Rita Cox’s name will help Parkdale students learn and grow

Queen Victoria Public School is Dr Rita Cox – Kinaa Minogok Public School

By Stephen Weir

Rita Cox

I have learned over the years that if I want to stay in the know, I ask Rita Cox what is new in her world whenever we meet. Earlier this month, sitting outdoors in the front row of a soon to start graduation event at CW Jefferies High School, I noticed teachers and students stopping by to shake her hand and congratulate her. “What have you done this time?” I asked, referencing the people stopping by to greet her.

 “Oh, I recently found out that there is a west-end junior school being named after me!” said the 92-year old community activist. “I will send you the press release to get you up-to-date.”

The school she was talking about is the Queen Victoria Public School.  The west-end school has had to wrestle with incidents of anti-Black racism. Parents and staff have been pushing to make changes at Queen Vic, starting with a new identity for the inner-city institution.

That change is here, the Toronto District School Board recently told parents and students that it has renamed Queen Victoria Public School. The new name? The Dr Rita Cox – Kinaa Minogok Public School. Kinaa Minogok is an African phrase roughly meaning “all is growing well”.

The kindergarten to grade eight school had over 700 students this year coming from a lot of different countries. Many of these students have arrived recently in Canada.

“In December, the School Naming Committee launched a call for submissions for potential new names to replace Queen Victoria PS. More than 150 names were submitted by the community for consideration and a shortlist was presented for feedback to the community,” explained principal Ms. Darlene Jones. “The proposed name is worthy of celebration, we also recognize that major fundamental changes to curriculum and culture are required to bring about the desired outcomes.”

92-year old Rita Cox is very much part of the Parkdale community.  The much loved community story teller is also a former Children’s Librarian and Head Librarian of the Parkdale Branch of the Toronto Public Library.  She was with the library for four decades. In that time she started several literacy programs including the Parkdale Intercultural Association and the Parkdale preschool program.

“I was honoured that they considered my work and my time in the community worthy of this great tribute,” reported the CBC. “I feel that I know that community, I love that community.”

Of course, she is one of the carnival originals, helping out with the first festival held in 1967. She has been an integral part of the festival be it Caribana, or the Toronto Caribbean Carnival since then.