Reading 'The Amplifier,' Knoxville's 'Voice for Social Change'

The Amplifier, the "voice for social change" print newspaper begun by Eddie Young and sold by vendors who are homeless or radically underprivileged on the streets of Knoxville, will publish its first anniversary issue in November. Intended to open dialogue and allow communication (versus being some sort of jobs program), The Amplifier has covered some memorable stories and generated some engaging quotes in its short life. Here is a sample of headlines and quotes from the publication:


Student FreeDOM Rides of 2011: Jayanni Webster reflects on her experience (July 2011)

Reflections on the Remote Area Medical Event (May 2011)

"Pie in the Sky" Ivan Harmon and city council candidate Ron Peabody reject community's input (Sept. 2011, on sale now)


"I constantly worry about my kids and what they don't have, but they're with family and they did better probably. I would've kept them struggling, making bad choices."

—From "Karen's Story" by Karen Lane, Nov. 2010

"When the crowd had swollen to fifty or so, the wail of a bagpipe rose from across the street. The procession began."

—From "Death on the streets" by David Morelli, Feb. 2011

"Insanity catches up with me. I'm a terrified sight. I shake like a Chihuahua. He choked me...The ending of my story—I'm still alive. What will be the ending of your story? Choose to leave tears behind. If I can do it, so can you."

—from "Nightmares," by Maxine Loop, May 2011

Meanwhile, Eddie Young's own Amplifier column succinctly and convincingly spells out some of the views he feels are part of Redeeming Hope Ministries approach of "opening doors in the pursuit of holistic care and empowerment for the severely underprivileged and homeless in our community." Here are a few choice views from Young's column:

On the purpose of the paper—hint: not a jobs program:

"The Amplifier exists to give the unheard in our community opportunities to tell their stories, to reply to the accusations, assumptions, and stereotypes that go unchecked, and to provide their perspectives on the decisions that are being made that affect their lives." (Nov. 2010)

On the reasons "majority rules" can't apply to the homeless in our society:

"When we in the mainstream hide behind the suggestion that we are pursuing what's best for our community, what we really mean is what's best for us—what can we do with the homeless to make things better for us...A democracy that distinguishes itself from a dictatorship must guarantee that the majority will not abuse its power to violate the basic and inalienable rights of the minority." (May 2011)

On why working the soup kitchen isn't the final answer:

"We don't intentionally purpose this, and we would never say it, but there are many of us who subconsciously prefer to feed and clothe the homeless rather than see them mobilized and empowered to stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of us in places of power and decision." (June 2011)

On improving the sales technique of Amplifier vendors:

"It is remarkably redemptive to listen as a roundtable of homeless and formerly homeless vendors confess to being more aggressive in their work than they should be and then identifying ways in which they might work towards a better perception within the community...all of us at The Amplifier would like to ask for your continued patience as we work towards ways that we can balance a desperate need for a little cash with maintaining a professional behavior—something that our vendors have not had the privilege of having much practice at. It's quite a transition from being a panhandler to becoming a voice for social change." (Aug. 2011)