New podcast aims to break down stereotypes of people living on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside
The six-episode series is inspired by themes from the 2021 edition of Voices of the Street
Producers of a new podcast series that shares the lived experiences of people living on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside hope, by listening, others will learn to stop stereotyping people who are part of that community.
Helena Krobath is the project co-ordinator and lead mentor for the new six-part podcast series that was piloted by Megaphone Magazine and called Voices of the Street.
She says people living on the Downtown Eastside are often stigmatized because they face housing insecurity and are sometimes battling substance use issues.
Krobath says the community is an underrepresented group, but it's also a misrepresented group by media and pop culture.
"To actually hear somebody tell their own story is quite different than hearing a group of people's concerns characterized from the outside," she said.
Yvonne Mark, one of the storytellers who worked on the project, is an addict in recovery who has been sober for 16 years. She works as a vendor with Megaphone and is a member of Megaphone's Speakers Bureau — a public awareness program connecting audiences with speakers who have lived experience of drug use and overdose prevention.
Mark says her goal is to encourage others to share their stories, even if they are painful, so they don't have to suffer in silence.
"I feel blessed with the voice as far back as I can remember, and I'm now finally taking the time to tell the world about the atrocities that we as Aboriginals have been forced to face," Mark said.
How the project came to be
The project is inspired by an edition of the magazine by the same name released in 2021 that features a collection of poems, stories, and essays written by people marginalized by poverty and homelessness.
The series is the product of Megaphone's first podcast mentorship program and was done in partnership with SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement. It features tales from other storytellers such as Jules Chapman, Angel Gates, and Nicolas Leech-Crier.
Krobath says the idea for the podcast came from brainstorming safe ways to share these stories outside of the written version of Voices of the Street while the pandemic was still happening.
She says, last summer, the storytellers explored and learned how to interview their subjects, how to map out the way they wanted to tell the stories, vocal techniques, how to record the interviews and how to incorporate theme music and sound effects to enhance their stories.
Two episodes from the series have already been released. Mark's episode is coming out next on March 1.
In the episode, she speaks with Megaphone author Dennis Gates about his piece Without Prejudice that addresses Gates's experience with incarceration and navigating the legal system as an Indigenous person.
Mark says by sharing Gates's story, she hopes it will bring change to the judicial system which has treated Indigenous people unfairly.
She says she's excited for people to hear it, but is also emotional because she's fulfilling her lifelong dream of storytelling at the age of 66.
"I finally had the courage to change."
The remaining episodes will be released every Tuesday until March 22.