DIGBY COUNTY, N.S. – It’s one thing to have money in the bank towards a project. It’s another thing to hold a deed in your hand and to stand on the land that one day will see a community dream, a need, a promise and a commitment realized.
Such was the case at a special ceremony held July 14 where the deed for a 19-acre parcel of land in Acaciaville, Digby County, was presented by the province to the Jordantown-Acaciaville-Conway Betterment Society (JACBA).
The land, previously owned by the province’s Department of Community Services and presented at no charge to the group, fulfills part of a human rights mediation settlement signed years ago with the Department of Education and other education partners that addresses the issue of segregation of the community in the past and is also seen as an acknowledgement of African Nova Scotian Loyalists from long ago.
Part of that settlement called for the building of a heritage, educational and community centre in the community. As of July 14, JACBA now officially has a place to call home for this centre.
One thing discussed during the ceremony was patience. Speaker Brad Barton spoke about this during the ceremony and Clare-Digby MLA Gordon Wilson continued on this theme.
The thing about patience is eventually, one hopes, it does pay off.
“Today is something that is going to be tangible for the community. You can stand on it. You can cut down trees on it. It’s yours and I know you will do a tremendous job with it,” Wilson stated during the ceremony.
“We did make the announcement earlier, the $2.25 million, and that was extremely significant, it’s a large amount of money,” he said later on about the commitment the province has put towards the construction of a community centre. “But money in the bank versus a piece of property that you can touch, it’s theirs – this is very significant.”
The Jordantown-Acaciaville-Conway Betterment Society was formed in 1973 to address the issue of segregation that existed for the Black community and also to gain improvements for the community in areas such as housing and education, and to work for the betterment of seniors and veterans as well. The group was asked to take the lead role on the community centre project.
All of the original members of the board from the early 1970s have since passed away, Kerry Johnson’s father being the last one to pass on. Johnson chairs JACBA and says the community centre that will be built will not only address wrongs of the past, but it will be an inclusive centre and resource for the entire community and public at large – not just those in Jordanville, Acaciaville and Conway, and not only those in the Black community, but for everyone throughout Digby County and surrounding areas.
The plan is ambitious and will serve a lot of needs.
“It’ll have a 250-seat convention centre, a commercial kitchen, a full-size gym, meeting rooms, pre-primary care, a seniors’ area and a youth area,” he says.
JACBA is still finalizing the plan, it will be planning information sessions, and it continues to firm up funding commitments with its partners. But each day the ultimate goal moves closer and Johnson says he can’t wait to break the sod for the centre, hopefully soon.
“We were segregated. This community centre is going to change that because we are trying to be all inclusive,” Johnson says. “It goes back to Loyalists and waiting for the land that they never received. Now the land is ours. It was given to us. It’s a good symbol that things that we never got during the Loyalist days, or even in the last 40 or 50 years, that change is coming.”
Adds Wilson, “Having a community centre is significant. More importantly is having a community centre that joins those communities in more than just brick and mortar, that it is something that we can share and celebrate. This is an opportunity to unify and bring the community together.”