DIGBY, N.S. – With the mesmerizing pounding of drums, brilliant messages and several vibrant outfits, the southwest region kicked off the 2018 African Heritage Month on Jan. 25 in Digby.
The event, held at the town of Digby’s Heritage Center, was jointly hosted by Mayor Ben Cleveland, the Digby Education Committee and the Black Educators’ Association, and featured a wide range of guest speakers from across the region and the province.
Brenda Francis, regional vice-chair of the southwest Black Educators Association, organized the annual event, offering the opportunity to celebrate the significant contributions African Nova Scotians have made to the province.
This year’s African Heritage Month’s theme is “educate, unite and celebrate community.”
“Nova Scotia has more than 50 historic African communities dating back more than 400 years,” Francis said. “So we’re not newcomers here, we are founding fathers and mothers of this province and nation and for this reason we must educate, unite and celebrate African Heritage Month.”
Minister of the Public Service Commission and African Nova Scotian Affairs Tony Ince was on hand to bring greetings from the province and referenced this year’s theme.
“I think the theme reminds us our communities are richer and stronger thanks to the ingenuity, hard work and leadership of African Nova Scotians,” Ince said.
Another speaker was Dwayne Provo, a regional education officer who works with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development through the provincial education office for African Nova Scotia Learners.
“I was thinking of the elders today, and I want to thank you for laying the path and for me, growing up in Nova Scotia as an African Nova Scotian, things aren’t always easy, but because each generation we have before us, they make it a little bit easier for each one, and I have a lot of people to thank for my journey,” he said.
Provo also presented Francis with a cheque for the Digby Education Committee to provide additional math support for African Nova Scotian learners at Digby Elementary School.
“African Heritage Month is a reflective time, but it’s also time to look forward to see what we can do to make the future a little bit better,” he said.
Paul Ash was introduced as the first African Nova Scotian to become a superintendent with the Tri-County Regional School Board.
“Thank you for creating the space on this board to have the first African Nova Scotian – not only is it the work of our elders, it’s the work of a lot of people in this community who have made that happen,” Ash said. “This would not have happened if people did not stand and demand change.”
He spoke of the board’s strong support for African students.
“We recognize there is much more work to do and we’re looking forward to working with you, the African community, and the community at large to ensure that all of our students are developed to their full potential for as long as we’re able to do so,” he said.
Reverend Michael Alden Fells, a board member with the Tri-County board, was also asked to speak, and took the opportunity to address the province’s recent decision to dissolve all seven school boards.
“I exhort us to be on the right side of history, the Tri-County board has been on the right side of history with having the first African Nova Scotian as superintendent,” Fells said. He went on to say that people gathered and worked hard to make sure the black voice was heard in education and he could still hear his mother’s voice who had told him years ago she thought it would never happen.
“She said, ‘I don’t know if we’ll ever sit at that table, but you know young Alden, when we do get a seat they’ll get rid of the table,’” Fells said. “I want you to think on that. They’ll get rid of the table.
“So I need say to the honourable MLAs who are here, please speak to the honourable minister Zach Churchill… please tell him to fix the table, but not to remove the table because Black people haven’t been at the table long enough.”
Francis later spoke again on behalf of the BEA and her words resonated with all.
“African Heritage Month showcases our contributions as founding members of Canada,” she said. “We must share our stories and attempt to educate others and thus in the course of educating, embrace our own culture of greatness and beauty and brilliance.”
ANOTHER AFRICIAN HERITAGE EVENT COMING UP: Municipal Proclamation Launch for African Heritage Month in Birchtown
The public is invited to attend the Municipal Proclamation Launch for African Heritage Month 2018 in Birchtown on Friday, Feb. 2.
The event will take place at the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre, which is located at 119 Old Birchtown Road. The event will run from 10 a.m. to noon, with refreshments to follow.
The invitation to attend this event is being extended by the Black Loyalist Heritage Society, the Town of Shelburne, the Municipality of Shelburne, the Municipality of Barrington and African Nova Scotian Affairs.
This year’s theme for African Heritage Month is Educate, Unite, Celebrate Community.