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Queer Walk of Heroes in the works

Community hopes to inspire future generations

The corner of Church and Alexander streets, near the statue of controversial queer icon Alexander Wood, is one possible site for a proposed Walk of Heroes. Credit: Rob Salerno

The group that produces the annual Inspire Awards is in the first stages of creating a Walk of Heroes in the Church-Wellesley Village that would celebrate leaders in Toronto’s queer community.

 
The walk would draw tourists and visitors to the neighbourhood while serving as a marker of heritage and a source of inspiration for the community, say organizers involved with the planning.
 
At present, there are no details on where the Walk of Heroes would be located, but some have suggested incorporating it into renovation work that is happening on the northeast corner of Church and Alexander streets or into the sidewalk in front of the 519 Church St Community Centre.
 
Other ideas include clustering monuments to our heroes at intersections along Church St, running the length of Church from The 519 to Wood St, or running the length of Alexander St from Church toward Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Whatever site or concept is chosen, it must have enough room to grow and develop as more inductees are inscribed on the walk.
 
The Church-Wellesley Village BIA is supportive of putting the Walk of Heroes in the neighbourhood, and Liz Hurley, of the Bank of Montreal, recently told a community planning meeting for the renovation of the Church and Alexander corner that the bank may be willing to contribute if it’s put on the corner.
 
Whatever form is decided on, it will likely grow slowly. The idea is to give spots on the Walk of Heroes to annual winners of the Inspire Lifetime Achievement Award.
 
In 2011, the first year the award was given, three recipients were honoured: deceased NDP leader Jack Layton, trans activist Boyd Kodak, and drag queen Michelle DuBarry. They would be added to the walk once it is built.
The Inspire Awards are sponsored by a number of businesses and community organizations across the Greater Toronto Area, including Pink Play Mags, PFLAG Canada, the Church-Wellesley Village BIA, the AIDS Committee of Toronto, the Ontario Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and Pride Durham.
 
No timeline is in place for the project, nor have funds been raised to pay for it, but Pink Play publisher Antoine Elhashem says he hopes the walk will be in place in time for WorldPride in 2014.
 
“It’s about people who’ve contributed to the community. It’s our heroes. What a visual presentation for our new generation to walk on a street and see the people who came before them and made it happen,” Elhashem says.
 
Nominations for the lifetime achievement awards are open to the community every fall. A jury of community leaders selects the inductees each year and the honourees are announced at a cocktail reception in November.