Eric Fraser, Sr. sat in front of the video camera with impeccable posture. His tan work-boots were planted firmly on the thin carpet, his heavy arms rested gently in his lap. Much like his stance, his words exuded confidence.
Prompted by a voice behind the camera, Fraser told his online audience about his new business endeavor. “I’ve always been a speaker, a charmer. I’ve always know how to interact with people by using my voice,” he explained. “One Step Away has given me an opportunity [as a vendor] to utilize those skills to benefit myself.”
Haunted by a past drug addiction, Fraser has struggled economically for the last decade. A resident of Wilmington, Fraser stays at the men’s shelter hosted through the Sunday Breakfast Mission or at local hotels. Recently, Fraser has been distributing One Step Away, a monthly newspaper that is produced and sold by those that do not have permanent shelter, as a means to survive and as a stepping stone for future jobs.
During a 20-minute interview, Fraser shared details on the struggles of homelessness and his thoughts on how homelessness can be eradicated. He also spoke of his hobbies and passions, as well as his hopes for the future.
Without the efforts led by Ken Grant and his team of faithful supporters, Fraser’s story might not be heard.
In the last month, Ken Grant, known locally as Delaware’s “Godfather of Social Media,” has spearheaded an experimental project known as Wilmington Speaks.
“I can’t do much,” he admitted, “but I can offer people a platform to tell their stories which will give them an opportunity to speak and others the opportunity to better know people whom they might otherwise dismiss.”
Wilmington Speaks is a video blog that features local residents from all walks of life. Videos explore topics such as personal interests, the local community, and the rising rates of crime and violence within Wilmington.
With a background in news radio, communications, politics, and marketing, Grant brings his wealth of experience to the table in initiating the project.
“My past experiences have taught me that communication is key to getting people to process and heal,” he said. “Even my kids will tell you that I have drilled it into them that communication is essential.”
While Grant has explored issues such as employment and parking in the city, he said that he has experienced a nagging feeling over the past couple months to address the violence and crime.
Grant explained that this wound in the city goes back for decades. “It needs to be resolved, but it also needs time and conversation,” he said.
Speaking about the recent killings in Wilmington, Grant said the violence is not new, but something that has been festering for ages. “I don’t expect a blog to change everything, but it’s one effort,” he said.
In addition to hosting interviews as a way to distinguish one of the roots of violence — a plea to be heard and recognized, Grant hopes that the blog will also create a way for people to identify with each other.
“Today we heard a man speak about his passion for his children and music. Who can’t identify with that?” he asked.
Fraser’s interview marked the sixth in the online series. Grant and his team began their journey by setting up camp at the park at 4th and Rodney Streets, hoping to come across individuals eager to tell their story. Now, the tables have turned, with potential interviewees approaching Grant.
He said that an interview segment is available to anybody who lives in Wilmington. “Really anyone,” he reiterated, “from business people to artists, from teachers to students, from the young to the elderly.”
Although Grant has only lived in Delaware since the late 1980s, he has developed a strong affection for the city. Over coffee at the locally owned café on 8th and Tatnall, Grant spoke fondly of the community. “There’s an attitude in Wilmington that you don’t find in most places,” he said. “Everyone is genuinely interested in the growth of the area. Everyone’s there for everyone else. It’s an old-fashioned and heartfelt community.”
As Grant sipped his coffee, I asked him how he sees a perfect Wilmington. “Gosh,” he exclaimed between laughs. “An ideal city where people genuinely know and communicate with each other. A place where everyone feels valued and values others,” he concluded.
Wilmington Speaks has the potential to make that happen. To watch completed interviews, visit wilmingtonspeaks.blogspot.com.
Parthena Moisiadis is a 2011 graduate of Wilmington Friends School and a student at the University of Pittsburgh studying English Writing and Communication.