Issue #159
Hives, Alive! Therapeutic beekeeping takes flight

Why Voters Aren’t Angrier About Economic #Inequality: t.co/2ezd42DjxM #cdnpoli Jul 30, 01:07 PM

Beats, Rhymes, Empowerment: Youth raise their voice through hip-hop theatre

Hip hop has a long history of healing emotional cuts and bruises. In the latest issue of Megaphone we look at how urbanink, an indigneous hip hop production company, helps margainlized and at-risk youth respond to injustices in their lives by using their anger and energy to attack with words, not weapons. 


Also in this issue: A fellow activist remembers Bud Osborn, the Downtown Eastside’s poet laureate, the BCNDP re-introduce a poverty reduction plan bill; United We Can exits the ‘hood; RCMP release numbers on missing and murdered indigenous women; Megaphone vendor Ron McGrath has faith in his fellow Canadians’ ability to solve homelessness; and much more!


Get your copy from a Megaphone vendor for just $2.


Sites, rites, and gratitude: Carving out a new, inclusive Chinatown through art and language


Kathryn Lennon photo by Meghan Mast.


Amidst Chinatown’s bustling grocery and teashops, a small gallery is packed with adult pupils. People sit in chairs facing a hand-painted blackboard. Lips form into “O’s” as they say “good morning” to each other: “jóu sàhn.” This is “Saturday School”—a weekly class that teaches basic Cantonese lessons.


The classes are part of a larger community art exhibit at the Centre A studio that aims to connect neighbourhood residents from different language communities. The exhibit, M’goi/Do Jeh: Sites, Rites and Gratitude, includes original work by artist Lydia Kwa and interactive pieces like the Cantonese lessons and a community memory map organized by Kathryn Lennon. The title was inspired by the daily interaction between Tyler Russell, the gallery’s curator, and the owner of the neighbouring teashop.


“Thank you” is one of the first words the Saturday School class learns. Zoe Lam, the instructor, distributes a banana and people pass it around, shyly saying “M’goi” to each other. Lam hops up and down and waves excitedly to demonstrate how to get the attention of a server at a restaurant. She bows deeply as she says the Cantonese word for goodbye and draws lines through the air with a chopstick to demonstrate tone. Cantonese uses six different accents and each one can change the meaning of a word entirely. 


The word “fu” that means “trousers” can also mean “bitter” or “husband” depending on the tone.


“If we get the melody wrong, people cannot understand us,” says Lam. She draws crisp lines through the air as she speaks and her audience sings the words back. The class learns basic lines, but also cultural subtleties. When someone asks in Cantonese, “have you eaten?” they are also asking, “how are you?” It’s a way of expressing care.


This exhibit and other revitalization efforts come at a fitting time for the community. New condominium developments are under construction, new businesses are moving in, and rising housing costs are causing many elderly seniors to move elsewhere. According to a series of articles in The Tyee last year, the language minority population most in need of supportive senior’s housing consists of people who speak only Mandarin and Cantonese.


 This photo is part of a series by Vancouver photographer Jaime Yee called "The Yee Fung Toy Society of Vancouver–A Visit." Photo courtesy of Kathryn Lennon.


Bridging linguistic, generational gaps

Kathryn Lennon, who helped organize the lessons, hopes the classes and the rest of the exhibit will help bridge the language barrier between different generations and cultures in the area. “If we learn Cantonese, maybe we can reach out a little bit to [the seniors],” she says. “Just be able to say good morning in the language of the people who are here is such an important gesture.”


She also intends the classes to be a fun, nostalgic nod to weekend classes many children of first- and second-generation Chinese immigrants were forced to attend. “I was thinking it could appeal to people like me,” says Lennon, who grew up learning Mandarin and Cantonese. “People who needed an invitation to come back to Chinatown and the language and the culture.”


This is the first time Lennon has worked with a gallery.


