man who refused to give Ron his money at two in the morning.
There is research done from on high, with the mere manipulation and analysis of data. Then, there is research occurring as the result of the researcher submitting himself, immersing himself in the environment and observing. Because, as Duneier states, he was committed to "the idea that the voices of the people on Sixth Avenue need to be heard," he took great care to offer readers a, relatively unobtrusive view of the sidewalk life he observed.
In addition to helping readers understand behavioral repertoires unfamiliar to many of us, Duneier actually suggests solutions. He advocates for more public bathrooms, as well as public tables with benches underneath so street vendors will not have to concern themselves with having materials stolen while they search for restrooms, or conduct business.
Sidewalk is an inspirational and informative piece of work with conscience and purpose.
Dr. Hodari is a prisoner rights activist and the editor of the forthcoming anthology Convictions, a collection of writing about the Black prison experience (www.askhari.com).