Friends of Watkinson Park have been hit hard by a series of events: the passing of community members, the loss of in-door organizing space including access to our storage locker and kitchen, and, of course COVID.
FoWP members did COVID relief work during the first months of the pandemic, and then come Summer we got back into the garden – carefully. This Summer, FoWP teamed up with the Lorraine Johnson and the Queer Youth Program at George Chuvalo Community Center to steward the native plant garden. See our activities on instagram:
George was with FoWP from the very start. He came to all our meetings and especially enjoyed when we all had breakfast together. His favorite was sausages and eggs. He also brought gifts for people. He enjoyed a smoke in the sun on the bench closest to the street where he could hang with neighbours and watch the passers-by. George was taken to St. Joe’s almost a year ago. He lived there on the mental-health floor. I ran into him when I was visiting Marlene in the hospital and he told me he wanted to come home but he didn’t know if his apartment was still there for him.
FoWP has memorialized the passing of several community members on the fence. We feel it is important that our community knows, when society looks down on the poor, that each one of us is important and will be missed. There have been a lot of deaths in the low-income community of the Junction – a higher than average death rate linked to poverty and poor housing conditions.
It’s been a tough year for FoWP community with the collapse of the Peacock Hotel which then caught on fire. We lost 30% of our community. Then we lost our most vital community member, Marlene Rita Bluebird. And now we are dealing with this COVID-19 crisis. Pretty much everyone in the two Mainstay buildings have compromised immune systems and so are especially vulnerablized to dire consequences if they get ill. FoWP has been doing some neighbourly information sharing:
LETS STAY SAFE
LETS NOT SPREAD COVID
We also organized to do some shopping for residents as it is just before cheque day and also for those are staying home. Thanks to Rebecca Garrett, who generously donated funds so that we could not put pressure on the food banks!
The Friends of Watkinson Park will be missing our beloved friend and community member, Marlene Bluebird. She gave us so much, and we are grateful to have known and worked with her. We will carry her spirit and teachings with us as we continue to do community work to sustain low-income community in the face of gentrification in Junction.
FoWP community members got together to work in the garden today. We planted tobacco babies alongside those tobacco who re-seeded from last year. Put in some bergamont, yarrow and blanket flowers from Joce Two-Crows Tremblay. Very excited to see that the wild rose bush is full of blooms! We harvested the prairie sage which is so strong and bountiful. Many smudge sticks were made that will be given to folks holding it down at the Two-Spirit Camp on Niwa’ah Onega’Gai’ih/ Kobechekonc (Humber River) in protection of the Sisters Garden initiated by Joce Two-Crows Tremblay. We also left a little pile of smudge sticks for folks who might stop by to find!
Beautiful painting by Marlene Bluebird Stickings
The FoWP community has been through a lot this summer which culminated with the partial collapse and condemnation of the Peacock Hotel where many of our community members lived. Many of these folks are now homeless or living in worse conditions elsewhere in the city. This happened the day after our last park event! Enduring these struggles as a community is what makes these events so important!
For our last event of the season we did a Halloween for the People. There was a chili feast, firebowl, open mic where people spoke to some of the things that have been going on in the community… also, songs, poems, stories… ghost stories! There was also an art installation going on!
The art installation was a series of effigies – the main characters being Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford wrapped in a dripping oil pipline! They are surrounded by spirits – while the pumpkin spirit draws an arrow at the swollen heads of these dastardly politicians, who I might also add, have dog poop bags for balls!
FoWP’s Spring BBQ and Gardening Party was a raging success! We fed upwards of 100 people with amazing home made food by community members as well as items donated by local businesses. We planted in the garden, did some fence art and shared an Indigenous land acknowledgement as well as thoughts, feelings, poems, songs, comedy and music! It really felt like a peoples park! Thanks to everyone who helped out! Low-income community doing it for ourselves!
Thanks to Park People for their support!
FoWP went to the North American Native Plant Society plant sale to pick up some new friends to plant in the garden during the Spring bbq and Planting Party.
Grey Cone flower
Wild Rye Grass
Little Blue Stem
The Prairie Sage that we planted last year is spreading like gangbusters!