February is “Black History Month,” so we’re dedicating this blog to a very special friend of ours, M,A,Yah, Founder, Owner and Publisher of “The Heartland News” street paper in Omaha, NE.
As we have been taught in school, the great Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his speech not so very long ago about having a dream. He had a dream about equality and love for one another no matter what your skin color. Slavery ended, but discrimination did not completely disappear, as he had hoped. It continues on today, but it doesn’t have to. We have a choice to discriminate and hate, or forgive and love.
There is one thing that does not discriminate, no matter what your race is. It’s called “homelessness.” Homelessness is prevalent throughout the United States, and also hits us right in the heart of America. Right here in Omaha, there are so many people in need of shelter, food, a place to bathe, the basic essentials of life just to stay alive. Some are homeless by choice, but so many more are not. So many people have lost jobs, or are unable to work due to chronic illness, or other reasons. Some actually have jobs, but are still homeless, because the economy is so bad, prices keep increasing while our wages remain the same.
M,A,Yah also had a dream. His dream became a reality. He saw the homeless in a different light, because at one time he too, was homeless. He has a great compassion for those struggling to survive on the streets so he dreamed one day that he would own a street paper and dedicate it to getting the homeless jobs and hopefully off the streets.
His newspaper is called “The Heartland News.” It is a community paper about events happening in and around his neighborhood. His circulation is just over 2,000, and it’s printed monthly. His vendors are homeless people. They sell his paper for $1.00 each and keep 75¢ for themselves, while giving him back .25¢ to fund the printing of the next issue of the paper. Sometimes, the vendors make more than $1.00 while out selling. When people find out the cause of the paper, they want to give more, but M,A,Yah only expects .25¢ in return. The rest is theirs to keep!
M,A,Yah’s dream went up in smoke exactly one year ago this month, or so he thought! On February 5, 2013, M,A,Yah’s building was destroyed. Someone had set fire to his newspaper which was located at 62nd and Ames Avenue at the time. No one was hurt fortunately, however, M,A,Yah had been residing in the upstairs of the building, and due to the fire he found himself homeless once again.
After the fire.
Arson destroyed the first building.
You may have seen the news back in February of 2013, if not, you might be interested in this link: http://www.dailydispatch.com/StateNews/NE/2013/February/06/Heartland.News.Destroyed.By.Arson.In.Omaha.aspx
M,A,Yah has a big heart. And though someone tried to crush it, they didn’t succeed. All he could think about from the time of the fire, was getting his paper back up and running again. He said he only lost a building, not his dream!
Within 4 months of the fire, M,A,Yah found refuge just 20 blocks east of where his original building was. He moved his newspaper into a building that is shared with a barber on 4001 Ames Avenue, and has begun to put the pieces of his life back together. Not only did his paper make a come back, but he is now the proud owner of a restaurant called “Ames Café.”
Besides delving into the restaurant business, M,A,Yah is a very talented writer. He just finished his first book called, “The Vicious Vikings.” It’s the first of a 32 book fantasy sports series. The book is written in poetic form and though it looks like a children’s book, it would please any football fanatic. M,A,Yah has a manuscript written for every NFL team. He started with the Vikings because he is originally from Minnesota, and this is his favorite team.
Joe McLaughlin, Illustrator with M,A,Yah, Author
This book is what he calls his “miracle book,” because the original manuscript survived the fire along with all of his other manuscripts he has written over the years. M,A,Yah was functional illiterate for many years, until he taught himself how to read from a children’s book. It was upon learning to read this first children’s book and getting to meet the author of that book in person that made him want to be an author himself.
HIs book, “The Vicious Vikings,” is now for sale through the website http://www.theviciousvikings.yolasite.com . You can purchase the book using PayPal, and once again, M,A,Yah is thinking about the homeless. The proceeds earned from the sales of this book will go back into the newspaper which helps the homeless get jobs!
Discrimination. That’s what I opened this blog with. Unfortunately it’s not dead. M,A,Yah experiences discrimination every time someone opens up the front page of his paper, and without realizing what “The Heartland News” is all about, they make an assumption that because the Publisher is a “black man,” this must be a “black only” paper. That’s simply not the case. His latest issue is being extended into two new states, Iowa and Minnesota. He is in need of writers, as well as, vendors so that he can begin to perform a Publisher’s duties instead of doing everything all by himself.
If you’re interested in giving something back to the community and helping the homeless obtain jobs and “Charge out of Poverty,” as his saying goes, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope this article has helped shed some new light on “The Heartland News” street paper. We further hope that you will join in M,A,Yah’s effort to make this newspaper even more of a success. The next time you see a vendor out selling his paper stop and buy a copy. It’s really worth more than a dollar. It’s PRICELESS!