Nova Scotia will officially designate Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day in recognition of the history and impacts of slavery in the province.
Tony Ince, Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs and the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives, introduced legislation today, April 13, to annually recognize Emancipation Day, the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British empire.
“The institution of slavery was foundational to the history of systemic anti-Black racism that has impacted people of African descent in Nova Scotia for generations,” said Mr. Ince. “Celebrating Emancipation Day is one way to encourage all Nova Scotians to recognize and reckon with the legacy of anti-Black racism and honour the contributions of Nova Scotia’s historic Black communities as we work to build a more equitable future.”
British parliament abolished slavery on Aug. 1, 1834, freeing about 800,000 enslaved people of African descent throughout the British colonies, including upper and lower Canada.
Nova Scotians are encouraged to observe Emancipation Day as an opportunity to learn more about the history of African Nova Scotian people and communities, and to continue to address and eradicate systemic anti-Black racism.
Acknowledging that our ancestors were enslaved in this province is one step toward righting the historical wrongs and resulting harms that African Nova Scotians continue to experience. The announcement of Emancipation Day is a milestone on the way to true emancipation for African Nova Scotians as a distinct people.Michelle Williams, assistant professor, Schulich School of Law and co-chair of Dalhousie’s African Nova Scotian Strategy
I am pleased to learn that Nova Scotia is introducing legislation to formally recognize Emancipation Day. Aug. 1 is a day for all Nova Scotians to pause, remember our painful past, reflect on our present and prepare for a better future for people of African descent. This recognition will help us to move toward collective healing and a more socially just province.Wanda Thomas Bernard, senator for Nova Scotia (East Preston)
both French and English settlers owned enslaved people in Nova Scotia, dating back to the early 1600s. There were about 400 enslaved Black people among the nearly 3,000 residents of Halifax in 1750 — more than 13 per cent of the population. Slavery continued in the province until the early 1800s
the House of Commons unanimously passed a vote on March 24 to designate Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day in Canada
Emancipation Day is celebrated in several Caribbean countries
Since my time as a graduate student to my present appointment as professor at Dalhousie University, I have been involved with championing and developing Black studies in universities and beyond.
Previously, within Canadian universities, not many scholars who work in creating knowledge about Black people called it Black studies. For many, “Black studies” was something that happened in the United States. In the 1990s, as a doctoral student conducting research in Black Canadian History, I developed and taught courses that consciously used the terms “Black” or “African Canadian.” Such courses included “African Canadian History,” “Black Ontario” and “Black Feminist history.”
As a result, I have come face-to-face in dealing with the resistance to implementing Black studies, and the pitfalls involved in the process.
I learned very early on that teaching Black and African Canadian history was dangerous. During my doctoral years at the University of Toronto, I taught a course called “400 years of African Canadian history.” It was the late ‘90s, and during the third class of the semester, in the middle of my lecture, a white man, who always sat in the front row of the class suddenly got up and began abusing me with the n-word. He then proceeded to lambast all immigrants as people ruining the country, and that we “all should go back to where we came from.”
It was one of those moments where time stood still. I marked the man’s distance from me, and checked to see if he had a weapon. The students reacted immediately. Several surrounded the man, and campus police were called. The racist was escorted from the building and the police took our statements. We were all shaken. I was escorted to my car by a security officer, who informed me that the matter would be reported to the Toronto Police.
The university’s response was to change the location of the class twice during the rest of the semester. Students and professor were not notified of the new location until a day or so before class, and by telephone. For the rest of the term, a plainclothes undercover Black policeman sat in my class. At the end of each class, he escorted me to my car, checked the car and the trunk, and he would leave once I got in the vehicle, locked the doors and drove off. If I took the train or bus, he would ride with me for at least two stops.
The student who attacked me was never charged. But what was it that made him pay tuition to register and attend classes, only to respond in such a way?
That wasn’t the only time I received a hateful response: Another semester when I offered the same course, I received hate mail in my campus mailbox. The letters were filled with racist diatribe from anonymous senders who were upset that the university was offering Black history.
Introducing Black studies
As a doctoral student, I was told by a senior academic that, “Black history was not at the cutting edge of Canadian social history.” Another senior male historian told me that I was wasting my time in pursuing Black Canadian history because there were very “few” Black people living in Canada during the time period I was focusing on. I mentioned to him that only a few people relative to the population were involved in the Upper Canadian Rebellion and yet volumes upon volumes have been written on this topic. The response of these two senior scholars to my attempt to research and write Black history was emblematic of that of the department as a whole.
After completing my PhD with a focus on Black Canadian history, I later taught Caribbean history and studies at Ryerson University, where I helped set up the Caribbean Research Centre.
did additional tenures at Simon Fraser University, York University and the University of Toronto. At these places, I taught, created and designed new courses on women’s studies and Black history and studies. I thought deeply about how to bring Black studies into universities, while being keenly aware that Black history, for example, was viewed as an important and legitimate branch of scholarly inquiry.
In 2009, I chaired an international meeting of Black studies scholars — historians, community activists, artists, students and workers — in a conference called “Knowledge Production and the Black Experience.” One outcome of this conference was the establishment of the Black Canadian Studies Association (BCSA), which has served as a site of Black studies mobilization within and beyond Canada.
In 2011, I received the James R. Johnson Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University, the only named Black studies chair in Canada. There, I threw myself into knowledge mobilization: teaching, researching, designing and developing new courses, community outreach and establishing a new research agenda with a focus on slavery and freedom. I led efforts to investigate Dalhousie’s relationship to slavery and race, the findings which were published as a report, “ Lord Dalhousie's History on Slavery and Race."
I eventually established a minor in Black and African diaspora studies, which at present is being turned into a major. The flagship course, which I designed and taught, “Introduction to African Canadian Studies” began with a full complement of 70 students. The launching of the minor was a milestone in my journey to establish Black studies within Canadian universities.
Countering biased assumptions
Why are Canadian universities reluctant to establish Black studies program? The fundamental reason has to do with the belief that Black scholarship and knowledge are unworthy and inferior, and therefore do not matter.
Anti-Black racism has been an integral part of the Canadian intellectual tradition. This tradition has actively denied Blacks a role in history and nation building, erasing Black people and their history from the Canadian historical canon.
Including Black studies within the curricula of universities and colleges would mean not only rolling out an interdisciplinary program from social sciences and humanities, but also employing a transdisciplinary approach that would cut across faculties such as law, social work, the hard sciences, engineering and health fields. Public history and engagements with community and governments would also form part of this effort.
This would help to advance several urgent equity and diversity imperatives with respect to learning, teaching and research.
The Chicago suburb of Evanston will begin to offer reparations to Black residents.
The city council has committed $10 million over a decade and the first phase will provide $25,000 to eligible families.
The program could become a model for other city and state reparation programs.
Decades ago, in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Cordelia Clark ran a restaurant out of her kitchen and parked cabs for her taxi company in her backyard because Black residents were effectively barred from owning or renting storefronts in town.
Now Evanston is poised to become the first U.S. city to offer reparation money to Black residents whose families suffered lasting damage from decades of discriminatory practices.
