Return of Regent Park Peace Garden offers inviting spot for residents

News Nov 12, 2014 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

The return of the Regent Park Peace Garden is a dream come true for neighbourhood group The Dreamers.

A new quiet area outside the CRC building, at 40 Oak St., has been set up to provide a tranquil oasis where residents can sit and reflect over the impacts of violence and those from the community who have been killed or died due to accidents.

The space, which had an official opening ceremony and dedication on Tuesday, Nov. 11, replaces the old Regent Park Peace Garden, which was removed as part of the Regent Park Revitalization. The area features benches and flowers, and a stone with a plaque commemorating those who have died and pointing to a more hopeful future.

The Dreamers started out as a simple collective of women who had grown fed up with the gun violence in the neighbourhood as far back as 1995, many of whom lost children to such incidents.

Fuelled with the desire to effect change, they pushed for – and eventually spearheaded the creation of – a small green space behind a Toronto Community Housing property at 605 Whiteside Place.

That space, which first opened in 2005, was removed to make way for a road in 2011, with no replacement cropping up in the community until this year, when the CRC dedicated the space to the project.

Elsaida Douglas, who co-founded The Dreamers with some friends and first came up with the idea for the Peace Garden, was thrilled to have the concept return.

“I said back then (in 2005) we have to have a memorial garden in Regent Park,” she said. “There was too much violence in the community and too much pain.”

She added, from the time it first opened in 2005, the Peace Garden has provided her with immeasurable relief.

“It meant a lot to be able to walk in the Peace Garden. It took a load off your shoulders,” she said. “There was nobody there, but you could talk and feel like you were talking to whoever you wanted to.”

Douglas’ own son, Cleamart, was the victim of gun violence in 2001. While the Peace Garden holds special significance for her, she said the suffering brought on by violence is felt by all.

“As a mother, every time you heard another child dies due to violence or accident, you feel that pain,” she said.

Dorothy Johnson, another founding member of The Dreamers, lost her daughter to violence 15 years ago. When Douglas raised the idea of starting a Peace Garden in Regent Park, Johnson was happy to get on board.

“It can give you moments when you think about things like (violence), but it’s an important place,” she said. “I hope it shows young people there’s a different lifestyle to live.”

Rev. Michael Blair, who dedicated the first Peace Garden, was on hand to dedicate the renewed version. He said the Peace Garden stands, once again, to remember the victims of gun violence and as a means of inviting the community to think of peace.

Blair added the new location would make the Peace Garden more accessible, particularly given the old one was tucked away in a rarely-seen courtyard-style location.

“This is more central and far more inviting,” he said. “The presence of benches is a really nice addition, because they didn’t have benches in the old Peace Garden.”

He hopes the space inspires Regent Park residents to look ahead to a brighter future.

“This garden is a sign of hope in this community, and I trust it will always be the choice of all (residents) to choose hope,” he said.

Return of Regent Park Peace Garden offers inviting spot for residents

Garden provides immeasurable relief: Elsaida Douglas

News Nov 12, 2014 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

The return of the Regent Park Peace Garden is a dream come true for neighbourhood group The Dreamers.

A new quiet area outside the CRC building, at 40 Oak St., has been set up to provide a tranquil oasis where residents can sit and reflect over the impacts of violence and those from the community who have been killed or died due to accidents.

The space, which had an official opening ceremony and dedication on Tuesday, Nov. 11, replaces the old Regent Park Peace Garden, which was removed as part of the Regent Park Revitalization. The area features benches and flowers, and a stone with a plaque commemorating those who have died and pointing to a more hopeful future.

The Dreamers started out as a simple collective of women who had grown fed up with the gun violence in the neighbourhood as far back as 1995, many of whom lost children to such incidents.

Fuelled with the desire to effect change, they pushed for – and eventually spearheaded the creation of – a small green space behind a Toronto Community Housing property at 605 Whiteside Place.

That space, which first opened in 2005, was removed to make way for a road in 2011, with no replacement cropping up in the community until this year, when the CRC dedicated the space to the project.

Elsaida Douglas, who co-founded The Dreamers with some friends and first came up with the idea for the Peace Garden, was thrilled to have the concept return.

“I said back then (in 2005) we have to have a memorial garden in Regent Park,” she said. “There was too much violence in the community and too much pain.”

She added, from the time it first opened in 2005, the Peace Garden has provided her with immeasurable relief.

