Residents of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTES) community are often painted with the same stereotyped brush - in many cases, they're assumed to be "unmotivated," "addicts," “who have chosen to be there.”
Two new short films, set to premiere during a free online screening next week, are aiming to challenge those preconceived notions.
Despite the stigma associated with the area, "Amongst the members of the DTES, [the neighbourhood] is known as a safe, non-judgement community of individuals who are there for one another," explained local organization Employ to Empower (ETE) in a press release.
The videos will share the stories of two DTES residents and ETE Entrepreneurs, in an effort to celebrate the strength and resilience of the DTES community while tackling the aforementioned stigma.
Employ to Empower is a Vancouver charity, founded by Christina Wong in 2018, that offers DTES residents a hand up with access to a range of "development and entrepreneurial resources, like affordable microloans and business mentorship." In addition to having long-term, positive impacts on program participants' personal and economic well-being, ETE also advocates for "positive social change" within the neighbourhood.
One of the films, Deirdre’s Story, will take a look at both the personal and professional experiences of Deirdre Pinnock, who's described in the release as "a talented rug hooker, ardent mental health advocate, and aspiring entrepreneur."
The second video, meanwhile, is titled Employ To Empower Begins With Community and features Sage Bullick, an artist who makes wearable ears inspired by the fantasy world.
The project was aided by Ash Tanasiychuk, a Communications Officer in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, who submitted a proposal for an SFU Community Engagement Initiative grant. That funding ultimately allowed ETE to hire a videographer who had previous experience working in the DTES.
"Through [Tanasiychuk's] support, we had the opportunity to onboard Chaplyn, a talented videographer who captured the stories of Deirdre and Sage in an ethical and empowering way," ETE explained in the release.
The live online screening is set to take place on Friday, June 19, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
It will be free to access on YouTube Live, "to ensure that the event is accessible to all, within and outside of the community," stated the release.
Those interested in the screening are asked to pre-register, as the link to the live stream will be sent by email the day of the event.
ETE encourages those able to donate to their programming to do so leading up to and during the live screening.