Monday, October 13, 2008

Plato Negro's Parable of the Basket

A wise street brother suggested Plato place a basket on his table at his open-air classroom at the crossroads of Oakland, 14th and Broadway. The brother said the basket would be for donations people wanted to make to his cause: the education of the people through the sale of his books and by facilitating dialogue with street people, adults and youth, also intellectuals and politicos who passed by on their way to and from City Hall across the street.

The basket was immediately filled with change and dollars, some days there were five and ten dollars in the basket. When people asked Plato for a dollar or two to buy a hamburger at Burger King down the block, he told them to reach into the basket to get what they need. A lady came by who said she needed two dollars to get on the subway (BART) so she could pick up her check.

The basket became a micro-ATM machine for the poor, the hungry, the mentally ill, or anyone in need. And those able would put donations into the basket, often without being asked. The basket became the poor people's petty cash fund. The people who had gotten money from the fund would come by to replace it, sometime a week or two later. As Plato kept no record, he would often forget who had drawn from the basket.

Plato thanked the wise brother who suggested the idea. And the people truly appreciated having a place where their small needs could be met.

Plato Negro (aka Marvin X)
Sutter County Jail,
Yuba City CA

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