“It meant a lot to be able to walk in the Peace Garden. It took a load off your shoulders,” she said. “There was nobody there, but you could talk and feel like you were talking to whoever you wanted to.”

Douglas’ own son, Cleamart, was the victim of gun violence in 2001. While the Peace Garden holds special significance for her, she said the suffering brought on by violence is felt by all.

“As a mother, every time you heard another child dies due to violence or accident, you feel that pain,” she said.

Dorothy Johnson, another founding member of The Dreamers, lost her daughter to violence 15 years ago. When Douglas raised the idea of starting a Peace Garden in Regent Park, Johnson was happy to get on board.

“It can give you moments when you think about things like (violence), but it’s an important place,” she said. “I hope it shows young people there’s a different lifestyle to live.”

Rev. Michael Blair, who dedicated the first Peace Garden, was on hand to dedicate the renewed version. He said the Peace Garden stands, once again, to remember the victims of gun violence and as a means of inviting the community to think of peace.

Blair added the new location would make the Peace Garden more accessible, particularly given the old one was tucked away in a rarely-seen courtyard-style location.

“This is more central and far more inviting,” he said. “The presence of benches is a really nice addition, because they didn’t have benches in the old Peace Garden.”

He hopes the space inspires Regent Park residents to look ahead to a brighter future.

“This garden is a sign of hope in this community, and I trust it will always be the choice of all (residents) to choose hope,” he said.

Return of Regent Park Peace Garden offers inviting spot for residents

Garden provides immeasurable relief: Elsaida Douglas

News Nov 12, 2014 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

The return of the Regent Park Peace Garden is a dream come true for neighbourhood group The Dreamers.

A new quiet area outside the CRC building, at 40 Oak St., has been set up to provide a tranquil oasis where residents can sit and reflect over the impacts of violence and those from the community who have been killed or died due to accidents.

The space, which had an official opening ceremony and dedication on Tuesday, Nov. 11, replaces the old Regent Park Peace Garden, which was removed as part of the Regent Park Revitalization. The area features benches and flowers, and a stone with a plaque commemorating those who have died and pointing to a more hopeful future.

The Dreamers started out as a simple collective of women who had grown fed up with the gun violence in the neighbourhood as far back as 1995, many of whom lost children to such incidents.

Fuelled with the desire to effect change, they pushed for – and eventually spearheaded the creation of – a small green space behind a Toronto Community Housing property at 605 Whiteside Place.

That space, which first opened in 2005, was removed to make way for a road in 2011, with no replacement cropping up in the community until this year, when the CRC dedicated the space to the project.

Elsaida Douglas, who co-founded The Dreamers with some friends and first came up with the idea for the Peace Garden, was thrilled to have the concept return.

“I said back then (in 2005) we have to have a memorial garden in Regent Park,” she said. “There was too much violence in the community and too much pain.”

She added, from the time it first opened in 2005, the Peace Garden has provided her with immeasurable relief.

“It meant a lot to be able to walk in the Peace Garden. It took a load off your shoulders,” she said. “There was nobody there, but you could talk and feel like you were talking to whoever you wanted to.”

Douglas’ own son, Cleamart, was the victim of gun violence in 2001. While the Peace Garden holds special significance for her, she said the suffering brought on by violence is felt by all.

“As a mother, every time you heard another child dies due to violence or accident, you feel that pain,” she said.

Dorothy Johnson, another founding member of The Dreamers, lost her daughter to violence 15 years ago. When Douglas raised the idea of starting a Peace Garden in Regent Park, Johnson was happy to get on board.

“It can give you moments when you think about things like (violence), but it’s an important place,” she said. “I hope it shows young people there’s a different lifestyle to live.”

Rev. Michael Blair, who dedicated the first Peace Garden, was on hand to dedicate the renewed version. He said the Peace Garden stands, once again, to remember the victims of gun violence and as a means of inviting the community to think of peace.

Blair added the new location would make the Peace Garden more accessible, particularly given the old one was tucked away in a rarely-seen courtyard-style location.

“This is more central and far more inviting,” he said. “The presence of benches is a really nice addition, because they didn’t have benches in the old Peace Garden.”

He hopes the space inspires Regent Park residents to look ahead to a brighter future.

“This garden is a sign of hope in this community, and I trust it will always be the choice of all (residents) to choose hope,” he said.