Beautifying the Community

Talking about safety, garden, stigma, social housing, policing

I have used beauty as a part of safety. And I’m saying, if a place is beautiful, that safety is very much there. Because it welcomes you. You  can sit. You can talk. You can you have a free place to express yourself.


— Harriet Sheppard

Many of our storytellers described their passion for community development as rooted in values from their home countries, as well as being part of their effort at place-making in Toronto. Despite narratives of neighborhood ‘renewal’ increasingly directed at Toronto’s inner-suburbs, our storytellers in Victoria Park  demonstrate how immigrant community-based efforts have improved neighbourhoods for generations.

Harriet Sheppard, who immigrated from Barbados to Toronto in 1981, has lived in the Oakridge community of Teesdale for over 20 years. Her home island of Barbados influenced the way she thought about community interaction, has been a part of various projects creating murals, pushing for community gardens, and other amenities for her Teesdale neighborhood. Her years of (often volunteer) work towards beautification efforts in the neighborhood are, from her perspective, one way of promoting community safety. Her work within her neighborhood is part of the community activism that  has helped her find her own sense of belonging in Toronto. Harriet’s story illuminates how immigrant residents and their push for neighborhood improvements can exist outside of the mainstream policy frameworks.

Harriet Sheppard talking about beauty in Teesdale.