Tupper moves ahead with Lanot memorial

Costs aren’t going to deter the community of Sir Charles Tupper Secondary School from fully honouring a teen who was beaten to death more than three years ago.

A committee of school staff, parents, local residents, and students started holding regular meetings last year to ensure that a planned greenway is developed as it was originally conceived by the community.

The greenway project is in remembrance of former Tupper student Jomar Lanot, who was fatally swarmed by a group of teens on November 28, 2003.

“We want to transform something tragic into something powerful,” teacher Marty Dolan told the Georgia Straight.

Dolan said that Vancouver city planners revised the design, citing ?escalating construction costs. Gone are the three proposed walls where students could exhibit their works of art celebrating the human spirit. She added that construction, which was slated to begin last summer, has been set back.

“The students would really want to see the art walls,” community resident Anne Robertson told the Straight. She and her family have lived in the Tupper neighbourhood for 12 years.

Robertson didn’t know Lanot but said she was deeply affected by the tragedy. Her son Evan is a member of the Tupper student-action team, which is represented on the greenway committee.

“There is enough desire in the community to help,” Dolan said.

She noted that the community intends to raise funds to augment the $305,000 greenway budget approved by city council last February to restore original features of the project. One of these is a wooden boardwalk that has been replaced with a paved walkway.

The greenway will be located in the 500 block of East 23rd Avenue, beside the school. This stretch west of Carolina Street has been closed to vehicular traffic since 1978 because of concerns about speeding.

A memorial boulder will be the central feature of the greenway. Dolan said that a passage written by Lanot will be etched on the rock. It reads: “Culture is the root of our lives; love is the most powerful force.”

A “healing garden” will also be a part of the project. Another feature is an amphitheatre where cultural presentations can be staged. “He [Lanot] wanted to connect with other cultures,” Dolan said. “He had his guitar always.”

Tupper secondary is in one of the city’s most racially diverse neighbourhoods. Students at the East Vancouver school come from 30 different cultural backgrounds, according to the school’s Web site (www.tupper.vsb.bc.ca/).

Cynthia Mendoza was teaching at another school when Lanot was killed. A recent addition to the Tupper faculty, Mendoza told the Straight: “I hope this greenway will be part of a change for better things that will come.”

The greenway will not be the only reminder of Lanot’s story. Dolan and Mendoza said that on December 21, the Kwantlen First Nation presented a cedar log to Lanot’s mother, Jenna, in a ceremony held at the school. The log will be carved into a totem pole to be displayed on the school grounds.

Last July, 19-year-old Muzil Abdullah was sentenced to seven years in jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of Lanot.