“It’s about time that something has come from the hard work of African Americans in this city, proving that they should be treated as anyone else,” said Clark’s great-granddaughter, Delois Robinson, 58.
Evanston’s initial approach to reparations is narrow and targeted. The city council, which has already committed $10 million over a decade to the effort, will vote to begin with a $400,000 round of payments. The first phase will provide $25,000 to a small number of eligible Black residents for home repairs, down payments or mortgage payments in a nod toward historically racist housing policies.
The program could become a model for other cities and states grappling with whether to pursue their own reparations programs. The burgeoning national movement has gained traction amid a reckoning on racial inequity following the police killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans last year.
In Congress, a bill that would establish a national reparations commission to study the issue has drawn around 170 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, all Democrats. President Joe Biden has not endorsed the legislation but says he supports a study. Advocates plan to lobby the White House for executive action if the bill, as expected, fails to pass a divided Senate.
Other cities, including Chicago; Providence, Rhode Island; Burlington, Vermont; Asheville, North Carolina; and Amherst, Massachusetts, have launched initiatives, though none has yet identified specific funding. California passed a bill modeled after the federal legislation, and lawmakers in New York and Maryland have introduced similar measures.
Private institutions have also announced campaigns. The Jesuit order of Catholic priests last week pledged $100 million to benefit the descendants of the enslaved people it once owned.
“Reparations is the public policy prescription that addresses - and redresses - systemic racism,” said Ron Daniels, who oversees the National African American Reparations Commission, which consulted with Evanston on its proposal.
The practicality of implementing reparations programs, especially on a national scale, is still a matter of debate.
The first phase will provide $25,000 to a small number of eligible Black residents.
Reuters/Ipsos polls taken in June 2020, at the height of racial justice protests, found only one in five respondents agreed the United States should pay damages to descendants of enslaved people.
Some opponents ask whether taxpayers can afford to pay out what could be billions, or even trillions, of dollars. Others question how eligibility for such programs would be determined, whether by race, ancestry or evidence of discrimination.
In Evanston, Black residents are eligible for the housing program if they, or their ancestors, lived in the city between 1919 and 1969 or if they can show they suffered housing discrimination due to the city’s policies. The recipients will be randomly selected if there are more applicants than available funds in the housing program.
Some Black Evanston residents have objected to the plan’s scope and size as inadequate, highlighting the difficulties inherent in designing a program that by all accounts can never fully ameliorate centuries of discrimination.
Evanston, home to Northwestern University, lies between Chicago to its south and the wealthy North Shore suburbs along Lake Michigan. About 16% of its 75,000 residents are Black.
As across the United States, Blacks in Evanston were subjected to “redlining,” a practice in which banks refused to make housing loans in predominantly Black neighborhoods. That kept Black residents from home ownership, a key source of wealth.
The impact of historic and systemic discrimination on Evanston’s Black community persists. The Fifth Ward, where Robinson’s great-grandmother ran two businesses out of her home, is predominantly Black and struggling with inferior infrastructure.
“We’re trying to catch up from hundreds of years of being suppressed, and its just hard to catch up without some assistance,” said Evanston resident and real estate agent Vanessa Johnson-McCoy, who is Black.
The city’s campaign will draw from a new tax on legalized marijuana. Supporters say the funding mechanism is particularly apt, given how devastating the country’s criminalization of marijuana has been to Black communities.
The impact of historic and systemic discrimination on Evanston’s Black community persists.
Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations, an opposition group, has noted that the initial payments will cover only 16 households. The group also opposes restricting that money to housing needs.
“True reparations repair you – you get a chance to say what it is that repairs you,” said Rose Cannon, a member of the group, who is Black.
National advocates say viewing reparations as only cash payments is far too reductive and that there is a need for policies that tackle the institutional racism that created the inequities in the first place.
“These vestiges have to be addressed – or they will continue on into the future, no matter how many equity programs are in place,” said Kamm Howard, co-chair of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, or N’COBRA.
Even in cities facing limited resources, local governments can still make restitution by updating school curricula, improving business development, providing housing opportunities and offering apologies for past racism, Howard said.
Evanston Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who is Black, spearheaded her city’s initiative. She sees the upcoming payments as a critical first step.
“This is about our humanity,” she said. “It’s overdue, and the time is now.”
TORONTO -- Cyril Bollers was once told that he would never make it in coaching because of the colour of his skin. Today, he's the head coach of the Jamaican national hockey team, and hopes to make it to the Olympics or professional hockey one day.
Bollers sat down with CTV's Your Morning on Tuesday to talk about his experience and the work he's been doing to help young hockey players of colour.
When Bollers first got into coaching, a parent came up to him and said that he would never make it in coaching.
"I think at that point in time, it sort of motivated me, and fuelled me to become a coach, to become the best coach and to prove everybody wrong," said Bollers. "It would also give me an opportunity to sort of showcase some of my skills and communication skills and motivation skills."
Bollers spent 12 seasons coaching with the Toronto Red Wings and Marlboros of the Greater Toronto Hockey League and was an assistant coach with the Pickering Panthers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He also holds a top coaching qualification with Hockey Canada, and worked with Darnell Nurse of the Edmonton Oilers and Robby Fabbri of the Detroit Red Wings when they were younger
But despite his more than 20 years of coaching experience, he has never been able to land a role in professional hockey. For now, Bollers has his sights on getting Team Jamaica qualified for the Olympics one day and promoting the growth of the sport in the region.
"I think as Jamaica continues to strive to the Olympics or continues to win tournaments, we just need to continue to head on that path," said Bollers.
Bollers is also the co-founder of Skillz Black Aces, a Toronto-based program that helps lift some of the barriers that young hockey players of colour face when it comes to getting into the sport. Hockey is an expensive sport, which is one of the major challenges that prevent more BIPOC athletes from playing.
"Most of the challenges that we have are based on affordability and accessibility. To play basketball and soccer, it's easy. It's affordable," said Bollers. "(For) hockey, the cost of equipment, the cost of ice rental, the cost of instructors… it's very expensive for some of the BIPOC communities."
Awareness and interest in the game among BIPOC communities was another challenge, but this is starting to improve, with players like PK Subban and Wayne Simmonds becoming stars in the NHL.
"A lot of the talk around the barbershops nowadays is about the Leafs and what's going to happen with hockey," said Bollers. "Traditionally, they used to talk about basketball and football. It's about hockey."
A proud and prodigiously talented son of North Preston, Keonté Beals has now teamed with his younger brother Antonio Beals to gift readers (ages 2 & up) with a delightful book. And dig this—the dulcet-voiced singer/songwriter of albums such as King (the title track probes toxic masculinity)—also produced the vibrant illustrations for I Am Perfectly Me.
“We want this book to inspire kids of all races, sizes, genders and backgrounds to know that they are beautiful,” Beals writes in an author’s note. “Self-love is the most important thing in life and should be instilled in children even before physical birth.”
