Photo by David Denofreo.
The Downtown Eastside is going through a radical transformation. Over the past decade a new class of middle and upper-class residents has been moving into the low-income neighbourhood. While the newcomers are helping rebuild the community, it’s also displacing the marginalized resident. Megaphone felt we needed to respond.
Last month, the board of directors of the Street Corner Media Foundation, which is the non-profit organization that operates Megaphone, passed a funding values policy for the organization. We wanted to address the impact that gentrification was having on the Downtown Eastside and make sure we are standing in solidarity with the low-income residents we work with and represent.
Here are the following statements of our new funding policy:
1. Megaphone believes that all businesses and organizations should act in a tolerant and inclusive manner to people of all economic backgrounds.
2. If an advertiser or donor is doing a disservice to the Downtown Eastside community or mistreats marginalized people, Megaphone will not accept their donation or advertisement.
3. Megaphone will not approach businesses considered to be aggressive gentrifiers or businesses that are hostile toward the low-income community.
4. If an advertiser or donor elicits concern from the community, Megaphone retains the right to pull the ad or revoke the contract.
5. Megaphone supports the community vision for low-income and marginalized Downtown Eastside residents.
After virtually being abandoned by government and businesses, the neighbourhood is now dealing with the threat of unabashed development. The new businesses may be reinvigorating the neighbourhood, but few are actually benefiting the low-income community. Instead they are causing displacement and a creating a sense of divide.
While gentrification is happening all across North American cities, the Downtown Eastside presents a particularly unique set of problems. On top of (or because of) poverty and racism, many of the neighbourhood’s residents suffer from severe health issues. This neighbourhood is where their services are located. Forcing them to move out could be fatal.
This is also where people built a community when none other wanted them. This is their neighbourhood and they deserve the right to stay.
There is a great opportunity for change in the Downtown Eastside. This is an incredibly vibrant community that has created solutions to its problems and is willing to work hard to achieve them. It’s great to see new businesses and residents attracted to that spirit and come to the community to be part of the movement. There are businesses that should be welcomed. Megaphone is happy to work with them.
But there are businesses and developers that are paying little respect to the impact they are having on the neighbourhood and are not reaching out to the community. And for that reason Megaphone will not accept advertising or donations from those companies.