Festival moves out of Oppenheimer Park to show compassion
Published Sunday, August 4, 2019 6:21PM PDT
More than 20,000 people made their way to the Downtown Eastside Sunday for the Powell Street Festival, which celebrates Japanese-Canadian arts and culture.
The province's housing crisis prompted a change to this year's festivities.
Organizers decided to move the festival out of Oppenheimer Park to ensure those living in the growing tent city wouldn’t be displaced.
"Japanese-Canadians are historically displaced people, so it's very important for us that we use that agency to advocate for marginalized people,” said Emiko Morita, executive director of the Powell Street Festival.
The festival encompassed the surrounding neighbourhood on Alexander Street, Jackson Street and Dunlevy Avenue.
The park has hosted the event for years. The green space was home to the world-famous Asahi baseball players prior to the Second World War.
"They were small in stature and had a technique of playing baseball that was different from using brawn to knock the ball out of the park. It was dubbed brain ball and they would bunt,” explained Morita.
She said the park now serves a more dire purpose.
"Oppenheimer Park is really the last shot for people that don't have a home. So we started to implement this fantastic street plan,” Morita told CTV News.
That decision is getting plenty of support from homeless advocates.
"I think it's a very smart decision. Those folks, who are in Oppenheimer Park, have already been displaced many times,” said Troy Balderson of the Lookout Society.
Balderson said moving the festival out of the park is a true sign of empathy, considering thousands of Japanese-Canadians were interned and displaced in the 1940s.
"To understand that plight -- and understand that they went through that previously -- and they've got another population like-minded that are going through the same thing," he said.
He believes that kind of compassion is needed to end B.C.’s housing crisis.
The Powell Street Festival was also relocated in 2014. Organizers say if the park remains occupied, they could move it again in the years to come.