I have been vending all my life, starting in Senegal, where I sold
clothes, mainly those made in the United States. My dad was doing the
traveling; he was bringing the merchandise from here or France, and I
was selling it.
When I was first in this country I began vending too, this time making
my own jewelry and clothing. I was doing festivals, state to state. I
went everywhere on the East Coast, and that was good. But what I was
doing, I didn’t have any life; I decided to stop. I said no more
I began to wonder “what can I do in New York?” I looked for other jobs,
but they were asking me for [immigration] papers and I don’t have any. So I think, why
not go into the street? I see people in the street and I ask them “what
do you need to go to the street?” You just need your ID and everything,
so I said let me go.
I went to the Department of Consumer Affairs, and they told me that the
list has been closed for ten years. But I needed to make a living; I had to take my chances.
Vending is not that good every day, but you can make $200 a week.
Even if that’s not okay, it’s better than
nothing. And I’m settled; I can go home every day.
Every day I wake early. I am a Muslim, so I wake up and do my prayers really early in the
morning. Monday to Friday I go to the gym by 9:30, do the stairs, or do
the bike. Then I go to get my stuff from storage.
By 11:30 AM I get to my spot â€“ 12:30 or 1:00 if it’s really cold. I always
work at the same place, because it’s close to my storage, and people
know me. People come and buy my things over and over.
It takes me an hour to set up. I like to make it look really nice; make
the colors right. I put earrings up on a board, put the rings on the
table, the bracelets on one side. I feel really comfortable with it.
Even if people don’t buy one day, it makes them think about it, and
they come back the next day or over the weekend.
I make my jewelry when I’m on my table. When I’m already set up, I get
my chair and I make my jewelry.
If it’s cold, I stay until 8 o’clock at night. If it’s summertime I
stay out until 11. I need that money, so I stay out. I wake up really
early, I live really far, it takes me one hour to get home, so when I
get home, I’m so tired I don’t even eat at night, I just get a bowl of
cereal, and that’s all.
Since I don’t have a license, the police lock me up, they take my
stuff, and I spend the night in jail. I wouldn’t guess how many times
that happens. They keep coming, and coming. They are asking me for the
license, they know I don’t have it, and I say â€I don’t have it.’ They
say â€you’re going to have to come with us’, and I say â€Okay, I’ll come
with you. You do your job, I’ll do mine.’
Still, I love what I’m doing. I don’t feel like changing my job. I â€m
really comfortable with it, and I’m free. I’m my own boss.
Besides, can you imagine New York without street vendors? I go to other
cities and there are no street vendors and it’s like they have no life.
Aiesha asked that neither her full name nor the spot where she works
be revealed, because she vends without a license and does not have
legal immigration status.
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