“Whenever someone says, ‘here is the artist,’ I’m like, ‘where?’” she looks over her shoulder for emphasis and laughs. But she is no stranger to community organizing. She arrived in Vancouver less than a year ago and is already an integral part of several Chinatown preservation initiatives, including efforts to save the Ming Sun-Uchida building and raise money to buy pieces of typeset from Ho Sun Hing Printing, Canada’s first Chinese print shop that recently closed.


Before moving to Vancouver, Lennon helped organize two night markets in Edmonton’s Chinatown, including one aimed at young professionals called “Not your grandma’s Chinatown.”


She is currently studying urban planning and is acutely aware of the repercussions of development. “The flip side of planning is you build something but you also displace, and usually what gets displaced is social fabric. You can build new buildings,” she says, “but you can’t repair or replace a social fabric that’s been disrupted by scattering members of a community.”



As Chinatowns change, cultural gaps grow


Gentrification and displacement is a growing concern for Chinatowns across North America. A recent report on Chinatowns on the East Coast of America found that the number of self- identified Asians in the community continues to drop. Although Asians are still the majority group, they make up less than half of all residents of Chinatown. As more and more Chinese elders leave the community, the cultural gap grows larger.


“It doesn’t feel like there is a strong collective memory about these things,” says Lennon. Much Chinese-Canadian history remains untold.


To combat this in a small way, Lennon built a community memory map wall out of yarn and old photos and relevant historical articles for the exhibit. Chinatown historian Jim Wong-Chu’s photographs of protests at Chinatown barbecue meat shops figure prominently, recalling the time that health and safety committees cracked down on Chinese restaurant owners. Those involved felt the regulations were thinly guised racist attempts to flatten Chinese businesses. Lennon hopes this map will help the history live on in people’s memories.



Students practice Cantonese penmanship at Saturday School. Photo: Meghan Mast. 


Amidst struggle, relationships and traditions thrive


Back in Studio A, the more formal part of class has ended and pupils prepare for the second half. Judy Lam Maxwell, a local Chinatown historian, leads the class on a tour of Chinatown. She takes the crowd through the streets of the neighbourhood and behind closed doors of historic buildings.


A room full of Chinese seniors clicking mahjong tiles together in the Chun Wing Chun Association resembles the scene of a Wayson Choy novel. Wrinkled hands gather small piles of coins and prepare for the next move. Maxwell approaches a small woman with short grey hair for a key to the upstairs meeting room and the two exchange some Cantonese.

Chinatowns may be struggling, but it is clear there are plenty of relationships and traditions still thriving. This moment comes to mind again when Lennon sums up the intent behind the exhibit at Centre A: “Maybe we just need a moment to reflect and mourn and grieve,” she says, “but also make an offering of thanks for what is still here.”



Sites, Rites and Gratitude: An Art & Community Initiative runs at Centre A Studio (229 E. Georgia) to June 14th. Gallery hours: Tues-Sat, 11am-6pm.

Sites, Rites & Gratitude: Bridging language and culture in Chinatown

Breathing new life into Vancouver's Chinatown hasn't been without its casualties: low-income businesses and affordable rental rates are being replaced by higher end shops and condo towers. In this edition of Megaphone we talk to local artists who are trying to help Chinatown's residents, both new and old, adapt to the changes by strengthening and celebrating the community's language, culture, and art. 


Also in this issue: DTES residents are upset the old Vancouver Police Department headquarters have been empty for three years and counting without any solid future plans for the space; the One City Party hopes to bridge the divide for municipal voters between the ruling Vision Vancouver Party and the Coalition of Progressive Electors; Megaphone kicks off its annual spring fundraising campaign for our DTES writing workshops; arts listings; horoscopes; and much more!


MEGA-NEWS: Sole Food sets sights on new retail, eventual acreage

Sole Food co-founder Seann Dory. Photo by Kevin Hollett.


Sole Food urban farmers are launching a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign May 14 to help finance their move into two Vancouver retail locations.


The two spots—one a converted shipping container at Terminal and Main, the other in Granville Island’s public market—will help the organization provide year-round funding to their marginalized employees. It’s also the first step in Sole Food’s plan to buy permanent acreage for a farm and living quarters outside of Vancouver.


