Street preachers have been around since there were streets. Their purpose has been to convert, convince or condemn, depending on who is listening. Some street preachers stake out bold new territory, bringing possibly heretical ideas into the public consciousness. They can advance the thought of their religion as they do this. Others simply repeat their church’s dogma and have less influence on the populace and the religion.
PSU’s resident, uninvited, and self-styled "street preacher" Cedric, is neither of these.
Cedric is a beggar. That has been his profession for some time now. Those of you who were here last year can attest to this. Instead of sitting, he stood in the intersection in front of Smith and repeated his mantra over, and over, and over again.
"How ya’ll doin today, can you spare any change? God bless you, have a nice day. How ya’ll doin, can you spare any change? God bless you, have a nice day."
For hours, he repeated this sentence. He was annoying back then, and now he is growing unbearable.
Over the summer he tired of standing, so he took a seat, and moved into his primitive attempts at beatboxing. He was really bad at it. Musically, he has about as much talent as a third grader with his first recorder. Unable to rap, keep time or rhyme, he limits himself to monosyllabic sounds chanted in one of three different notes.
Street musicians further downtown have many varying levels of talent. But any as bad as Cedric have given up because not many people gave them money.
But not Cedric; he kept adapting, changing his "profession" to see what would get him paid. He must have realized that the "God bless you" he used to say was helpful not only when people sneezed, but would also appeal to any Christian sense of charity.
So nowadays, he switches his tactics. One day he will yell out entire books of the Bible to pass the time. The next he will chant parables, like the stories of Adam and Eve – badly. He offers nothing new, or even inspirational. He is merely loud.
There are only a few moments he has to catch the passerby. He never attempts to gather a crowd to stay and listen to his ideas; he only wants to advertise that he believes in Jesus and hopes that anyone else who does will pay him for that belief.
In a city this large, there are panhandlers aplenty who ask for money without giving anything in return. At least competent musicians offer some ambiance to you as you pass them by. Instead of begging, they are providing a service that you may tip them on.
I have yet to see a street preacher downtown preach on the Bible and then ask for spare change. I don’t remember Jesus advocating that, either.
If preaching was what Cedric wanted to do, he could focus on that exclusively. He could enter a seminary or a monastery (where they give you room and board so you don’t have to beg) and study God all the time. Then he could occasionally emerge into the outside world to share his revelations with us. But he does not do this; he is a working man. He only invokes the name of God in order to prod the latent guilt in everyone.
Walking by Cedric is the low point of my day. There is no way to tune him out or effectively ignore him. He is so loud he demands your attention, whether you wish to give it or not. When I approach the area saturated by his booming monotone, I hunch my shoulders in preparation for the assault on my senses. Whatever I may have been thinking about as I walked is forcibly suppressed, shoved aside as I am forced to listen to someone yelling at me because he wants me to give him money.
If I am watching television and flip channels to someone I don’t like, I can just flip away to another channel. But you cannot flip by Cedric. Passing through his Zone of Monotone is a requirement to cross campus.
All of you who pay his wages are keeping him on our campus, supplying his demand and making everyone suffer the inescapable monotone of a beggar with no talent.
Chaelan MacTavish can be reached at [email protected].