To that end, the rhyming volume showcases a diverse group of youngsters, all of whom express pride in themselves. “I love my brown skin, and my beautiful brown eyes,” notes a girl readying for school. “My curly black hair, with a poof just the right size.”
“I have to wear glasses, because it is hard for me to see,” adds a bespectacled boy whose #6 basketball jersey honours LeBron James (from his Miami Heat days, and starting again next season with the Lakers). “My mom says they make me beautiful, I am perfectly me.”
A child of Asian ancestry regales readers with her love of the outdoors: “The park is my favourite. I feel so at home there. As the wind blows calmly, through my silky fine hair.”
In an admirable move, the Beals brothers “keep it real” and address grief in the release: “Both my mom and dad, have went on to heaven,” a character notes. “I still feel them everyday, guiding me in the right direction.”
In a nod to healthy eating, the authors include images of fresh fruit on the pages. They also tempt readers with a description of an intriguing snack: “I love cinnamon fries, with salt from the sea. With lots and lots of mustard, I am perfectly me.”
Set against the backdrop of a global conversation about inclusion, the volume’s message affirms children of every ethnicity: “I have a big imagination, and many beautiful dreams. I love the person I am, I am perfectly me.”
Premier Iain Rankin announced a $3 million compensation fund Friday to speed up efforts to address land ownership in historic African Nova Scotian communities.
"Today we are moving in the right direction and I am so pleased that we have been able to make this happen," Rankin said in a news release. "We have learned from working with communities over the last few years that we need to remove barriers and do more to ensure the success of the Land Titles Initiative."
This fund will be used to resolve cases that involve competing land claims and help speed up those efforts under the Land Titles Initiative, which was established in 2017, to provide clear land titles to residents of the communities of East Preston, North Preston, Cherry Brook/Lake Loon, Lincolnville and Sunnyville who qualify for help.
"African Nova Scotians from our historic Black communities are entitled to clear title to the land they live on. Nova Scotia has a long, painful history of systemic anti-Black racism," said African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince. "These changes will improve access to justice and resolve more land titles claims without residents having to go to court, which can be a costly and intimidating process for many people."
The Land Titles Initiative helps title claimants with their legal fees and other costs associated with clarifying land ownership.
Two African-Nova Scotian jurists, Judge Corrine Sparks and Valerie Miller (retired), have been appointed as commissioners to adjudicate disputes.
Lawyer and community leader Angela Simmonds was named as the executive director of the Land Titles Initiative.
(CNN)Black History Month is a celebration of Black excellence and you are invited. Right now, all over the United States, Black families are teaching the next generation of Black youth with intention and care. Black History Month is a time to consciously center and celebrate Black empowerment and achievements, as well as the legacies of strength and struggle against racism. It's a time to honor the whole of Black history, rooted in rites, rituals and intellectual traditions from across the African diaspora. Black History Month is more than 28 days of remembering. From a Black perspective, the month is a deep acknowledgment of Black beauty, pride and incredible faith and fortitude despite living through more than 400 years of oppression. Rather than just a moment to educate all about the heroism of Harriet Tubman or the genius of cultural anchor Hank Aaron, Black History Month is a celebration of Black brilliance, community values and commitments to justice that are lived out 365 days a year. So, what does Black History Month mean for teaching White youth with intention and care?What better time than now to start teaching your child about Black history? Then keep it going all year long.For White families this might feel trickier. White people parenting today may not have been raised with a focus on Black history, so they may not feel like they know enough or know what to do. Some parents may know it's important we all celebrate Black excellence but worry that participating at home might be a form of appropriation. Others realize that legacies of racial inequality and White privilege are the reasons Black accomplishments are so remarkable. Acknowledging that might feel complicated, even overwhelming.So where to begin? We want to suggest you start where you are. Here are 12 ideas for what to do (and a few things to avoid). Why 12 ideas? Because Black history deserves your attention all year, and you can make a commitment to practicing a new idea each month.
Lift up many Black figures
How to be anti-racist: Speak out in your own circles. Black History Month is a great time to make learning about Black excellence an ongoing part of family life. If you only know a handful of famous, accomplished Black people, this is the time to broaden your kids' horizon, and yours with it. Pick up a resource — there are many good ones — and every night at dinner read about two people you've never heard of before.
Focus on Black children and youth who have been freedom fighters
Children get excited when they hear about other children. But also, kids receive so many messages implying they have to wait until they are "grown up" to make a difference. It's not true. What a perfect time to learn about Black youth who have made change while teaching White youth they can participate and do so, too.
Embrace the 'both/and'
When we celebrate Black history there is a risk of sending a message that what we're celebrating isn't also American history. It's important we explain clearly to White children that one effect of racism is that not enough of us have been taught about Black excellence and that's why we need Black History Month. This also means we need to value and talk more about Black history all the time; because Black history is American history.
Celebrate Black joy and Black love
The struggle against racism isn't the only feature of Black life. It's important White youth aren't inadvertently taught Black people are defined by racism. Find a resource that highlights Black cultural celebrations such as Kwanzaa, the history of Black intellectual thought and the glory of Black dance in America, and learn about it as a family.
But do teach about the struggle honestly
'Shades of Black' and other toddler books celebrate black families, when we celebrate "firsts," it's important to show why someone was a first. Talk about the structures of inequality that have blocked Black Americans from full access to their full rights in American democracy and where those barriers still exist today. Without this context, White youth may conclude President Barack Obama or Vice President Kamala Harris, for example, are firsts because Black people were somehow behind. Be explicit about ways racism gets in people's way. Black history isn't just a story of the past. It's being made today.
Choose 12 books by Black authors
Invite your kids to make these selections and read together between now and next February. Doing this broadens your knowledge and supports Black literature, art and creativity. It also makes dialogue about race and learning Black history ongoing parts of family life.
Commit to a Black-led organization
Getting kids to connect across racial — and geographic — lines White children should learn that justice doesn't grow without people coming together to make that happen; this is just one of many truths of Black empowerment. Honor Black History Month by finding an organization where your family can join with others to create a more equitable world and plug in for the long haul. Find a local chapter of Black Lives Matter or the NAACP, or join voter advocacy and criminal justice reform efforts being led by Black faith communities.
Ask your kids what they are learning in school
American education systems have never provided a full, diverse, celebratory account of Black contributions. Parents can make it a habit to ask specifically what kids are learning in school. This creates opportunity to correct, clarify and expand what they are learning. It might even help you identify a role in supporting your school in offering fuller accounts of our shared racial story.
How to talk with your Black friends about race Amanda Gorman, the first youth poet laureate who gave a brilliant recitation during the presidential inauguration, talks about her family almost every time she speaks. Stacey Abrams, the organizer from Georgia, was just nominated for a Nobel Peace prize. She constantly reminds people her incredible accomplishments are the accomplishments of many Black women. Black empowerment and achievement is a story that emerges from community. Helping White children appreciate this truth also helps them think about who they can be in community with as well.
Celebrate Black leadership in your local community
Not every Black person excelling is famous. There are people leading with courage right where you live. Who are the visionaries, justice workers and Black Americans who helped to shape the community you enjoy and experience today? Ask this question with your children. Celebrate the answers. And then, find ways for your family to support those leaders.
