HALIFAX, NS – Brad Barton has received the Order of Nova Scotia in recognition of his work as an educational leader both provincially and nationally.
The ceremony happened November 7 at Province House in Halifax, where Barton was recognized for his work in promoting the need for an inclusive educational experience for African Nova Scotian students and their families.
After years of dedicated service with groups, advocating for culturally inclusive school curriculums, Barton has become a leading authority for educating people on what education should look like.
“The past has created challenges for us, as African Nova Scotian learners. Progress is about longevity – we’ve come far, but still have far to go,” he said.
Speaking out to give others a voice
Barton grew up on his family’s homestead in Jordantown. He served as student council president at Digby Regional High School in 1963, and felt he was destined for a career in education.
Fast forward several years, and Barton was living in Dartmouth, doing just that – working with provincial groups and serving on committees like the Black Educators Association, the Black Learners Advisory Committee and the Council on African Canadian Education, and national education boards as well, to advocate for an educational system within which African Nova Scotian students were represented.
“The bottom line was always to create an environment for black students to feel comfortable and part of their school. If you aren’t wanted, you lose that desire to work hard,” he said.
During his time in education, Barton was a teacher and later principal at elementary, junior high and high schools, teaching students who’ve now become his contemporaries on the path to education reform.
“Regardless of culture, education allows you the opportunity to make influence on lives of people, and that makes you feel very proud,” said Barton.
Recognition of the progress achieved
Barton is now retired, but still regularly volunteers with different groups to continue working for equality.
His ties to the wider Digby community remain strong even after several years away, including his involvement with the Jordantown, Acaciaville, Conway Betterment Association, or JACBA, the group that challenged the lack of African Nova Scotian material in the school curriculum, along with systemic racism toward African Nova Scotian students.
The award is proof his efforts have been noticed, showing some progress has been made. But the fight is far from over.
“The idea is to try and make things better for everyone – the black community in Digby, and the wider community too,” he said.
“We have to have our voice at the different levels – government, education, social – so we can be heard.”