THE BEGINNING OF THE PEOPLE PROJECT
At the 20th Anniversary of Quint Development, Riversdale Love joined the party with our amazingly talented friends at Studio D to take pictures of the people who make up the community of Riversdale. We had a printer set up so we could give people prints of their beautiful faces, and volunteer listeners asked people about their stories. People could answer a few questions, tell us whatever they wanted, or provide nothing at all. It was certainly enlightening to hear about different experiences of this neighbourhood, and we came to appreciate a cohesive, resilient community of people who look out and care for each other.
Thus began The People Project.
Eager to learn more about our neighbours, Matt Ramage from Studio D and I have been taking to the streets to collect more photos and stories of the people that make up Riversdale. We'll continue to do this around the community and at special events until we collect 100 PHOTOS. Then we'll launch The People Project website and share this experience with all of you. The work won't stop there. We'll continue adding to it as we meet more people and grow this visual celebration of our diversity. If you want your face to be added to the collection, EMAIL US.
BEHIND THE SCENES
A few weeks ago, I met up with those first volunteers who came to Quint's 20th Anniversary and took down people's stories. We were totally disorganized, and learning as we went about how to honour our storytellers, who often dove deep and revealed very sensitive information. Some of our volunteers were shaken by what they heard and felt that if they were going to collect these stories, they were obligated to help change some of the hardships and injustices revealed to them.
This lead to a very profound discussion about class and race in Riversdale. There are obvious tensions at play between cultures, between people who have or have not. There are also beautiful connections between cultures, between people who have or have not. For some time during the conversation, I felt very uncomfortable in this room with Indigenous women who have lived through tragedy and seen hardships I may never know. Because no one said it, but everyone knew that my ancestors were on the side of the oppressors. Finally, I had to admit it out loud: I am the woman of white privilege in the room. I am the person they have felt judged by.
But they didn't judge me. And I didn't judge them. We were simply women in a room, all passionately trying to contribute to the health of our community. During the course of our conversation, we went from being "us" and "them" to being one.
We asked each other, what is the purpose of The People Project? It is to honour and value each individual that makes up this community. It is to be witness to each other's stories--and use that as an experience to bridge, connect and care for each other.
Our volunteers got animated and excited about what The People Project could become: a book with sales that feed back to supporting people in the community? A large format mural that acknowledges the history and identity of the neighbourhood? I listened to this animated group of women let me in, teach me about Indigenous ways of honouring this project by asking an elder to bless our web launch, or creating ceremony around the project in some way.
I'm not sure what The People Project will evolve into, but I am very grateful to these volunteers who have helped shape its' beginning. I invite you to become involved too. REACH OUT HERE.