It’s a very vendor Christmas at Megaphone

By Paula Carlson, Megaphone

“Have the merriest Christmas ever.”

—Bernie Bouzane

Bernie is a long-time Downtown Eastside resident who has been a part of the Megaphone family since 2015. He was born in Newfoundland—the third oldest of seven children—raised in Kitimat, B.C., and came to Vancouver in 1973.

He’s worked in the dry ice industry, run his own businesses and was the maintenance supervisor at Mica Dam north of Revelstoke.

“That’s where we get 20 per cent of our electricity here in the Lower Mainland,” Bernie notes.

He’s also a lifelong musician.

“I play almost every musical instrument there is,” he says. “Wind… I don’t play wind instruments, but I play string instruments and percussions. Violin, banjo—I started off on the accordion. I play the harmonica, organ, piano…. I think that’s about it.”

Bernie also writes songs and poems, many of which have appeared in Megaphone magazine and the Voices of the Street literary publication.

“I frequently stay up all night just writing poetry, right? I get inspired and I have to write.”

Bernie also participates in the [Megaphone project] Hope in Shadows calendar contest, and this year earned a Top 30 runner-up spot for his photo of a transit bus passing by The Waldorf on East Hastings Street.

Bernie Bouzane (Credit: Tanya Goehring)

Bernie points out that The Waldorf is a heritage building, surviving the gentrification of the neighbourhood—a structural metaphor for the spirit and resilience of the people of the Downtown Eastside, including himself.

“I lived down here for 14 years. I was very strung out on drugs, eh,” he says, “especially crack cocaine. I started off with pot and cocaine. Then when I ran out of money, I turned to crack cocaine. I’ve been clean now for 12 years.”

He says the connection he has with Megaphone helps a lot.

“Thanks to Megaphone, my standard of living has really gone quite high,” Bernie says. “For example, I have nice furnishings in my apartment and I have a smart TV. I saved up for a smart TV, an $800 smart TV, and just bought another couch, saved up my money to buy a leather couch. I’m able to buy some nice clothes now, I’m able to eat well, I put myself on the Mediterranean diet.

“And I meet interesting people, eh? For example, I met the—I forget the guy’s name—he fought Larry Holmes for the boxing championship of the world.”

Bernie says the best thing about 2018 was “undoubtedly working for Megaphone and meeting so many nice customers.”

What is he hoping for in 2019?

“I’m hoping for good health for myself and for my co-workers and my customers,” Bernie says. “God bless us, every one.”

Bernie Bouzane sells Megaphone outside High Point liquor store on East Hastings and Slocan in Vancouver.

“Wishing you a very Merry Christmas.”

— Naomi Gabriel

Naomi is one of Megaphone’s newest vendors, on board for less than a year. Part of Lil’wat First Nation, Naomi has been living in Vancouver for most of her life.

She’s a busy woman, volunteering at the field house at Oppenheimer Park, being a mom to daughter Karen-Lily and selling Megaphone magazine and the Hope in Shadows calendar.

“I like the way I get to interact with people,” she says of Megaphone. “I like being around people. I’m a people person. I volunteer five days a week at Oppenheimer Park. This community has helped me a lot in the past, so now that I’m sober and I’m not on drugs or anything, I give back.”

Naomi Gabriel (Credit: Tanya Goehring)

Naomi says she and her daughter love listening to music and taking pictures together. They also spend a lot of time outdoors.

“We do everything together. We walk, listen to music, go out, talk… whatever,” Naomi says, adding they enjoy all types of music: “classical, nature, jazz, rap, heavy metal, rock and roll… we’re into everything.”

Naomi says the best thing about 2018 was “being a rookie vendor” and winning a spot in this year’s calendar with a photo called Mama’s Little Helper, featuring her daughter pulling a cart (March).

Her hope for 2019? “To win front cover.”

Naomi Gabriel sells Megaphone in downtown Vancouver.

“Have a happy holiday.”

—Gwen L.

Gwen was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba and has been a Vancouver vendor for five years. Of Saulteaux and Cree First Nations, Métis and French heritage, Gwen is a member of the Bear Clan and it shows in her strong demeanour, determined attitude and fierce love for her three grown sons.

