A Glimpse of the Community

Going into this project, I assumed responsibility for spreading the word about the Hope in Shadows photo contest. This turned out to be an easy task: by it’s twelfth year the project speaks for itself.

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Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.

The making of the Hope in Shadows calendar has so many moving parts all over this community. So many people contribute to its making in diverse ways. The project is about authentic representations of the Downtown Eastside, from the perspective, and for the benefit, of the community. This mandate is upheld every step of the way, largely thanks to the Hope in Shadows coordinator Carolyn Wong.  Under her direction, the project is run in a way that represents and empowers everyone involved.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time going around Downtown Eastside community organizations, Single Room Occupancy hotels, shelters, and artist spaces with stacks of posters and flyers.  It was unnerving at first to walk into an unfamiliar place and introduce myself. I was always greeted with kindness and an eagerness to help and it wasn’t long before my shyness subsided.

There is an incredible sense of community here. Whether it was by-passers on the street taking pity on me as I tried to put posters up on a very windy day, or the community service providers who went the extra mile to make sure the word got out, people here seem to want to help in any way they can.

These efforts have all cumulated into the June 7 event, the 2014 camera distribution and block party. Over 200 community members and volunteers came down to Pivot’s office to enjoy live music, hang out in the sunshine, and enter the contest. The sun was shining all morning and there were smiles all around.

In the week leading up to the official contest launch, we also organized a few smaller camera distributions in partnership with the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, Ray-Cam community center, Oppenheimer Park, and Watari. The smaller scale of these occasions meant that there was ample opportunity to connect with the participants and hear their input on the project, their interpretation of this year’s contest theme, and ideas for the photos they were going to take. Each of these centers provides services to a different niche of the Downtown Eastside, and these camera handouts exemplified to me the diversity of this community.

The contest theme this year is “The Community We Have Built.” Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten a glimpse into the social infrastructure that this neighborhood is built on. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the people and be in some of the spaces that make this community strong and beautiful. I am so excited to see how these are represented in the photos. 

Emma Crane is a student intern working with Pivot Legal Society. 

The photos in this blog were taken by Robin Toma. From top to bottom these photos are of: Denny Curtis (left), a past winning photographer and contest participant, with Emma Crane (right) at the block party on June 7. Pivot volunteer Sasha (right) explains the contest rules to a contest participant. Elder Kelvin Bee, of the Kwakuitl First Nation, addresses Downtown Eastside community members. A participant interprets this year's contest theme—"The Community We Have Built"—in a participatory chalk-art tapestry.