I met Bud Osborn my first summer on the corner of Main and Hastings in 1995. He had joined the board of the Carnegie Centre, and wanted to let me know that he was really excited by the project i was working on. He was the first person i heard read poetry that kept me awake. I’m actually not very ” sophisticated” when it comes to art, writing, music. I want to be able to understand what i’m seeing, reading and hearing, for the work to be based in something that resonates, and feels real. Bud, for anyone that hasn’t heard or read his poetry, is someone who has suffered incredible brutality in his life. Suicides, sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, murders, all kinds of addiction. His life changes, he’s healing, and then with his poetry, lights a fire under the ass of a passive Health Board,( a board of which he became a member) lights a fire to let them know that we are in a state of emergency, we have reached epidemic rates of HIV infection, highest in the western world, in the Downtown Eastside. He mobilizes, along with Anne Livingstone, drug users, past and present to advocate for themselves and their community, for safer and more humane conditions. He got sick and couldn’t be around as much. They made a film called “Fix: The Story of an Addicted City” which gave him barely a mention. I know the truth. I know how hard he fought, for himself and for others.
He’s doing better now, he’s living back in the neighborhood, and he is still fighting for a more just world. He turned 60 last year, still with his wavy brown hair and bright blue eyes, he shines, he shines like someone with new skin. He has always been very kind and supportive to me, and i have felt comforted by his support over the years, i respect him deeply. I have been thinking about him over the past few days, as i pour my anger and sadness into these pages. I’ve also been thinking about him because i heard Jackie Wilson’s, “Your love is lifting me higher” twice in the last week. In the late 90’s, when Bud was performing his poetry, he performed this song at the end of a reading, he read it with accompanying bass and sax. A more hopeful ending i couldn’t have imagined, after hearing an hour of the violence, struggles, and injustices, he ends with love.