On Wednesday night of this week, we dedicated a new park in honour of Dr. Rita Cox, community activist, librarian and renowned storyteller. I joined Dr. Cox, City of Toronto staff, prominent Torontonians and members of the community to officially open the Rita Cox Park on Machells Ave, just north of Lamport Staduim. On such a cold, winter-like night, I was so pleased to see many people come out to support this incredible woman. Take a look at the photos I just uploaded to the website gallery!
Rita Cox is an exceptional individual who, through her love of the spoken and written word, has inspired people of all ages and has opened the literary world to her audiences. Rita’s work touches the lives of residents in the Parkdale community, especially children and newcomers to the city. Dr. Cox has pioneered and/or worked with a number of Parkdale agencies including Parkdale Project Read, Gallery 1313, Parkdale Intercultural Association, Parkdale Community Information Centre, and Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (just to name a few!) In naming a park in her honour, we celebrate Dr. Cox’s achievements and continuing contributions to the community.
Born in Trinidad, Dr. Cox joined the Toronto Public Library as a children’s librarian in 1960. In 1972, she became the head of the Parkdale Branch, and launched literacy programs and other initiatives that promoted multiculturalism throughout Toronto. During her tenure, in 1973, Dr. Cox pioneered the library’s Black Heritage and West Indian Resource Collection, which was renamed in 1998 to the Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection. It soon became one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in Canada. Today, it continues to be a source of pride in the community.
An active member of the Black community, Dr. Cox established Cumbayah, a festival of Black heritage and storytelling. A number of her stories have been published, including her own children’s book entitled “How Trouble Made the Monkey Eat Pepper.”A renowned storyteller who has entertained audiences worldwide, she has also maintained the Toronto Public Library’s storytelling legacy by training a whole new generation of storytellers, many of whom are current library staff.
After her retirement from the Toronto Public Library in 1995, Dr. Cox was appointed a Citizenship Court Judge by the Government of Canada.
Dr. Rita Cox has won numerous awards, including the 1986 Canadian Library Association Public Service Award and the Black Achievement Award. In 1997, Dr. Cox was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for her outstanding work in storytelling and literacy. Both Wilfrid Laurier University and York University have awarded her honorary doctorates.
Rita Cox Park is located at 14 Machells Ave. and is one of the City’s 1,473 named parks operated by Parks, Forestry and Recreation.