The following is a guest post from Andr’e Hubb, a musician and 99er.
For many of the millions of unemployed workers who will be losing state and federal benefits, the chances of their lives being radically altered is no mere afterthought. If no action is taken by our elected officials, the changes to their lives will be drastic and unnerving, including for some – dare I say it – homelessness. I know, I’m living it.
On Becoming A 99er
I’m Andr’e Hubb, a musician and 99er. Two years ago, with no sustainable long-term employment in sight, I joined the ranks of the millions of unemployed receiving weekly benefits. Living in a state with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates afforded me the fullest extent of state and federal extensions – 99 weeks.
Born into a community of working class southern Blacks who had migrated north, as an adult it has been easy emulating their work ethic, finding employment virtually anywhere I lived in the U.S. (although ‘technically’ unqualified at times for the lack of a high school diploma). But in the 1980’s, I stumbled upon the concept of ‘temping’ and for the next two decades virtually every job I held began as a temp assignment.
Eventually, intervals between assignments increased and day labor wages were not enough to sustain me.
From my point of view, subsisting on unemployment benefits has never been a negative, particularly since I had contributed labor to receive it and I paid income taxes on it. But as the exhaustion of my benefits neared and I contemplated the uncomfortable notion of being totally income-less, I knew I was going to be dealing with something worse than unemployment.
Having flirted with homelessness in the past, but only for days at a time (or as I euphemistically called it, houselessness), I eased onto the streets. I was convinced that a political or other breakthrough would be imminent, so I allowed a few days to go by. The days turned into weeks. But it wasn’t until a neighbor crossed my path and placed one hundred dollars in my hand that I accepted that I was indeed homeless and living in the shadows amongst the uncounted.
The Great Outdoors
While outside, I walked. I walked hours at a time and mostly at night. During the day I learned to thrive without looking ‘too’ dispossessed. I knew the location of the local shelter but I chose not to use it. Individuals would approach me for cash, something I found ironic. For sleep I relied upon power naps at inconspicuous public sitting areas, always sitting straight up (sometimes falling over), aware that laying my head down would give police or other security personnel reason to harass me or threaten arrest for loitering. For food I received bread and pastries from the Salvation Army, and later, I volunteered, which provided a meal per day.
Revitalizing My Life
I began spending my mornings with some very inviting individuals at a senior center. While observing one assisting the other with senior issues, it occurred to me that I had gone two years without contributing to social security, something that struck me as dangerous to my own retirement. So, I decided I must commit to a new income structure, revitalize my life and restore it to some sense of normalcy. I contemplated everything, including a public life in music.
My musical journey began in earnest at the age of three years old playing piano. By the age of seven, and through my mother’s efforts, I was deeply engulfed in gospel music, and by my sixteenth year it was time to start thinking about my own musical choices.
Unfortunately, music did not become my main career, and frankly, I was rejected by the industry. Nevertheless, I continued writing and arranging understanding that it could still play a major role in my future. From time to time, I worked with various artists and invested in small projects, but mostly I focused upon the use of personal computers for arranging and writing projects without the expense of studios and session musicians.
This time I wondered if my music could transition me from my current state? Could my music have real value in the eyes of the general public? Could I circumvent an industry that had rejected me decades before and use the Internet to successfully disseminate new music? Could putting my life under public scrutiny in the age of the Internet be worth it? There was only one way to find out.
‘Lounge’ was just another song that might have languished in my unpublished catalog, but when the urgency of a career change began to take hold, ‘Lounge’ took on a whole new meaning. Fortunately, it was near completion.
Suddenly, it was exciting knowing that I was going to be calling up a variety of skills and experiences from an eclectic history of temporary assignments to begin merging them into a business to not only sustain me but administer new product offerings to the general public.
A Lunge Towards a New Future
While I’m requesting public support to professionally complete the upcoming CD, “Presenting Andre Hubb,” this chosen work alternative is redefining my future as my natural vocation lunges me from the shadows of unemployment towards a new income agenda in music.
For those who might be entering the very state that I am exiting, remember that we all have natural and/or learned skills that we can leverage to produce new products or services that are not necessarily dependent upon current business models but worthy of our own corporate ideas and stewardship.
For those who are federally legislating on behalf of constituents throughout the U.S. who are chronically unemployed, help them to avoid certain despair that no action on your part will inevitably produce. We are all coming to grips with the reality that the jobs we once took for granted will not be returning to the U.S., so, give us time and the tools needed to develop new and/or appropriate solutions for our nation’s future.
If you would like to contribute to the completion of this project, please pre-order “Presenting Andr’e Hubb” through PayPal as a donation of $9.95 (CD scheduled for March 2011 release) or at www.andrehubb.com. Click Donate button. Your order information will be used for your free download of ‘Lounge’ (scheduled for release December 2010). Redbud Trail Music (BMI). Follow Andr’e Hubb on Twitter: www.twitter.com/andrehubb. © 2010 Redbud Trail Music.