Black people are diverse
Black people are also women who experience sexism. LGBTQ peoples are part of the Black community. Support White youth in developing critical thinking skills by exploring the intersections between identities and justice movements. The Black Lives Matter movement, for example, was started by three Black women who are also queer. It is deeply inclusive and constantly recognizes intersections between racial, gender and environmental justice, disability rights and more, creating pathways toward equity that honor the innate worth and dignity of all Black life.Reject the perfectionism trap! We all have more to keep learning. It's easy to get stuck if you believe you have to know or be able to perfectly explain everything. Just start where you are. In fact, it's important White youth see adults model humility and curiosity. Youth benefit when parents say, "I'm not sure. Let's find out"; "I never learned this and am glad I'm learning it now with you"; and even "I thought I knew but it turns out I was wrong; I am grateful for a chance to understand differently." Next thing you know, they'll be modeling such behaviors, too, and teaching the adults things about Black history.Get CNN Health's weekly newsletter
White families can celebrate Black History Month in ways that are genuine. When they do, they contribute to the multiracial invitation to raise a generation of youth able to honor Black excellence and participate fully in the journey of growing democracy and justice for all.
How sports weaponize racist beauty standards against Black women
I took my last gym class in June 2012.
When I went back to school that fall, it was on the heels of the Summer Olympics in London; I was 15 and had just started Grade 10. In the near-decade since then, a couple of things about that year’s Olympics have stayed with me: the Spice Girls’ performance at the closing ceremony and the conversations surrounding Gabby Douglas becoming the first Black woman to win all-around gold in solo gymnastics.
My memories of Douglas’s floor and beam routines are foggy at best. What’s vivid is the response to them. On Twitter, there seemed to be more discourse about her hair than her historic wins. Online, the narrative was that her bun wasn’t sleek enough, her edges weren’t tame enough and her kitchen was completely askew. It was more than just a few unsavory tweets: the criticism was widespread enough to get brought up during her sit down with Oprah and to come to the attention of Spike Lee.
This absolutely wasn’t the first time that a Black woman in sports had come under fire for her hair, but it was the most overt display of this that I had seen at 15. At the 2012 Olympics I saw sports and beauty standards come together to create a cocktail that prioritized appearance over athletic achievement.
When classes began in September of that year, I opted out of gym. I figured that if I spent second period running laps and playing field hockey, I would spend the rest of my day paying the price with hair that had succumbed to my sweat and reverted back to its natural texture. I wasn’t resentful of my hair or unaccepting of the kinks and coils that formed as soon as I broke a sweat, but the world was — that much had been made clear that summer with Gabby Douglas.
Rogers is on a journey to build a more inclusive future for our team members, customers and communities across Canada. For more info on how, click here.
At the time, I didn’t see opting out of gym class as a direct consequence of the public’s response to Douglas at the Olympics. But almost 10 years later, it’s clear that the sequence is far from coincidental. The tsunami of tweets, memes and think pieces that emerged as a result of Gabby Douglas’s bun was a bleak articulation of the reality known to so many Black women: How good you are at what you do is of utmost importance, but how you look while doing it can be the difference between being acknowledged, getting overlooked or becoming the subject of uproar; it’s the difference between belonging and being othered.
What’s most disappointing is that very little has changed.
Last week, Douglas’s fellow Team USA gymnast Simone Biles joined other Olympians in a campaign for beauty brand SK-II. In a manifesto for the campaign, Biles wrote, “In gymnastics, as in many other professions, there is a growing competition that has nothing to do with performance itself. I’m talking about beauty. I don’t know why but others feel as though they can define your own beauty based on their standards.” She closed by saying that she’s “done competing versus beauty standards and the toxic culture of trolling when others feel as though their expectations are not met… because nobody should tell you or I what beauty should or should not look like.”
Biles speaking out is a step in the right direction — especially considering the fact that a 2016 U.S study found that the Black women and girls surveyed “avoided getting their hair too wet during exercise because it made their hair ‘puffy’ or ‘nappy.’” Some of the women and girls surveyed admitted that “though they exercise, they refrain from too much exertion in order to protect their hairstyle.”
This isn’t necessarily out of vanity or self-hatred, though — it’s a means of assimilation. Transforming or taming our hair textures can be a step towards acceptance, or at least a step away from being under the meticulous hair microscope. Standing out and deviating from the Eurocentric beauty standards that Black women have been conditioned to compare themselves to can come at a steep cost.
In the workplace, our natural hair is seen as unprofessional, and we have to answer to our coworkers when we switch up our styles. At school, our hair can make us prime targets for playground teasing. On the court, it’s no different. Edges that aren’t slicked and swooped can be a bigger discussion point than whatever feats we manage to achieve. We have the autonomy to do what we want with our hair, and fitting in isn’t always the main motivation. But there’s a hyperawareness that we’ve had to adopt, where we consider how our hairstyle will be received.
In sports, this isn’t exclusive to disciplines with subjective judging, like gymnastics. And it’s not reserved for the Olympic podium either. I spoke to four Canadian women, each with different athletic backgrounds, to hear how sport and beauty have intersected for them.
These are their stories, in their own words.
SASHA EXETER Sasha Exeter is an entrepreneur and content creator based in Toronto. She picked up her first tennis racquet at the age of five.
There are subtle and overt ways that our hair is scrutinized. Were there moments that weren’t as subtle where hair interfered with your journey as an athlete? Every Black woman’s worst nightmare is to be caught in the rain, but the game of tennis can still go on when it’s raining…. If it’s sprinkling or drizzling, you can still play through that. I have memories of kids making fun of my hair as it slowly transitioned throughout the match from straight to kinky to basically an Afro by the end.
I remember the giggling and the sneering and the “What’s going on with your hair?” or “You have so many phases to your hair” and “You look like a Chia Pet.” They would sing that “Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia” song. It was embarrassing.
Did coaches ever intervene? Never. The coaches were white, too, so they didn’t really understand. I remember one of my coaches at Indiana State did ask, “Why is your hair doing that? What’s going on with your hair?” and “Can you do something with your hair post-match before an interview? Because it looks kind of crazy right now.”
Did you feel beautiful before you got serious on your journey as a tennis player and did any of your experiences erode that? It definitely eroded my self-confidence off the tennis court. People always find this hard to believe, but I never actually started to feel beautiful until my mid-to-late twenties. And here’s why: I think as Black athletes, especially Black women, our bodies are built differently than white women. And I remember being bullied from a very young age because my muscles developed quite early. I’ve always had very muscular arms, which was a huge insecurity, even to this day. If I’m dressing for a black-tie event and I’m speaking to a designer about what I’m wearing, I’ll often opt for something that has sleeves, just so I look a bit more feminine. And that’s probably just from so much damage to my psyche about my physique growing up. I was told I looked manly or overdeveloped and over-muscular, and didn’t feel feminine.
