A small green space in Halifax will soon offer a piece of ‘serenity’ and history in the name of LGBTQ activist Raymond Taavel, six years after his death
A small green space in Halifax will soon offer a piece of “serenity” and history in the name of Raymond Taavel, more than six years after his death.
The name of the popular LGBTQ activist, who was killed in 2012, was approved by regional council on Tuesday as one of 14 to be enshrined on Halifax Regional Municipality assets.
Now the former Inglis Street Park, at the corner of Barrington and Inglis streets, will bear Taavel’s name.
“It’s heartwarming, obviously ... he’ll always be in my heart and mind, you know — but it’s a physical space that I can go by and see, and so can everybody else,” Darren Lewis, Taavel’s partner, said in an interview.
For Lewis and other members of the Public ART for Raymond Taavel initiative, the final “rubber-stamping” of the park’s renaming has been a long time coming, but it coincided with another important date.
Nov. 27 marked 40 years since the 1978 assassination of advocate and political leader Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay elected official in California through his position on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
“He was basically Raymond’s hero, an early-on activist in the movement. It’s kind of interesting to me it all kind of panned out today,” Lewis said.
Taavel, 49, was beaten to death by Andre Noel Denny outside Menz & Mollyz Bar, on Gottingen St. in Halifax, on April 16, 2012, when Taavel tried to break up an early-morning fight.
Denny had failed to return to the Halifax-area East Coast Forensic Hospital (ECFH) after receiving a one-hour unescorted pass earlier that day.
In March 2016, Denny was sentenced to eight years in prison for manslaughter in Taavel’s death. With about six years’ credit for time served, Denny has served out his sentence and probation at ECFH. As a dual-status offender (he was declared criminally responsible in Taavel’s case but not criminally responsible in two previous cases), Denny, who has schizophrenia, continues to live at the facility.
At the time, Taavel’s death shocked the LGBTQ community and entire city. More than 1,000 people closed down Gottingen St. for a vigil, and later there was a march from Grand Parade to St. Matthew’s Church. Lt.-gov J.J. Grant posthumously awarded Taavel the QEII Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions to Canada, and an encased Pride flag bearing tribute to his activism hangs in the grand staircase at city hall, said a staff report.
Taavel is remembered for being a key participant in the effort to have equal marriage and transgender rights added to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act. He was also a leader of Halifax Pride, “the driving force” behind HRM’S first public proclamation of Pride Week and the flying of the rainbow Pride flag at city hall. He covered LGBTQ issues as managing editor and writer for Wayves magazine from 2002-10.
The journey to have Taavel’s name displayed in Halifax has taken some twists and turns, Lewis said. At various points, it looked as though an art piece might be created, while Taavel’s name was also in the running for
the new harbour ferries, but nothing worked out.
However, Lewis said, a former colleague of Taavel, Barry Boyce, and Adriana Afford of Argyle Fine Art pushed to keep the issue on the radar of Mayor Mike Savage and councillors.
About a year ago, Lewis said municipal staff came to the Public ART group to present some options about where and when Taavel’s name could go — like the Inglis St. park.
But first there was a nomination process. Lewis said he and the ART group are grateful to all the residents, community leaders and politicians who wrote letters in support of naming a public space for Taavel.
“HE’LL ALWAYS BE IN MY HEART AND MIND.” Darren Lewis, Raymond Taavel’s partner
Friends of Raymond Taavel participate in a vigil on April 17, 2012, in Halifax, the day after the LGBTQ activist was beaten to death outside a bar. Taavel’s name will now grace a small park in the city’s south end.