On Saturday August 16 DEYAS hosted the Eastside Youth Festival with live music, graffiti painting, b-boy dancin’ and a BBQ where we fed over 500 people. Special guests Deja & the Young Prophecy Army rapped twelve songs about life in the streets. People in the crowd were talking about how they identified with the words. In fact people are still talking about the event, which is why we are already working on next years show!
Anna Jones, Director of Development for DEYAS.

With temperatures in the mid 20’s, and the promise of a full day photographing local youth bands and other artists of varied genre, in Vancouver’s Victory Park, I was excited as was my colleague; Lloyd Lewis a former photography partner and now owner of Photo Hunters Freelance. The day had started with the awakening of the individuals who call Victory Park home, some of whom as they awoke began to question the strangers with cameras in their midst as to the purpose of their visit.

One individual, meager belongings and guitar in hand, after we explained our purpose for being there, proceeded to play some of Johnny Cash’s well-known songs for us with such heartfelt intensity and dedication I swore Johnny himself was there.

I observed the latter fellow throughout the day and was amazed at the full-bodied spark of life in his demeanor. He, like many of the individuals that gathered, as the day progressed for the music and the mid day meal that was provided, never complained about his lot in life as he shared his musical talents with anyone who would listen until the bands themselves began to play. Even when asking for and receiving donations after he himself played, which in most instances were meager and often with none forthcoming, he would smile and say thank you for listening just the same.

The events started with an introduction by Anna Jones, Director of Development, followed by a First Nations Elder’s blessing from Dalannah Gail Bowen and a short speech by Cannon Singh the Executive Director of DEYAS and later a guest appearance by Patti Bacchus of Vision Vancouver.

There were eleven-(11) melodious acts that day as well as a break dance demonstration by a group of young men and women titled, “Mitch Granger and the B-Boys“. I never felt as exhausted in my life (figuratively speaking) as I did watching this fine group of performers with extreme envy at their vim and vigor as they performed seemingly tirelessly.

I may not have the understanding or even a contemplative appreciation of much of this generations music but I can honestly say that by the end of the day I truly felt the love and respect each of the performers have for the homeless in Vancouver as portrayed in their musical presentations. What made it more evident, in my case, was having the knowledge that many of the performers were/are themselves homeless and like everyone involved that day they prepared for and gave of their talents freely without any thought of monetary or personal gain.

Deja and the Young Prophecy Army:

Research shows that this group of fine performers, were and in some cases still are homeless, had pooled their talents together in just a two-week period. Not only had they collectively pooled their talents for the festival, but they also collaborated to create a CD that was sold at the Eastside Youth Festival for just $15.00 each. All proceeds from the sales were donated to assist in building a new low barrier transitional home for Vancouver’s homeless youth.

I enjoyed not only the music but the visual presentation as well, of each member of this group, there was one individual that really caught my attention and made me realize that the old adage, “You cannot judge a book by its cover”, is true at all times.

Here was a young woman; I do not have her name at this time, which really took me by surprise. With her naturally curly, flame red, hair, biker style boots (as I call them) and wearing a black and red striped shirt, whom I thought was just part of the audience, until she took to the stage. As she began to move to the beat of the music and sing, I became awe struck as I inwardly bowed in humility and swore I was listening to the voice of an angel. Of all the individuals that sang that day she and she alone still stands tall in my memory as someone who has a God given talent that to me puts her right up there with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Queen Latifah two women I greatly admire for their vocal talents.

Sharon Small of Directions performed a few solo numbers on her guitar giving me the impression of a modern day Joan Baez, attempting to reach out and inspire the crowd through her music and song.

Devils Advocates:

An interesting duo reminding me of the era when I lived in Georgia, with their banjo, harmonica and guitar combinations providing a well balanced presentation. For some unknown reason I was really caught up in my thoughts of the deep south with this duo. Thank you for the pleasant reminders of past memories regardless of the fact I was the only one enjoying that particular moment in time.

Jah Bless:

This talented group according to information on the DEYAS Festival brochure is, “an original group compromised of members from other Vancouver Groups… specifically for this event.” It goes on to state,” Espliff and Reece Worth from Freeflow, Lil Bit and Ras Nikhikesh…” would play acoustical reggae-hop songs that as is pointed out, “that promise to get you movin.” They did indeed!

