Who Do They Think They Are?

“I was the AP’s first black news clerk.”

Photo: Ruvan Wijesooriya
Photo: Ruvan Wijesooriya

Every day, we put a version of how we want to be seen out into the world — and, of course, we’re always misunderstood. Each week in our “Judgments” photo project, we’re asking strangers on the streets of New York City to size each other up. On this shoot, three teenagers were walking by Jerry, pictured above, in Union Square.


“I think he writes poetry, but doesn’t share it that much. I have vibes of an independent writer. Really shy and quiet.” —Sophie, 18

“He definitely jogs. Chill, serious. Goes to California for vacation.” —Jian, 18

“A businessman, something with finance. He likes to go out and drink. One of those guys with a strong personality.” —Emily, 19

Retired, 71. “I was born in New York City and raised in Long Island. After school, it was the Vietnam era, and I went into the air force — I spent three and a half years stationed in Vegas, seven months in Thailand, and then I got out of the service. I was in Manhattan Community College, and I started working at the Associated Press as a ‘copy boy.’ I moved on to be their first black news clerk, then editorial assistant, and I was there after that for 26 years. I never petitioned for a job, they always selected me, so I felt pretty good about that. I think I am artsy — I started out as a DJ and had my own small business where I booked bands back in the pioneer days.

“Right now in my retirement, I just came back from Barbados and I’m trying to travel, trying to keep the old man’s illnesses off me, live my life and enjoy whatever days I have ahead of me. Because I have more days behind me. I’m a happy man. I got a good family: three young men, one young woman. I’m enjoying my children even though they’re adults. My wife is still working. Right now I’m with Central Casting, and I’m doing extra work when I can get it. No, I don’t run. I’m not really that athletic, so I’m not there yet with that. Maybe later.”

Jessica Boddy, Emma Grillo, and Sarah Nechamkin contributed reporting. On-set production by Jean Jarvis.

Who Do They Think They Are?