Avery Nelson is a familiar face at the Greenwood Post Office and a top-selling Real Change vendor who’s been at it for eight years.
But what is his dream? “I want to be the first out of the family to actually do music production,” Nelson said. “That’s my dream. That’s my main goal — to get to the music business.”
Music is in his blood.
“We’d always have the speakers just blasting,” Nelson explained. “I started listening to music back in Oakland around my sister. And she was a Michael Jackson fanatic. Every album in existence. I was catching the music bug then.”
His mother’s favorite artists were Babyface and Luther Vandross. Nelson loves Marvin Gaye the most, and just about anything from that soulful era.
Nelson is Oakland-born and Seattle-raised. He moved here around 1990 with his mother, who left what he described as a bad situation involving his father. He attended Van Asselt Elementary, South Shore Middle School and Rainier Beach High School.
Taking a moment to reflect on his youth, Nelson said it was hard. “My mother was diabetic and she lost her eyesight,” he said. “Being the last born out of my two brothers and two sisters, I was the only one to take care of her … It was difficult to focus in school.” Nelson dropped out of high school.
Still, he spoke with his mother and decided to get his GED. While living near Judkins Park in the Central District, he obtained his GED at Seattle Vocational Institute.
After his mother passed away, Nelson worked at a nursing home as a janitor and as a stock clerk. Over the following 12 years, Nelson worked as a janitor for various agencies, cleaning buildings throughout downtown Seattle.
“Oh good lord,” Nelson exclaimed, when asked what janitorial work was like. “It was a roller coaster … It was a lot of fun, my man. Interacting with the office people, and then the retail workers.”
About eight years ago, he met a Real Change vendor named Jeremiah on the street. “We met and became good friends and he was selling Real Change. He just suggested for me to try it out,” Nelson said.
Nelson moved vending locations a few times, but has long since nailed down a spot outside the Greenwood Post Office.
Since then, Nelson said he’s done “a lot more than just sales … It’s been beautiful. I built a lot of relationships with my customers. I’ve learned to stay dedicated, stay true to yourself, staying true to building the relationships, staying true to the community.”
Nelson wants to thank everyone who’s supported him — particularly around Christmas time, when locals give him holiday cards and he helps postal workers with long lines.
“I took everything from what I did with the janitor,” Nelson said. “Just be yourself and be helpful … just start a connection with everybody — whether they buy the paper or not. I’ve made a lot of connections with people who don’t buy. People who are helping make sure I have clothes and food. This has definitely been a blessing. It’s helped me out in so many ways.”
When it comes to the city’s homelessness crisis, Nelson believes city leaders do too much talking and not enough acting.
“Every time I’m on the number 5 or the E line, it’s no different … it ain’t got no better. It’s just a hot mess,” Nelson said. “It’s just like nobody is really doing anything about it — not coming with the right solutions. Not coming with the resources to help these people get access to the treatment they need. We need to talk about more solutions.”
Instead of converting jails into homeless shelters (“having people feel like they’re inmates”), Nelson would like to see developers turn “these fancy dancy condos into a center where they can help people.”
What does the future hold? Nelson would like to take music classes at Shoreline Community College. But for now, he’s focused on “just staying positive and staying patient. With me, I’m just taking time. And also — just enjoying in every moment. That’s right. Just enjoying living every moment.”
Read the full April 3 - 9 issue.
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