But if you look back at the sport of tennis, Chris Evert, who was America’s sweetheart at the time, was blonde with beautiful eyes and had a very slender and tall physique. And if you look at Zina Garrison, who was an excellent tennis player, you would see a stark contrast to the way her body looked and how she was developed. You know what? She was built very much like Serena Williams. She had very muscular legs, defined quads. She had a big butt and strong arms — and those muscles helped make her successful in her sport.
But I didn’t feel like that was beautiful. I didn’t understand the importance of my physique and the muscles that I had, and that if I didn’t have [them], maybe I would not have gotten as far as I did in the sport.
NASTASSIA SUBBAN Nastassia Subban is an educator and speaker. She played basketball from childhood until she graduated from university.
From when you were playing to when you started teaching, have you noticed a change in how Black women and girls experience sports? I spoke at Bill Crothers, the school in York Region [Ontario] that’s dedicated to sport, and I was basically speaking about the experience of being a Black woman in sport. Many of the girls agreed with what I had to say, but keep in mind, I haven’t played basketball since I was 23. I’m 39 now. That’s 16 years later. And 16 years later, girls are still nodding their heads and saying that that’s the same thing they’re dealing with. Like getting asked by teammates, “Can I touch your hair?” Or “How do you get your hair to be like that?” It’s still the same.
Or after a game when all of the girls want to go out, but my hair is soaking wet. Like, I can’t flat iron it right now because it’s soaking wet. And if I blow-dry it, that’s going to be a hot mess because the blow-dryer in the hotel is no good. These are all the things that white girls don’t have to think about. They wash their hair, they blow-dry it and they run out the door — we don’t. We don’t have that luxury. It sounds superficial and these are little things, but they all add up to the experience.
Why do you think it gets chalked up to vanity? I remember explaining that to a teacher candidate that I was working with, and they were like, “Wow. I didn’t know that.” They see it as vanity or sometimes even defiance — because a lot of times with Black girls, that’s what it then gets chalked up to. Like “Oh, they’re being defiant. They don’t care about their credit. They’re going to fail school anyway.”
I explained to my teacher candidates that sometimes when their Black students get their hair wet, it can be a day-long process to get it back to the state it was in before it got wet. And it costs money. If you’re teaching or coaching, you have to be mindful of that.
ACACIA HILL Acacia Hill is a former figure skater and the owner of the Brampton Hill Skating Academy, Canada’s first Black-owned figure skating school.
Was there ever a point when you felt excluded from the beauty process as a skater? When I had dresses [for competitions] that were nude or had nude aspects to it, you could only get the nude fabric in one or two shades — and they’re mostly geared towards Caucasian skin tones. So, we would have to dye our mesh before handing it over to the dressmaker or else we would have this white material on our dark skin complexions that didn’t match. That was a challenge.
Growing up my mom was very good with always doing our hair for shoots and competitions. She could put us together with makeup and hair and everything. But I would often have to embrace more of a white quality to my hair. There was another skater, and she and her brother would wear their hair naturally in Afros. But I would always hear comments like, “Can’t those kids do something better to their hair?”
My mom would always perm my hair and slick it back into a neat bun to resemble more of a white look. Whereas these kids would wear their natural hair. It showed me that if you skate with natural hair, you will be heavily judged in this sport. They’ll say your hair isn’t clean and sleek, and that’s going to affect your marks. So, appearance is huge in our sport. We’re always making sure our hair is slicked and our mesh matches our skin. You can find mesh that matches your complexion now, but it took a really long time.
Now that you’re teaching, do you see those standards loosening up at all? Not really. They still look at the overall package, and that includes your costume, your makeup and your hair. The marks are very subjective. So, your second mark, which has to do with your presentation and your program, if you do not look the way your program is supposed to be portrayed and you don’t have that European kind of beauty to your skating, I still think you get marked unfairly.
Because if you look at some of the Black students who are competing right now, you would never see them with their hair in an Afro. Maybe for like an ice-show number, but for competition at the Olympic level or even at the national level, their hair is always nicely neat in a bun or back in ponytails. So it’s still the same.
CRYSTAL EMMANUEL Crystal Emmanuel is a two-time Olympian, the national record holder in the 200 metres and Canada’s fastest woman.
In what ways have sport and beauty intersected for you? I started track at the age of six and went pro when I was 17. Now I’m 29 and I’ve seen the journey from being the natural girl running in Barbados, not caring what happens to my hair and just having fun, to now needing to look a certain way so that I can attract certain people, in terms of brands and sponsorships.
Is looking a certain way to attract certain brands something that you were directly instructed to do or was it implied? Years ago, I was running really well and I had just made the Olympic team. And one day at practice, I was telling my coach that I don’t understand why I’m not getting the spotlight that some girls are getting. And my coach was like, “Look around. What do you see? What’s the difference between you and them?”
I didn’t know what he was talking about at first, but then he was like “It’s their hair.” And I thought, What’s wrong with their hair? But they all had long, straight hair. It’s like, if you’re not wearing weave or if your hair is not straight, then there’s something wrong. But that shouldn’t be something I need to change in myself in order for someone to look at me or think that I’m worthy of wearing their brand. It’s like I’m supposed to look like everyone else that’s running on the track. It’s like I can’t be myself.
When you did try to conform, did people respond to you differently? Did you get the sponsors and the attention they claimed you would? Well no, because I’m still not sponsored. I’m still fighting that fight. At one point I kind of lost track of who I was and what I was put on the track to do — that was my biggest mistake. In 2019, I was performing very well and thought, “Okay, I’m going to be seen now.” So I decided to put in a red weave. As soon as I did that, my coach told me, “Don’t get lost.” And I was like, “What do you mean? No, I’m good. I got this.” And in the heat of the 100-metre [at the 2019 World Championships], I didn’t make it to the final. I just didn’t understand what I was missing. I legit had to sit in the mirror, take a look at myself and ask, “What’s the issue?”
So I decided to take the red hair out and write out my plan. I knew who I was and I knew what I wanted. So for the semifinals of the 200, I was wearing my natural hair and I was the rawest I could be. I’m natural, I’m beautiful, this is who I am, and this is how I’m going to perform. My look shouldn’t cancel out my performance.
And that day, I ran the best 200 I ran that season. I missed the final, but I was happy because I learned a lesson. Now I know that I don’t need to change in order to perform on the track.Photo Credits
BY SUMIKO WILSON | ILLUSTRATIONS BY AMBER WILLIAMS-KING
His speculative fiction was built on Black heroes and African themes. He died alone and unrecognized, but friends are trying to make amends.
On Jan. 16, about a dozen people from across the United States and Canada held a Zoom memorial for a man whose remains have been lying in an unmarked grave in Nova Scotia since last spring.
He was Charles R. Saunders, and his lonely death in May belied his status as a foundational figure in a literary genre known as sword and soul. Some 40 years ago, Mr. Saunders reimagined the white worlds of Tarzan and Conan with Black heroes and African mythologies in books that spoke especially to Black fans eager for more fictional champions with whom they could identify.
