Author Tags: Civil Rights, Downtown Eastside, Poetry

"Literacy is our power to say who we are." -- Sandy Cameron

Born in 1931, Sandy Cameron is a stalwart activist for social progress in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver who has self-published Being True to Ourselves: Downtown Eastside Poems of Resistance (2004), endorsed by MP Libby Davies. Having taught at all school levels from primary to university, he has volunteered as a tutor at the Carnegie Learning Centre for more than 15 years, having first come to the Downtown Eastside in 1965. "The school system discriminates against poor and non-white kids and labels them Slow Learners and Trouble Makers," he says. "The poverty and violence in their lives are not reflected in the stories of Dick and Jane." A former logger and prospector, Cameron has been a frequent contributor of essays, poetry and political analysis to the Carnegie Newsletter. His dignified and accessible poetry was featured at a Vancouver Writers Festival event at the Carnegie Centre in 2004.


Being True to Ourselves: Downtown Eastside Poems of Resistance (2004)
Downtown Eastside Poems
Sparks from the Fire (Vancouver: Lazara Press, 2000)
Taking Another Look at Class (Carnegie Community Centre Association and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 1999)
Fighting for Community: Stories from the Carnegie and Downtown Eastside (editor)

[BCBW 2004]

The Heart of the Community (New Star $24)

Larry Loyie has also contributed to The Heart of the Community (New Star $24), edited by Paul Taylor, an anthology gleaned from the pages of the Carnegie Centre newsletter begun in 1986.With contributions from writers such as Sandy Cameron, Sheila Baxter, Maxine Gadd, Diane Wood and Bud Osborn, its appearance coincides with the 100th anniversary of the building at Main & Hastings that serves as the Carnegie Centre. 0-921586-94-9

He Will Be Remembered

Bruce Eriksen, one of the founders of the Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association (DERA) and a long-time member of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), died on March 16 after a year-long fight with cancer. He was 69 years old. Every time we say “DERA” Eriksen will be remembered, for along with other residents, he was determined to build a citizens’ organization. Every time we say “The Downtown Eastside” Eriksen will be remembered, for he did much to change the negative image of our community. “The people who live here, they call it the Downtown Eastside.”

Every time we overcome addiction and turn to help our neighbour, Eriksen will be remembered, for that is what he did. Every time we fight for decent housing, a decent standard of living and a decent community, Eriksen will be remembered.

Every time we figure out what it is we are willing to die for, Eriksen will be remembered, for he ignored threats against his life; if his death could help the Downtown Eastside, then so be it. And every time we refuse to quit, Eriksen will be remembered, for Bruce Eriksen never, ever gave up. Every time we enter the Carnegie Centre, Eriksen will be remembered, for more than any other person he fought to win this place for our community. Every time we find the courage to begin again, Eriksen will be remembered, for he was a drifter, sailor, logger, construction worker, machinist, iron worker, artist, woodworker, gardener, social activist, and city councilor who knew from the depths of his being what a person who wasn’t born with a silver spoon was up against in this world.

Under Bruce’s leadership, DERA won many victories in the 1970’s including a bylaw requiring hotels and rooming houses to have sprinkler systems, rezoning to protect housing in the Downtown Eastside, and the establishment of the Carnegie Community Centre.

In 1980 Bruce was elected to city council as a member of COPE, and was re-elected for a total of six consecutive times, retiring in 1993. He was the chair of the Community Services Committee and was a tireless spokesperson for the ordinary citizens of Vancouver.

Bruce came back to the Downtown Eastside to restore the painting he did – it now graces the lobby of Bruce Eriksen Place, fine housing just off the corner of Main and Hastings. He also joined with DERA again to condemn the “Friends of DERA” as just too stupid for words.

To Bruce’s wife, Libby Davies, and his son, Lief, we offer our hand in solidarity. The challenge he has left us is clear. Now it’s up to us.

--Sandy Cameron, (1/4/97)