Elsaida Douglas is a dynamic, well-known figure in the Regent Park community. She moved to Toronto because of a dream- many of Elsaida’s pivotal life decisions have come to her in her sleep. A single mother of eight children, Elsaida has been called a mother to many in the community. Originally born in Jamaica, she migrated to Toronto in 1972 leaving her children in Jamaica while she worked, and eventually settled with them in Regent Park in 1977. Like many women immigrating from the Caribbean in the 70s, Elsaida became a Personal Support Worker in addition to working many odd jobs.
Elsaida’s story explores her life experiences in Regent Park and beyond, highlighting the reality of racial injustice, senseless gun violence, and community activism that have deeply shaped her experience in Regent Park. In May 2001, Elsaida’s son Cleamart was murdered. After her son’s passing, the only thing that gave Elsaida solace was gardening. She recalls having a dream about new life coming into the world, inspiring her to plant the Peace Garden. Dedicated to victims of gun violence, the garden was originally planted outside her home at 605 Whiteside Place on the Southside of Regent Park. It is now located at 40 Oak Street, outside the Christian Resource Centre. Her dream also spawned The Dreamers group, which began as a simple collective of women who were fed up with the gun violence in the neighbourhood. Like Elsaida, many had lost children.
In addition to being an important anti-gun violence advocate in the community, Elsaida has been an active member of the Regent Park Residents Association and helped to champion progressive changes to public housing policies. Deany Peters identifies Elsaida as the force behind the policy change that allowed single mothers to stay in their homes after their children moved out — a policy put in place because public housing was built to house families. To this day, Elsaida can still be found tending to her garden, or overlooking the Big Park, as a proud ‘Regent Parker’ who does not see herself moving away any time soon.