The list goes on with other great talents such as Stephanie Lang, The Barn Owls, Sally Snow, The Light Bulb Effect, Pajamas, Arvilla, Kill Matilda (Their drummer, Lord Killington, was entertaining on his own merits) and headliner band Simian Special. Each was spectacular in their own right as they shared their songs freely and with such deep passion that mere words cannot begin to do justice.

Being an old rocken roller from way back I really got into the groove when Simian Special took to the stage and the group’s vocalist played a little game called, “I’ll take your photo while you take mine.”

Victory Park was hopping to the point that even the devil could not resist making an appearance…

Visual Artists:

For the record, I would also like to mention that there were a number of visual artists participating as well, such as Tony Ludovico. Each depicting a scene in, around the Victory Park area in such mediums as oils, watercolors, charcoal and the lowly pen and like everyone involved they donated their time and work. Each of the pieces, to my understanding, will be up for auction in the New Year with proceeds going to assist the homeless youth.

ABOUT DEYAS:

When asked about who created the idea of a The Youth Festival and the purpose DEYAS hoped it would serve, Anna Jones had this to say, “I thought of the idea of the Youth Festival…” She continued by saying, ” I hoped it would do many things including; give youth a chance to showcase their talent, feed the public, bring people outside the community into the community to build bridges, gain media exposure and community awareness of youth addictions and homelessness in an effort to break down barriers.

As Ms. Jones also noted, “The event achieved everything we set out for it, except draw out the other service providers.” “It could be better visually”, she noted, “had there been more sponsors but this is something for next year.”

As to whom founded DEYAS it was John Turvey stated Jones, “After he (Turvey) went through his own recovering school and working in the system he decided to found DEYAS.” Jones further stated that he (Turvey) helped to establish Native Health and numerous other service providers for the eastside of Vancouver.

When asked how long she (Ms Jones) had been with DEYAS she stated, “Since August of 2007”.

As to what Jones foresees as her personal vision for DEYAS she had this to say, “In the future of DEYAS I would like to raise funding to do a province wide prevention program to reduce the amount of kids ending up on the streets, something similar to the smoking campaign.” Jones goes on to say, “I would like to find a way to get the community to collaborate instead of being so competitive so we can reduce the gaps and duplications of service thereby being more effective for the client.”

I asked Ms. Jones how DEYAS has affected her life to which she replied, “It (DEYAS) has affected my life in terms of understanding when it comes to addictions and how that has always been a part of my family challenges. It has,” she continues,” helped me in healing ways, that I am giving back.”

When asked if given the opportunity to go back in time would she would make the same choice to actively participate in DEYAS as she presently is, she had this to say,” Yes, I would come back to DEYAS if given the chance as I have been blessed with a wonderful work family and that is a rare gift.”

Is she in it for the money? As Jones points out, “I took a $20,000.00 a year pay cut to do this job. I live on a tighter budget and my family has had to adjust, BUT,” she states, “we are all happier… and I like what I do.”

Jones is presently lobbying for more money for, as she states, “…to be dedicated to youth services, particularly prevention, harm reduction and treatment as law enforcement is the one pillar that is always consuming the most amount of money.”

Conclusion:

I was skeptical in the beginning about becoming involved in this assignment based on the area and my own self-perceived ideals about the Eastside and the individuals who call it home. By following through I found personal enlighten and a better understanding of just how tough life can be for those less fortunate. I was privileged to witness, firsthand, the power of today’s youth and the selfless acts of paying-it-forward to assist others when they themselves have nothing. Something many if not most adults today fail to comprehend and many of us ignore as we travel about our daily business with an out of site out of mind mentality.

As for the DEYAS staff, this is the first time I have met a group of individuals who actually lead by example. I find the whole concept refreshing with a slight twinge of envy at their tenacity and dedication. They (DEYAS) have their work cut out for them but based on their seemingly devout dedication DEYAS just may be the answer to the Eastside Youths needs.

Personally, I am already looking forward to the next event and if the talent is anything like the aforementioned it will be time well spent. I hope to see you there!

DEYAS will be holding music festivals annually, to provide not just entertainment and food, but more importantly as I understand it, to bring awareness to the plight of the homeless youth in Vancouver’s Eastside. You can find further details about DEYAS and its services and events at http://www.deyas.org or call Anna Jones at 604-685-6561.


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Allan Herman, Creative Visual Marketing Services Incorporated (CVM Inc.)

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