“I love them dearly and cherish them,” she says.

In fact, Gwen says the best thing about 2018 was that her photo of her eldest son John—entitled Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For—was a runner-up in this year’s Hope in Shadows calendar contest.

Gwen Lagimodiere (Credit: Tanya Goehring)

“He made the Top 30 out of 1,300 images,” Gwen says proudly.

It was taken outside the Carnegie Community Centre, one of Gwen’s favourite neighbourhoods.

“I love it there, where people are down-to-earth and real,” she says.

In addition to selling Megaphone magazine and Hope in Shadows, Gwen volunteers in the grief and loss program at the Downtown Eastside Women’s centre, takes part in the street market on East Hastings Street, plays her guitar, sings, rides her bike and is a frequent model at community fashion shows.

“Not to brag, but [a newsletter once wrote] ‘Gwen turned all heads as she did the catwalk’,” she says.

Gwen says she likes being a vendor because she can earn extra money and set her own hours.

“And I get to meet a lot of people and I also like the people that are involved in Megaphone, the vendors.”

Her hopes for 2019 include “happiness, love, friends and family.”

Gwen L. sells Megaphone in downtown Vancouver.

“I hope Santa is good to you. Prosperity and good cheer to all… and have a happy 2019!”

—Evelyn Baron

Evelyn has been selling street papers in Victoria for a long time, previously with Street Newz and then Megaphone when it took over the publication in 2014. Over the years, she’s become a fixture at Cook Street Village in Victoria’s Fairfield neighbourhood.

Affectionately known as “the hat lady” for her colourful array of headgear, Evelyn is also an enthusiastic cook—often sharing recipes with Megaphone staff and customers alike.

“I just love people. When they’re walking by I always have to have the last laugh
and be silly and be like a kid again,” she says. “That’s what keeps me young.”

The mom of two grown children also enjoys frequenting thrift stores, which is where she finds many of her unique hats.

Eveyln Baron (Credit: Josh Tanasichuk)

Born in Saskatchewan, Evelyn has lived in B.C. for 50 years and says she is enjoying her retirement in the capital city.

“I get out there and meet the people,” she says of being a Megaphone vendor. “They put something into my heart. They make me feel good. And I go home, close my door, and I know I’ve had a good day. Not the money, just the feeling that I get.”

Evelyn’s recipes have been published numerous times in Megaphone magazine (look for her 10-minute Christmas Cake in this issue), and this year, Evelyn’s photo John’s Vegetables landed a spot in the 2019 Hope in Shadows calendar (April), as well as winning the Victoria Vendor Choice Award.

What’s more, a second photo by Evelyn, Seagull, was a Top 30 runner- up in the calendar photo contest. Both pictures were chosen from more than 1,300 images submitted.

Evelyn says the best thing about 2018 was being able to take a photo of John De Jong, the proprietor of John’s Vegetables, before the fruit-and-veggie stand closes. John has operated the mom-and-pop shop for 32 years.

For 2019, Evelyn is hoping for good health.

Evelyn Baron sells Megaphone in Cook Street Village in Victoria, on the corner of Cook and Oxford Streets.

“Thank you for a beautiful 2018. Good luck in 2019!”

—Delisle Doucet

Delisle was born on Minstrel Island, a small piece of land north of the Johnstone Strait, and has lived all of his life on Vancouver Island.

“I was born [on Minstrel Island] but when I was only one month old or so, my father packed the whole family in the fish boat and took us down to Comox, where we lived for three years. And then after that we moved to Victoria,” Delisle says.

“Victoria feels like home. I have either lived here or Courtenay, so I have seen lots of the island. I have been up to Mount Washington and everything.”

Of Coast Salish, Mi’kmaq and Métis descent, Delisle has been selling street papers in Victoria since 1994, first with Street Newz and then with Megaphone when it took over operations in 2014. Throughout his life he’s faced his share of challenges, at times living in his car and sleeping in Beacon Hill Park.

“The thing about sleeping outside that people don’t realize is that when it’s windy, there’s no way to get out of the wind. And that’s a big problem, right there. Sometimes, I didn’t even have a blanket.”