Read the rest

MEGA-NEWS: One City aims to unite progressive voters


RJ Aquino, pictured here with his son, is running for city council with One City, a new municipal party.
Photo courtesy of RJ Aquino.


Former members of Vision Vancouver and the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) have formed a new municipal party called One City, which will run at least one city council candidate in the November 2014 municipal elections. One City is dedicated to tackling housing, transportation, and childcare affordability, community democracy, and climate justice.

Read the rest

Giving Voice: Megaphone launches its spring fundraising drive

Today's the day that Megaphone officially launches its fundraising drive for our writing workshop program. We're trying to raise $15,000 by the end of the month

Megaphone's writing workshops give a voice to people who experience poverty in Vancouver. The free workshops are run in treatment centres, shelters, social housing buildings and a university.

Many of the stories from the workshops are published in Megaphone, helping raise awareness about important social issues in our city.

"I like to share what I go through as an Aboriginal with addiction issues and how I deal with it," says Neil Benson, who participates at Megaphone's workshop at the Drug Users Resource Centre.


"Being part of Megaphone's writing workshops gives me guidance," he says. "Getting published in the magazine makes me feel acknowledged."

Help Megaphone reach its goal by making a donation here. Your donation means we can continue to run the workshops, compensate the writers, and publish their stories in the magazine. 

Thank you for giving people a voice.


Sean Condon
Executive Director


The most radical act of making art: Vancouver artist Jayce Salloum on his recent Governor General's Award and his many fights against censorship

Jayce Salloum. Photos by David P. Ball.

Like an archeological dig, Jayce Salloum's Downtown Eastside living room floor is arranged in a grid: his Afghanistan photographs carefully measured between strings stretched taut, a sort of creative excavation for an upcoming show. Nearby, the acclaimed Vancouver artist's past gallery plans are crumpled into a half-metre taped ball of newsprint.


The 56-year-old artist won a Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts on March 26. Raised in Kelowna, Salloum returned to B.C. from New York in 1997, when he formed the desmedia Downtown Eastside artist collective, which ran a drop-in arts program for residents.


He spoke to Megaphone about the award, censorship, and the importance of “in-between spaces.”

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MEGA-NEWS: Activists fear "renovictions" at another DTES hotel


DTES low-income housing activist Wendy Pedersen (right). Photo by yaokcool/flickr.


Downtown Eastside housing activists are concerned that property developer Steven Lippman is considering purchasing the Chelsea Hotel, a Single Room Occupancy hotel with 32 units. 


If true, this would put at least 10 DTES hotels with 426 units under Lippman’s control, with rents ranging from $400 to $725, well above the $375 shelter allowance for single people on disability or income assistance.

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OPINION - We can solve homelessness right now: A look at housing authorities from around the world

in Vienna, the Karl-Marx-hof is a public housing project that is one kilometre long. it has four tram stops, and is recognized as the longest single residential building in the world. Photo supplied by COPE.


In the 1990s, there was a crisis in Vancouver with people dying of preventable drug overdoses. Ultimately, this triggered a concerted response among activists, led by drug-users and politicians. In the fall of 2002, the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) swept to power with a mayoral candidate, Larry Campbell, on a campaign to implement harm- reduction programs like Insite.


Creating spaces where overdoses could be prevented meant learning from grassroots harm-reduction activists working on the ground, as well as looking around the world for cities that had successfully adopted the policy.


Read the rest

MEGA-NEWS: Rental database a success, according to city

While the City of Vancouver points to its successful Rental Standards Database as one step forward in improving the quality of the city’s rental housing, evictions for renovations, or “renovictions,” continue to put many renters on shaky ground. Photo: Jackie Wong.

It’s been just over a year since the City of Vancouver launched its Rental Standards Database, an online tool for Vancouver residents to report violations in rental buildings with five or more units. The tool is aimed at improving the quality of Vancouver’s rental housing stock. According to Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang, the database has been a success. 

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