One of the things that attracted me to Mitzi Scott is the forthright way she shoots down stereotypes. A recovering heroin addict clean for more than 12 years now, she at one time spent four on the streets of Chicago, homeless. People tend to assume that women in her position turn tricks to supply their habits, she told me. But in fact, she says, that's a last resort—her first hustle was the stickup.
Since then she's had a lot of mentors, among them Larry E. Ross, a beloved Kennedy-King professor and addictions counselor who died last year. She credits him with helping her to change while keeping herself intact, telling her, "You continue to get better, but who you are is all right."
Ross is just one of the people close to her who've passed. When we talked in November, Scott's father had died of Alzheimer's disease just a few weeks before. But, she told me, "life is happening. We're born dying. I'm no longer so caught up that I question the creator about when someone’s job on this earth is done.
"I also understand that this flesh that we live in is a vehicle. But it's not who we are. I think this when we deal with prejudice, ignorance, and fear of the unknown. When we start to judge people according to the car they drive in. So my flesh is a vehicle, and if you don't like me 'cause I drive a black car . . ."
We both started laughing.