Delisle Doucet (Credit: Josh Tanasichuk)

But today, thanks to supportive housing and profits he makes from selling Megaphone, Delisle has shelter and a stable life.

“Selling my papers has been tremendous. I’ve gone out and done really well and got my needs met lots of times,” he says. “It makes a big difference getting something to eat every day.”

This year, Delisle’s photo of his neighbour, entitled My Best Friend, made it into the Hope in Shadows calendar (November), and was also voted Best Portrait by community juries.

“I used to be an avid photographer for years and years,” says Delisle, who also collects coins, sings choir music and plays the violin.

Delisle says the best thing about 2018 involved the notoriety associated with his award-winning Hope in Shadows photo.

“When I went to cash my [award] cheque and the cashier bought a calendar from me, I autographed it,” he says proudly.

He hopes 2019 will bring opportunities to sell lots of magazines.

Delisle Doucet sells Megaphone in downtown Victoria outside the Shopper’s Drug Mart at Douglas Street and Yates.

“Be safe, warm and dry. Eat lots of food. Be kind to one another.”

—Horace Daychief

Horace is originally from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta and is part of the Cree First Nation.

Also known as the Bear Whisperer (for surviving an encounter with a grizzly in the wilderness of Revelstoke many years ago), Horace has been a Vancouver vendor since 2010 and is now a frequent contributor to Megaphone magazine, its annual literary anthology Voices of the Street and its calendar, Hope in Shadows. He has been published numerous times.

“I didn’t think anyone would listen to my poems, but I’m always writing,” Horace says.

Participating in the Hope in Shadows calendar contest is how he first found the joy of creative expression.

Horace Daychief (Credit: Tanya Goehring)

“It’s the best thing to do and you’re not breaking the law,” he says. “It’s something I wanted to do. I wanted to get involved with something that’s not criminal and keeps me away from jail. I was in jail all the time when I was in Alberta. Every year, just jail, jail, jail, jail. I had to get out of that. Now here I am doing all of these nice things.”

In the spring of 2018, Horace was a reader at the Voices of the Street book launch in the Downtown Eastside, sharing his piece, Home Sweet Home, with the assembled crowd. And in the summer he took part in Megaphone’s five-week Community Journalism 101 workshop held at SFU Woodward’s.

Horace enjoys his work in construction and writes poems and stories in his spare time.

What does he think is the best thing about the year that’s on its way out?

“My photo [Possibilities] winning runner- up in Megaphone’s photo contest in 2018.”

What is he hoping for in 2019?

“To have another chance in the photo contest again.”

Horace Daychief sells Megaphone in downtown Vancouver.

“Merry Christmas!”

—Louise Boilevin

A born-and-raised Vancouverite, Louise has been Megaphone vendor since November 2016.

Politically active and a champion for human and animal rights, Louise has taken part in marches for social housing, sex worker rights and the movement to stop animal cruelty.

For more than a decade she has been involved in outreach work at WISH Drop-In Centre, which provides services and a space for women involved in Vancouver’s street-based sex trade, and she is on the board of directors at SWUAV (Sex Workers United Against Violence).

Louise says at Megaphone, in addition to being able to earn extra money, she enjoys the social benefits of being a vendor.

“I like the concept of support. It’s helping me get out there,” she says. “I like that it’s an interactive job. I like that aspect.”

Louise Boilevin (Credit: Tanya Goehring)

Louise is passionate about studying history—particularly the Wild West, the Second World War and the red light district of the turn of the last century. And she likes spending time with friends hiking, having potlucks and playing video games.

She has also been branching out into literary and artistic pursuits, with her first piece of writing—Hustle—being published in the 2017 Voices of the Street, Megaphone’s annual literary anthology, which features the work of marginalized writers.

And her photo, The Continual Fight for Sex Trade Worker Rights, was voted as a Top 30 runner-up in this year’s Hope in Shadows calendar contest—something Louise says was the best thing that happened to her in 2018.

As for her hopes for 2019, Louise would like to see “better luck in my life and to be more out there.”

Louise Boilevin sells Megaphone at Granville and Broadway in Vancouver