Some of those on the Zoom call knew Mr. Saunders as a copy editor and writer for The Daily News of Halifax, a newspaper that went under in 2008. One first met him in the 1970s, when he was teaching at Algonquin College in Ontario. Most had been profoundly influenced by his fiction, especially his book series that features a warrior hero named Imaro, who battles enemies both human and supernatural and does it as part of a rich, vibrant Black civilization that contrasted sharply with the “Dark Continent” view of Africa that had long been served up by white writers.
All of them wanted, by the small gesture of the Zoom memorial and larger gestures yet to come, to make sure that Mr. Saunders’s death did not go unnoticed, and that his contributions do not go unremembered.
“Charles gave us that fictional hero that looked like us and existed in a world based on our origins,” Milton J. Davis, a Black writer of speculative fiction who acted as host of the Zoom memorial, said by email the next day. “He did it without using the ‘struggle’ narrative that traditional publishers seem to require from Black authors. Imaro’s struggles and triumphs were personal, not ‘racial,’ which for me was a breath of fresh air.
Taaq Kirksey, another organizer of the memorial, first made contact with Mr. Saunders in 2004 while in his final semester at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after having become enamored of his fiction, and ever since he has been working to turn the Imaro stories into a movie or television series, an effort he said is close to bearing fruit.
Mr. Kirksey had corresponded with the reclusive Mr. Saunders on and off for years but had met him face to face only once, in the spring of 2019, when he traveled to Nova Scotia and presented him with his first check from their long-simmering collaboration.
“I had always been afraid that his living situation was suboptimal,” Mr. Kirksey said, “and when I got up there to see him, those fears were validated.”
Mr. Saunders’s health was not good; he had diabetes, among other problems.
“My instinct told me he didn’t have much time,” Mr. Kirksey said.
Mr. Saunders had no phone or internet service, and was in the habit of going to the local library once a week or so to keep up with friends by email. Early last year, when Covid-19 caused the province to lock down, his access to the library was cut off. Another long-distance friend, Dale Armelin, who lives in Colorado, became concerned when Mr. Saunders’s emails stopped. In early May he asked local officials to check on his friend at his apartment in the Dartmouth section of Halifax. He was fine.
But then, as Mr. Kirksey put it, “somewhere between May 2 and May 15, he wasn’t fine” — a crew doing work on Mr. Saunders’s apartment building found him dead. The cause wasn’t clear. He was 73.
Mr. Armelin eventually got a call from Nova Scotia officials, who told him that they had his name only because of his request for a wellness check. The officials could find no local friends or relatives. When a body goes unclaimed in the province, the office of the Public Trustee of Nova Scotia takes over. It arranged for Mr. Saunders to be buried on a hillside in Dartmouth Memorial Gardens.
Jon Tattrie, a journalist who had worked with Mr. Saunders for two years at The Daily News, pieced together what had happened in an article published by CBC News in September.
“By law,” he wrote, “the public purse covers the cost of the plot, and of the burial. But it doesn’t cover a headstone.”
And so Mr. Tattrie and others, including Mr. Kirksey and Mr. Davis, created a Go Fund Me page to raise money for a headstone as well as a stone monument representing Imaro, Mr. Saunders’s best-known fictional creation. They will be installed in the next few months, Mr. Tattrie said during the Zoom memorial, and he hopes to organize a graveside service in May around the anniversary of the death.
It fell to Mr. Kirksey to put together a sparse biography of Mr. Saunders for the Zoom memorial.
Charles Robert Saunders was born on July 12, 1946, in Elizabeth, Pa., near Pittsburgh, and grew up there and in Norristown, Pa. In 1968 he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Lincoln University, west of Philadelphia.
The next year, he moved to Canada to avoid the draft and became a teacher. At the Zoom memorial, Janet LeRoy recalled the first time she saw him, when she was a student at Carleton University in Ontario in the 1970s and glimpsed him through a doorway, talking to his students. His physical stature — he was 6-foot-4 or so — made a distinct impression, as did his Afro and dashiki top.
“He looked like he’d stepped off the TV show ‘The Mod Squad,’” she said.
Three years later, she finally met him when they were both teaching at Algonquin College. They became fast friends.
“He was a giant of a man, but he had such a tender, quiet voice,” she said. “We could talk about the deepest, darkest moments in our lives, and Charles would find a way to say something that would make us both chuckle.”
At some point Mr. Saunders moved to Nova Scotia, and in 1989 he began working at The Daily News, editing and sometimes writing, including about issues facing the Black community there.
“He was so quiet,” Mr. Tattrie, speaking at the Zoom memorial, recalled of his presence in the newsroom. “He would never draw attention to himself. But you noticed him. You could just tell there was a depth to him, a richness, that you don’t find in many other people.”
He was so good at not calling attention to himself that many at the newspaper didn’t realize that he had a whole other life as an author of speculative fiction, the umbrella genre that encompasses fantasy, science fiction and other strains of literature that deal in imagined worlds.
He had begun writing speculative fiction in the 1970s and published his first novel, “Imaro,” in 1981. As a child he had been enthralled by the fantasies spun by white writers like Robert E. Howard, who created Conan the Barbarian, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, who created Tarzan, the white African figure embodied most famously on the screen by Johnny Weissmuller. But he came to recognize the racism inherent in such works. Imaro was the result.
“I think he was born when I watched a Tarzan movie and fantasized a Black man jumping up and beating the hell out of Johnny Weissmuller,” Mr. Saunders told the journal Black American Literature Forum in 1984.
“Imaro II: The Quest for Cush” appeared in 1984, and “Imaro III: The Trail of Bohu” came out the next year. The books, Mr. Kirksey said, reclaimed a continent and a heritage for Black readers.
“For Tarzan to be the king of mythical Africa,” he said, “it’s an utter slap in the face to a young Black child who is looking for a place in his imagination where he can be indomitable, where he can be the king or the queen.”
Though Marvel Comics had introduced the character Black Panther and other Black heroes in its comics before Mr. Saunders’s “Imaro” books, only more recently have Black heroes and Black worlds become more common on bookshelves and on the big and small screens. The hit 2018 film “Black Panther” won three Oscars. Mr. Kirksey said that overdue progress rests in part on Mr. Saunders’s shoulders.
“It’s easy to look at the success of the movie ‘Black Panther’ and think that was always there,” he said. “That’s a very short memory speaking. Charles set that in motion in his own quiet way.”
Mr. Armelin said that though he had never met Mr. Saunders in person, “I consider him my best friend.” The two began corresponding in the mid-1970s, after Mr. Saunders had reached out when he saw a letter Mr. Armelin had written to Marvel commending the company for removing racist elements from a Conan tale it had republished.
During the Zoom memorial, Mr. Armelin confessed that, as a Black youth at an almost all-white Roman Catholic high school, he had “become an Uncle Tom.” Mr. Saunders, through his stories and his counsel, led him to embrace his heritage.
“What Charles did was, he gave me back my Blackness,” he said.
Mr. Saunders was married at least once and perhaps several times; Mr. Kirksey said that whatever marriages there were had ended in divorce. Whether he has any survivors remains unclear.
