Melodie Clarke is a Renaissance vendor: She’s an artist in various mediums, a singer, an actor and a poet. Her chapbook of 24 poems is called “Blackstrap Molasses and Hot Summer Nights.” She’s performed in “The Odyssey” and “As You Like It.”
Melodie’s path to Real Change vendor was an odyssey in itself, starting with joining the Army. “I am from an abusive family. My father was in the Army, so I figured it was one way of getting out of the situation, and to make my father proud of me. But in boot camp, I discovered I had asthma. It’s hard to run a mile when you can’t breathe.”
One drill sergeant had her try various drugs, including one that kept her up all night. Another sergeant suggested she get a medical discharge. “The doctor says, ‘oh, this drug isn’t even for asthma!’” Melodie recalled.
“The Army was like being part of a family, accepted. When you get medical-boarded, you’re not allowed to have contact with your platoon, so it’s like you’re torn from the family.”
Another recruit getting discharged was from St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and invited her to visit. “Her family sort of adopted me. I was going to stay.
“My father threatened to make me go home at gunpoint. Then my mother came down, saying, ‘oh, your father’s really sick.’ I got guilted into going back [to Rhode Island].”
When Melodie got married, “my husband moved us to Syracuse, then to Georgia, then from Georgia to here.”
In Seattle, she found a job at PEMCO Insurance. And then, “they computerized my section—I did data entry and they automated it. They laid off the whole department.
“I was panhandling because we got evicted. This was before anything came through on anything, and we needed money.”
Melodie and her husband found housing, but lost it because of a fire in the apartment above. “We got another housing, and then my husband and I are no longer together because of domestic violence.
“A friend said, ‘Don’t panhandle; sell Real Change!’
“I got a spot out in Kent. They love me there. I really enjoy talking with them. If I’m not there, they’re like, ‘Where were you?’” So she lets them know when she’ll be away from her post because she’s performing.
Melodie says Path with Art, which works with homeless and formerly homeless people, is like a new family. She’s taken classes in fabric art and writing. She sings soprano in the Path with Art Choir.
“My director says I have an operatic voice. She had me learn ‘Think of Me’ from Phantom of the Opera to challenge me. Now she wants me to learn a piece in a foreign language.”
Melodie has been in plays sponsored by the Seattle Repertory Theatre and Path with Art. She likes playing Shakespearean characters.
This year, Melodie is performing Queen Margaret’s monologue from “Henry VI” and said, “She’s captured York and she’s taunting him and at the end she takes his head. She’s a bad ass! I like that about her.”
Melodie is one of 300 active vendors selling Real Change. Each week a different vendor is featured. View previous vendor profiles.
Read the full Nov. 20 - 26 issue.
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