Today was an amazing day, filled with enthusiasm and a sense of collective consciousness and excitement that was palpable. Reflecting on the day's events, I feel incredibly fortunate to have witnessed the coming together of so many inspiring people – volunteers and Downtown Eastside community members from all walks of life. At 10:30 am, we all converged at Pivot's office at the foot of Heatley. Contestants had been lining up since before 9:00 am and we were all eager for Hope in Shadows' 10th Annual Photography Contest to begin.
I had tottered into Pivot's driveway around that time on my roommate's hurriedly borrowed bike, happy to have made it there on time to jump into the fray of last-minute preparations led by my supervisor Carolyn. By 10 o'clock the group of contestants outside the door had grown to a long line stretching out the driveway and up the alley. Clearly, the threatening rain wasn't enough to discourage a large turnout.
Just after 10:30 the first eighty or so contestants entered the office, full of excitement. Kim Washburn welcomed us all on behalf of the First Nations community, upon whose land our office is built. His rallying cries of 'Good People' and 'Welcome' inspired enthusiastic shouts in return, as he spoke of the importance of community and togetherness for DTES residents, whether First Nations or not. The crowd, despite having waited for hours in the drizzle, roared its approval.
This infectious enthusiasm continued all day. By noon, more than two hundred contestants had received cameras. Many returned to Pivot at 1 o'clock for a workshop by Greg Masuda, a professional photographer. Everyone spoke about the important of using photographs to tell a story, and evoke feeling in the viewer. Looking at winning photos from the past and listening to the conversation, I learned a lot.
Today, soppy wet clothes and long lines didn't really matter. No one in the DTES community wanted to pass up a chance to show the rest of Vancouver, and the wider world, what they're really made of. Most of the time, society tells DTES folks that they don't matter. Their needs and rights are not prioritized. They're looked down upon. The humanity in their neighbourhood, which has been so evident to me in past weeks as I settled into my work at Pivot – is overlooked. This was a chance for every community member to become, in Carolyn's words, an important photographer, bringing a unique perspective on a vibrant and meaningful place to a wide audience. They are experts the importance of community values based on resilience, acceptance, and compassion. I am proud to be a small part of this effort to amplify their voices.