Story and Photos by Ken Krayeske • 1:25 AM EST
I. Rahim Harris, founder and publisher of the new monthly newspaper, Street Smarts, relaxes in reflected sunlight after an interview at Tisane, Monday, April 27, 2009.
Two major newspapers - dailies that were more than a century old - closed their doors in the past month.
Newsrooms face cuts in every state. Reporters are looking for work. So who goes and starts a newspaper in this climate?
American originals like I. Rahim Harris.
"It's the crazy people who make the cool things happen," said Harris, the publisher of the new Street Smarts, a monthly newspaper aimed at the urban market in Southern New England.
The first edition of Street Smarts – Drugs, Guns and Money - hit the streets at the beginning of April, and Harris said people hungry for his content gobbled the print run of 14,000 copies. Street Smarts is online here.
The next edition about sex will arrive in stores and locations across greater Hartford on May 3. Harris bought a van to distribute Street Smarts, but he has no specific list of places where it can be picked up.
He has a grand vision for the paper, and in five years, he wants to be able to sell it for millions. To get there, he is teaching himself how to sell ads, and how to write, publish and distribute the paper.
I found my copy at Green Apple on Farmington Avenue. After reading it, I was astonished – I wanted to know who on earth, in the middle of a recession, enters into a market that common knowledge seems to say is dying?
Harris was waiting for me at Tisane on Farmington Avenue with his business manager Andre. Harris, 28 going on 29, wore a white shirt and a tie. He and I talked for 45 minutes, and his fire is contagious, his tone refreshing and his story almost unbelievable.
He comes from a broken family in the original Stowe Village. He dropped out of high school, and rented his first apartment at age 14. He was a runaway, in and out of the juvenile detention centers run by the Department of Children and Families.
"Everything was a hustle," Harris said. He doesn't know if he will write an issue about the DCF, but he has no love for the state as a parent.
"If it tickles my fancy, I'll write about it," he said. "Those place they put you in made me worse. I learned how to steal cars and how much crack costs in Long Lane."
Playing in the street game, Harris sold drugs, and rapped. He took the street name "Shock Da World." The streets were a dead end though.
He obtained a GED and joined the Army in 1998, when he was 18. Stationed in Fort Leavenworth, then San Antonio, he got kicked out of the Army when he smacked a white captain who called him a "nigger."