Street performer charms Jackson station, sings for his kids
Published: Monday, June 4, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
A five-foot tall man sporting black denim from head to toe twists his fitted Chicago Bulls hat backwards, but then reluctantly places the hat upside on the ground in front of him. When the hat leaves his small, yet strong hand, the melodies of Al Green, Michael Jackson and John Legend flow from his mouth.
Derron Richmond, 25, of Englewood, has been singing his favorite tunes at the Jackson stop for the past year. He is currently out of work and has recently perceived this unfortunate event in his life as an opportunity to pursue his dream of singing. The CTA platform proves to be the perfect outlet to showcase his talent due to its diverse assortment of commuters, ranging from businessmen to elementary school students.
During his 10 minute singing break, Richmond shared his passion for music and his city.
“Listen, I love Chicago so much and after that comes my second love of music. I sing my heart out and hope people take notice, and maybe one day my love can be my job,” he said.
Well-known ballads and popular R&B hits are only part of Richmond’s Jackson stop routine.
He also performs original songs that he has written. Real life experience and love are his song topics of choice.
“Raw emotion and things people can think about and be like, yeah man, that was once me too. That’s real,” he said.
Richmond’s genuine spirit is rare, and noticed by commuters along with other various street performers. Michael Gomez, 53, of Logan Square, an on-looking commuter, realized that Richmond’s talent is a bit different from others after witnessing his performances, while transferring from the Blue Line to Red Line Jackson stop.
“Most of the time I am in such a rush that I don’t even notice the person who is singing, or playing an instrument. For some reason though this one guy always makes me stop for a second and appreciate the music,” Gomez said.
However, Richmond was unable to share his talent with other Chicagoans, like Gomez, until he saved up enough money for a street performer license. The City of Chicago website states the requirements for obtaining this licensee, including a $100 fee that has to be renewed every two years, and also lists the hours and locations of where performances are permitted.
Richmond’s efforts to pay his bills and support his two sons made it difficult to afford a permit because of his current inconsistent employment situation.
“When you have kids you want to give them everything because they need it. So even a small amount of money is hard to save up because you need it for other things,” Richmond said.
While getting his voice heard is his main goal, the long hours spent at the underground tunnel are draining and make it difficult to spend time with his family. His sons Tyrone, 3, and Mikey, 1, are taken care of by Richmond’s mother while he performs. Before leaving for the Jackson stop his sons alternate taking turns picking out the hat Richmond wears during his street performances.
“I let my boys pick out my clothes sometimes, but every time I perform they choose a hat. The hat is where people put money for me and it’s like a symbol,” he said. “I am making money for my boys while following my dream. A part of them is with me when I sing.”
Fellow street performer Nellie Johnson, 19, of Hyde Park, travels from various CTA stops to earn extra cash to help pay for her tuition at Roosevelt University. She too struggles with money.
As Richmond ends an old school ballad by Stevie Wonder, a group of women nearby start a round of applause which caused Johnson to break out in a reassuring smirk. She peers over at Richmond as they exchange a quick wink and slight smile.
“My heart goes out to that guy,” Johnson said. “We know each other’s hardships and I mean, I am working through my talent for school, a selfish reason. Derron is out here for his kids, a selfless act that he should be proud of.”
Richmond’s pride instantly shone through his original work and talent. The dedicated young man no longer was noticed for his small stature, but rather his larger than life presence as a performer on the Jackson platform.
The chorus of “My Girl” gets cut off by the gusting roar of wind created by the train as it sweeps in and comes to a screeching halt for passengers to board. As the train heads to the next northbound stop, Richmond glances down at the money collected and continues to sing.