Morgan Gould wasn’t planning to share during the calendar launch for Profiles of Courage on Sunday evening, but after hearing some of the testimonies coming from impoverished local citizens he decided he had to speak up.
“Social standing is a construct, and it’s a false one,” Gould said.
“And I think we need to be working on tearing down that construct. There’s nothing that separates us, and it definitely shouldn’t be money or lack of money that divides us.”
He’s sick of hearing critiques levelled at Nelson’s most vulnerable, and frustrated by the lack of empathy coming from people in higher income brackets.
“I don’t want to hear: ‘if you can’t afford to live here, leave.’ That’s not community.”
That was a sentiment seconded by Andrea Bell, a long-time resident who attended the meeting and shared her own housing woes with the audience. She doesn’t believe the housing crisis can’t be addressed, and called for residents to be proactive.
“You hear people say ‘that’s just the way it is in Nelson’ but I disagree that we don’t have the ability to change that. I think there’s a huge amount of support here but there needs to be more dialogue on how we can work together.”
This year’s calendar features images from Nelson residents in poverty, many who wished to remain anonymous, but organizer Bernadette White said the process was cathartic for them.
“At first nobody wanted to be identified, but by the time it began to come to fruition I heard: ‘I think I’m okay with this’. They showed real courage.”
Indeed many of the photographers stood to be recognized during the launch, and received a standing ovation from the crowd. And according to White it’s the community recognition, not financial aid, that’s most important.
“What matters to me is everyone in this room, regardless of social standing,” she said, encouraging people to offer a smile or a kind word even if there’s nothing else to offer.
Profiles of Courage is now for sale, and the images inside will be featured in an upcoming exhibit at Touchstones Museum.
Organizers are also anticipating the launch of a blog site in November that will give another outlet to participants to share their voice.
“I give a damn and I hope other people can just be kind,” said White.