Marques Lewis prides himself on knowing what’s going on. “I self-educate. I’m trying not to have any illusions.” As a kid, “I had teachers that were the objective about life; they understood about how your security is attached to everybody around you. It’s not building things around you that make you secure: It’s how you grow others around you.”
Growing up in inner-city Los Angeles and Denver with 40 kids in his classes, he became disillusioned: “The teachers got overwhelmed; then you got teachers that didn’t care. When I was going to junior high, nothing seemed right. Things that help people find life skills they took away, like ceramics, wood shops. If you got a public school system that is deteriorating, why would you allow that to happen? That’s your main infrastructure to your intellect.”
Marques joined the military at 19. “I was immature. I went in to have a GI bill. It was something that they were advertising. I came out, didn’t have one.” What he didn’t know was “if you got a captain’s mast even once,” referring to a non-judicial punishment from a commanding officer, the military takes away the benefit. So he never did go to college.
Marques came to the Northwest to visit Vancouver, BC. On a previous visit, “I had a good time, it was the best, but [this time] I had a misdemeanor [on my record], so when I tried to go into Canada, they saw that in the computer” and wouldn’t let him in. Not getting admitted to Canada was a wake-up call. “I do have a bit of an angry problem. I have to taper down my resentment. I’m just one person. I can’t take on the mighty power.”
The military helped him get into subsidized housing. “Now I’m just trying to figure out some things, wandering through life.
“I maybe want to go down a road of opening up a forum to know people’s minds, to get at the root of things, the nooks and crannies of what’s going on. There’s got to be a way to reach people who are just not in tune or don’t understand where they’re at. The power structure in America got everybody so they think that they need security and policing and big military. They keep them in fear of their neighbors. I just want to help people get over that and get back to human life.”
Marques stopped selling Real Change in 2015.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jon Williams has been an artist, photographer, designer and editor for many publications, including The Sacramento Bee, The Rocky Mountain News, The Los Angeles Daily New, The (Harrisburg, Pa.) Patriot-News and The Kitsap Sun. He is currently the Art Director at Real Change, and the founder of the Real Change portrait project. He lives in Poulsbo, WA.