But his stories remain. Mr. Saunders created other fantasy worlds in books like “Abengoni,” published by Mr. Davis’s MVmedia in 2014. In the 1984 interview, he said that the possibilities for Imaro and the other characters who populated his imagination were endless.
“There is so much source material available on African culture and folklore,” he said, “that I would have to live indefinitely to do justice to it all.”
Since 1996, the Government of Canada’s annual Black History Month campaign encourages people of all backgrounds to learn more about Black history in Canada. This brief overview documents some of the events that helped shape the contributions that Black people have made to all sectors of society well before this country was even called Canada.
The first person of African heritage known to have come to what is now Canada arrived over 400 years ago. In 1604, Mathieu Da Costa arrived with the French explorers Pierre Du Gua De Monts and Samuel de Champlain. Da Costa, a multilingual interpreter who spoke English, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Pidgin Basque, provided an invaluable link with the Mik’maq people encountered by the Europeans.
In 1628, Olivier LeJeune was recorded as the first enslaved African to live in Canada (i.e. New France). Olivier LeJeune’s birth name is not known, as he was taken from Africa as a young child and eventually given the last name of the priest who purchased him.
In May 1689, following complaints about labour shortages in New France, King Louis XIV of France gave permission for the colonists to enslave Pawnee Native Americans and Africans.
Between 1749 and 1782, most of the Black people brought to Nova Scotia were enslaved by English or American settlers. In 1750, there were about 400 enslaved and 17 free Black people living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although the system of slavery did expand in this period, by 1767 there were also 104 free Black people living in Nova Scotia (which included present-day New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island). In 1760, during the Seven Years’ War between Britain and France, the Articles of Capitulation, which ceded New France to Britain, permitted that Black people and Pawnees would remain enslaved.
During the War of American Independence (1775-1783), the British offered freedom to enslaved Africans in America who joined the British side during the war. Many saw this as an opportunity for freedom, and eventually 10 percent of the United Empire Loyalists coming into the Maritimes were Black. The Black Loyalists founded settlements throughout Nova Scotia. The largest was at Birchtown, near Shelburne, and other settlements were Brindley (Brinley) Town (near Digby), Preston (Guysborough County), Negro Line (now Southville, Digby County), Birchtown (Princedale–Virginia East–Graywood region, Annapolis County), and Old Tracadie Road (Guysborough County). The Black Loyalists were treated unfairly and given considerably smaller plots of land, fewer provisions, and were expected to work for lower wages. In 1790, about 1,200 Black Loyalists who had become dissatisfied with conditions in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, accepted the offer of the Sierra Leone Company (a British anti-slavery organization) to resettle in Sierra Leone, on the Atlantic coast of West Africa.
In 1793, the anti-slavery movement was emboldened by the actions of Chloe Cooley, an enslaved African woman in Upper Canada (now Ontario) who resisted being transported and sold into the United States. John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, who supported abolition before coming to Canada, had heard about Cooley’s case. He introduced a law titled An Act to Prevent the further Introduction of Slaves and to limit the Term of Contracts for Servitude. This law freed enslaved people aged 25 and over and made it illegal to bring enslaved people into Upper Canada. The introduction of this Act in Upper Canada and court decisions in Nova Scotia in the 1790s contributed greatly to a decline of African enslavement in Canada, and made Canada a destination for those seeking freedom and an important base for the abolitionist movement.
Throughout the 1800’s, a number of historic Black communities were established across Canada. Some of these communities came as a result of war. Between 1800 and 1865, approximately 30,000 Black people came to Canada via the Underground Railway – the network of secret routes and safe houses used by enslaved Africans to escape into free American states and Canada with the support of abolitionists and their allies.
During the War of 1812, many Black people sided with the British Empire. The Coloured Corps was inaugurated in Upper Canada (Ontario), comprised of free and enslaved Black men, who fought in the Battle of Queenston Heights. In 1815, Black veterans of the War of 1812 received grants of land in Oro Township; however much of the land was not suited to agriculture and many of those who received grants found they had to seek out employment in other places. Other communities such as Amherstburg, Chatham, London, Woolwich and Windsor, Owen Sound and Toronto also grew in this period.
Nova Scotia’s Black communities were also reinvigorated during and after the War of 1812. Following a British offer to those who deserted the Americans, some 2,400 Black people from Georgia and the Chesapeake region of the United States either served in the British military or supported the war effort. After the war, the “Black Refugees” settled at Preston, Hammonds Plains, Beechville (‘Refugee Hill’), Five Mile Plains, Beaverbank, Prospect Road, Halifax, Dartmouth, and elsewhere. By 1834, the Black Refugees had created communities with African Baptist churches as well as societies such as the African Friendly Society and the African Abolition Society.
In 1833, the Act on the Abolition of Slavery in the British Empire, abolished enslavement in most British colonies, including Canada.
In the early 1850’s, 2 important abolitionist newspapers were founded in Canada to support the global anti-slavery movement:
The Voice of the Fugitive was established in 1851 by Mary and Henry Bibb in Windsor, Ontario and reported on the Underground Railroad.
The Provincial Freeman, which was published out of Toronto and later Chatham, was founded by Mary Ann and Isaac Shadd in 1853 - making Mary Ann Shadd the first Black woman in North America to own and publish a newspaper.
In 1858, nearly 800 free Black people left the oppressive racial conditions of San Francisco for a new life on Vancouver Island. Though still faced with intense discrimination, these pioneers enriched the political, religious and economic life of the colony. About 400 Black Californian families moved to Victoria or Salt Spring Island before the start of the gold rush.
By 1879, significant numbers of Black people started immigrating to Alberta from Oklahoma, as they had been unable to find equality despite being experienced farmers and were increasingly alarmed by a series of Ku Klux Klan lynchings. In Canada, however, they had to contend with attempts to prevent Black immigration.
As Canada moved into the 20th century, many of the Black communities founded before and just after Confederation established organizations and institutions that fostered their unique Canadian identities. More communities and organizations were introduced across Canada as immigration policies that had discriminated against Black people, amongst others, were abolished or reformed.
Over the course of the last 4 centuries, Black people have shaped their own identities in Canada while making important contributions to Canadian society.
Halifax police are investigating a possible hate crime after receiving complaints about a smartphone app that used a racial slur to describe a predominantly Black community east of the city.
The Israel-based owners of the public transit app Moovit — used by millions of transit riders in 112 countries — issued an apology Thursday and removed the offensive description of North Preston, saying the use of the N-word was highly inappropriate.
“This highly offensive and racist content has no place on the Moovit app or site,” company CEO and founder Nir Erez said in a statement Thursday. “We are deeply sorry to the North Preston community for the offence we’ve caused. But apologies are empty without a commitment to do better.”
The company has confirmed the description came from an external database that uses crowdsourced or user-generated data to create addresses and points of interest. Erez said Moovit plans to do a better job of filtering and removing unacceptable content, but he did not say anything about identifying the source of the racial slur.
“We will do our best to prevent such matters from reoccurring in the future and would like to emphasize that we have a zero tolerance for racism.”
