Before this evening, I knew nothing about Regent Park and the wonderful people, stories, and art that make up this resilient community. This area was one of Canada’s first social housing projects and in its early days had next to no amenities or services. This is where community building and activism came in.
Due to the efforts of grandmothers, parents and even children taking to the streets to protest for services, the community strengthened and changes were made. Many years ago, it was decided by the people in the area that a community center was needed and every person was asked to add two dollars to their monthly rent to raise funds. It took seventeen years but the community center was finally built.
Tonight this blossoming community presented The Journey – A Living History of the Regent Park Revitalization. What a surprising gem this show was. The stories of the residents were weaved into original songs and script that were written by Mitchell Cohen, President of the Daniels Corporation.
So often, this type of production can be described as hokey, but I spent the better part of the night with a lump in my throat and tears stinging my eyes. This wasn’t a sophisticated show by any means but what it had, in spades, was heart. I was fascinated by the hard fought battles of the people in this community, which were at times heart breaking, but more often uplifting and inspiring.
The talent on stage was undeniable. From Trevlyn Kay and Britta B’s spoken word riffs, to the youth student chorus, and the upbeat youth dancers. Small clips and interviews were also played during transitions between musical numbers so we were able to see and hear the different people that have lived in this area throughout the years.
The group from The Journey was lucky enough to be able to secure award-winning singers including Charlotte Siegel, Sterling James and the phenomenal Jackie Richardson. It is pretty stirring to hear a voice as great as Richardson’s and it is a rarity that I feel moved to the core by vocalizations, but this performer did it to me this evening.
My favorite numbers were Looking Back, Grannies on a Mission, and Don’t Go Out Tonight performed with riveting emotional depth by Tevlyn Kay.
The event included delicious refreshments provided by Paintbox Bistro and Catering and a lively lobby band, Regent Park Focus House Band.
What I took away from The Journey – A Living History of the Regent Park Revitalization production is how important it is to care about one’s community and especially the children that live in it. Regent Park is home to a 41% population of kids and it seems to me the people there want to have the best opportunities for their children, regardless of their incomes.
The arts are an important part of offering youth a well-rounded education, so if you are looking for a place to make a positive impact, think about volunteering your time and talent in Regent Park.
You can also support this area by checking out one of the many upcoming shows that are scheduled at the Daniels Spectrum Cultural Hub. Finally, you can download the complete soundtrack of tonight’s show at www.giveagiftgetasong.com for a minimum donation of $15.00. This will raise funds for youth programming at Daniels Spectrum.
Thank you Regent Park for letting me into your home this evening, I will be coming back.
Click here for a link to Grannies on a Mission and Don’t Go Out