photos: As executive director of Megaphone, Jessica Hannon wore many hats—and beards.

Megaphone turns a page

Director's Corner: Outgoing Megaphone Executive Director Jessica Hannon ponders eight years at 'this scrappy organization' and what's in store for the non-profit's next chapter.

Get on your megaphone

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After nearly eight years at Megaphone, last month I stepped down as the organization’s executive director. 

I was 24 years old when I first appeared at Megaphone as a keener volunteer. I was a little lost, a little disconnected, and looking for my place in the city. I found that place at this scrappy organization when Sean Condon and the crew of volunteers and vendors welcomed me in. And that welcome changed me.

Being part of the Megaphone community has profoundly shaped how I see the world. I’ve spent my time here learning—about doing our best despite our barriers and about how community means showing up for each other. Learning how to acknowledge when I’ve made a mistake and how to try to make amends. Learning to find a way to keep going when things feel hard. Learning we can do serious work without taking ourselves too seriously. Learning to make space for complexity. And learning to work hard in the face of that complexity, for the love of the world we believe is possible.

Reflecting on this time, I think back on crying with laughter at the muppet-show situations that passed as regular work days, and with despair as we heard the news of another community member’s life needlessly cut short by the cruelties of poverty and exclusion. Through the small joys and the aching hurt, Megaphone has brought me closer to the things that make us all human. This organization, its vision for the world and the people who are living that vision a bit each day are something special. 

Not all of us know what it feels like to experience grinding poverty, to wonder if our groceries will last the month, or to pitch a tent in a city park. But on some level we all know what it’s like to feel we don’t belong, to feel excluded or stuck. Our economic system thrives on that. It pits us against one other. It breeds massive, heart-rending inequality that sees our neighbours sleep on cardboard boxes in the shadow of million-dollar condos. In these years at Megaphone I’ve seen the human impacts of poverty and inequality in harsh relief. I've been to more memorials than someone my age should. 

And that’s why Megaphone is so important. Megaphone is a survival strategy for vendors, but it’s more than that. It is a way to build community power to make meaningful, lasting social and economic change. When you stop to buy a magazine from your local Megaphone vendor, you’re saying, “I see you. You matter to me. My well-being is bound up with yours.”

By being part of the Megaphone community, you believe in offering a hand up to your neighbour. You believe everyone has something to contribute. You believe in giving people who may have had every door shut in their face a fighting chance. You believe we all deserve a safe place to call home. And ultimately, you believe that together, we can make change for the better. I believe that, too. And I’m so excited for Megaphone’s next chapter.

Megaphone is in a strong place: stable, situated in a beautiful new space, with impactful programs and an incredible team of vendors, speakers, staff, board, volunteers, supporters and community. It feels like the right time to make space for new leadership.

And on that, I am delighted to introduce Megaphone’s next executive director, Julia Aoki. She comes to Megaphone with a wealth of experience in leadership roles in arts and culture, education and community development. With Julia coming on board and the talented group that’s already here, I feel lucky to know I leave this organization I've loved so much in the hands of a team I trust unreservedly. Megaphone has some really exciting things coming later this year that I can’t reveal just yet. I can’t wait to see it all come to fruition. 

This feisty, whimsical little heart-powered organization, figuring out as we go and making space for all the messy complexity of humanity, will always be a part of me, and I look forward to stepping into a new role—that of supporter, customer, donor and perpetual super-fan. 

My last note is an ask: Keep buying Megaphone, Hope in Shadows and Voices of the Street. Keep supporting vendors, book our Speakers Bureau for a workshop, donate, share our social media posts… whatever it is you can do to contribute, please do it. It all helps, and it all matters. Without you, none of this would be possible. 

Thank you for being part of the Megaphone community. And thank you for allowing me to be part of it, too. It has been an honour I will carry with me always. 

Jessica Hannon left Megaphone magazine in July 2019. We wish her all the best.

Get on your megaphone

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