Pivot Legal Society - Equality Lifts Everyone

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Supporters Gather at Rhizome for Hope in Shadows Event

In my month and a half of interning with Pivot, one of the prime characteristics of the Downtown Eastside that has become readily apparent to me is the strong sense of community that exists here. Hope in Shadows held an event on June 10th at the Rhizome Café for the supporters and participants of the Hope in Shadows calendar project where this attribute was amazingly echoed.

The evening welcomed participants from the photography contest, residents of the Downtown Eastside, vendors, sponsors and supporters of the project.

Walking into Rhizome, a huge projection screen showcased photography from four Hope in Shadows photographers commissioned by TomoeArts for aperformance called “EN”, to be performed at the Dancing on the Edge Festival in July.

Colleen Lanki of TomoeArts introduced this project, a dance with umbrellas and projections of portraits taken by the Hope in Shadows photographers. Lanki brought an umbrella with her to demonstrate the dance and how the photography is incorporated.

I have to say, having been able to go through the landscape photos to create a presentation of the work the photographers have already done, the photographers are incredibly talented. Their photographs capture their community through varying lenses, and whether it was Gertrude Harris’ colourful photo of someone's street sale, Marlene Thistle's play on light in photographing native art, Lesya Holubowich's sense of humour captured in stills of toy farm animals, Dallas's unique perspective of Woodward's "W" or Steven Mayes's playful documentation of two birds, each brought to light a different, humanistic andcompassionate side of the Downtown Eastside community.

To continue the theme of showcasing one's community, attendees were asked to bring photographs they've taken of their communities to enter in a mini photography contest judged by the Hope in Shadows photographers. Again, each photo encompassed a unique perspective on how each person viewed their community.

In third place was awarded to a portrait of a man holding camera against green-yellow background, capturing his welcoming persona through his smile. In second came a photograph of a girl in an urban environment, creating a drawing in gravel with backdrop of buildings behind. The winning photo comprised of an interesting juxtaposition of a dark, thick foreground of trees against a pale blue sky with a rush of cotton-white clouds and the flight of a single bird. Each winner received Hope in Shadows cards and the first place winner received an additional t-shirt, book and a copy of Megaphone’s Voices of the Street.

The night also included reflections from Peter Thompson on the contest and a poetry reading on from Sean Condon on behalf of Helen Hill. Hill’s poem reflected on a very noticeable change in her community with the deconstruction of the old Woodward’s building. The sentiments embraced in the poem can still be felt even now with the constant change in the Downtown Eastside, which is not always positive.

 Charlize also gave us a rendition of her poem in the special edition of Megaphone. She not only recited her poem, but she also brought along her guitar to perform the poem. James Witwicki took to the mic with a poem centered on a curious pigeon in the Vancouver Public Library.

Next year, Hope in Shadows welcomes its tenth anniversary. In light of this, we were asked to brainstorm ideas in small groups for events to commemorate this achievement. Armed with two markers and a giant brown sheet of paper, my group went to work, exploding with ideas and trying to pen down all of them as fast as each came.

There was honestly not a single moment where the group fell to silence and I mean that in the best way possible. Despite most of us only meeting each other for the first time, people were pouring with suggestions, bouncing off of each other’s thoughts and widening the potential of the project for the coming years.

For me this was a perfect example of how this community operates, where people from diverse backgrounds, connected by a desire to see the community grow stronger, are able to casually come together and listen what each has to say. It’s this kind of atmosphere in which almost anyone can feel welcomed and where every idea is heard and valued.

All in all, it was a great night. Like I’ve mentioned, the sense of community here is strong, but above that, the pride in this community is even more apparent. Everyone that night connected to support each other, to celebrate what they have achieved together through the calendar project and to look towards a positive future for the Downtown Eastside community.