Cornelia Schneider, a professor at Mount St. Vincent University who is an expert in social and cultural diversity, said she saw the description after friends alerted her to Moovit’s website. “It’s inciting hatred,” Schneider, who has close ties to the community, said in an interview Thursday. “It’s so blatant and in your face.”
Schneider said the Moovit app and website appear to have a weak monitoring system because the page in question was last edited two weeks ago. “The company needs to take responsibility,” she said. “They did not talk about how they are going to hold the person accountable for posting this.”
Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard, who is originally from the neighbouring community of East Preston, N.S., said she felt a deep sense of anger and dismay when she recalled that February is African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia.
“At a time when we should be pausing to acknowledge Black History Month ... to have to be distracted by such blatant racism is beyond insulting,” the senator said Thursday in an interview from Ottawa. “It adds another layer of injury ... Charges should be laid as a hate crime.”
A spokesman for Halifax Regional Police confirmed an investigation is underway.
Keith Colwell, the provincial politician who represents North Preston, said his constituents were outraged by an incident he described as on the “edges of a hate crime.”
“I’m so upset about it, it’s hard to find words to describe it,” Colwell, who has represented the area since the early 1990s, said in an interview Thursday. “I hope the regional police can track down whoever posted this.”
Colwell said the company should turn over any information it has about where the slur came from. “We see all kinds of derogatory comments and misinformation on social media. Maybe we need some new laws to make sure these kind of things can’t happen.”
Municipal politician David Hendsbee described the “hate dispatch” as disgusting and disappointing.
“I thought we had grown as a society and old terminology like that would have been gone long ago,” Hendsbee, regional councillor for Preston-Chezzecook/Eastern Shore, said Thursday. “But some of that hateful speech is still around.”
Hendsbee said crowdsourced apps and websites must do a better job of monitoring content. “They pride themselves on how up to date and trendy they are with responses they get from the public,” he said. “But the downside is the vulnerability they have to hateful language.”
MONTREAL -- Canadian Black history should be taught and celebrated year-round, not just in February, activists and scholars say.
Sharing Black history shouldn’t be limited to the 28 days of the month in February and should be a permanent part of school curriculums said Akilah Newton, Montreal author and activist.
“The Black experience is year-round, we’re not just Black for one month,” Newton said. “This is our life. Our stories need to be shared 365 days a year, just as the white experience is.”
In January, Newton released her new children’s book ‘Movers, Shakers, History Makers: The Canadian Black History Book of Rhymes’, which features dozens of prominent Black Canadians throughout history.
Newton explained the importance of normalizing the Black experience, arguing that due to systemic racism, kids are only hearing about the white experience. Because Canada is so diverse, it doesn’t make sense that only one narrative is being told, she said.
“Black history is Canadian history and world history, period,” Newton said.
CHANGING SCHOOL CURRICULUM
Keisha Ferdinand, a 2020 graduate from John Rennie High School, said her experience learning about Canadian Black history throughout elementary and high school was very limited.
In February, there would usually be one assembly where the students learned about American Black history, and then there wasn’t much else, Ferdinand explained.
“There wouldn't be any conversations after that and students would leave going, ‘Okay, that's all I have to do for Black History Month,’” she said.
Frustrated by the lack of Black history in the curriculum, Ferdinand wrote a letter to Christopher Skeete, a member of Quebec’s National Assembly and the CAQ’s anti-racism task force, expressing what she wanted to see changed in the education system.
In the letter, she said that the Quebec school curriculum should include more Canadian Black history and students in teachers’ college should receive training on how to create a more welcoming environment for racialized students in their classrooms.
Skeete responded to Ferdinand, and the two met to discuss implementing more Black history in school curriculums.
In December, Skeete tweeted that the Quebec government had taken Ferdinand’s suggestions into consideration, and had them implemented into Quebec’s report on anti-racism.
Ferdinand believes that educating students on Canadian Black history year-round, not just in February, will give people a better understanding of what Black Canadians have gone through and continue to go through.
NOT A STAND-IN FOR WORK THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE: PROFESSOR
While adding Black history into school curriculums is important, it will take a lot more than curricular intervention and monthly celebrations to create a safe space for Black students, said Philip Howard, an assistant professor in the department of integrated studies in education at McGill University.
He warns Black History Month is an easy escape for institutions that are “inherently antagonistic to Black people” as a way to avoid confronting what needs to be changed.
This kind of action would require a certain level of accountability from institutions
“That takes actually identifying and really owning up to the anti-Blackness that is within the founding logics of these entities,” Howard said.
Howard emphasized the importance of concrete steps that need to be taken by institutions, rather than focusing on Black History Month celebrations.
For example, with the child welfare system, Howard said he is much more interested in the steps being taken to change the disproportionate representation of Black and Indigenous children than in Black History Month celebrations. At the university level, he is more interested in the school’s hiring of Black faculty than what they are doing in February.
“I think Black History Month is fine, particularly from the perspective of Black people and Black communities, where we get the chance to celebrate our histories and our stories and our survival,” Howard said. “I think it has value in that way, but I do not think it should stand in for substantive work that institutions ought to do.”
A virtual ceremony took place today, Feb. 3, to honour the legacy of Viola Desmond by repaying her sister Wanda Robson for the court costs and fines associated with Mrs. Desmond’s 1946 court case and using the funds to support a one-time scholarship at Cape Breton University.
“The life of Viola Desmond is one of determination, aspiration and activism,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “She was a trailblazer whose story continues to affect the lives of many people. We must continue to acknowledge and recognize the incredible people of African descent, like Viola, who have made significant contributions to our society.”
Viola Desmond was found guilty of tax evasion after she challenged racial segregation at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow on Nov. 8, 1946. She was forced to pay a fine and court costs of $26. Today, that amounts to an estimated $368.29.
Mrs. Robson chose to donate the repayment to a one-time Cape Breton University scholarship and the province increased the amount to $1,000.
The repayment originated from a request by junior high student Varishini Deochand from Vaughan, Ontario who asked the province of Nova Scotia to symbolically reimburse the fine and court costs charged to Viola after learning about her story through a school project.
“Young people across our country are shining examples of those who refuse to settle for the status quo,” said African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince. “It is through them that positive transformation is taking place so that we, as a country, can connect more deeply with each other through equality, inclusiveness and empathy. Varishini’s request is a symbol of the bright future before us.”
An official cheque for the original $26 total will be displayed at the Nova Scotia legislature with Mrs. Desmond’s pardon certificate.
On April 15, 2010, Mayann Francis, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, on the advice of Nova Scotia’s Attorney General and the Minister of Justice, issued a free pardon to Mrs. Desmond for the conviction to correct the injustice done to her.
My mother always stressed education, education, education is the key to success.Wanda Robson, sister of Viola Desmond
Cape Breton University is proud to be part of this historic event today to honour the great legacy of Viola Desmond. We are equally as proud and honoured that Ms. Wanda Robson has chosen our university to establish an award in Viola’s name. Viola was a trailblazer, a Canadian icon and a passionate advocate for equality and civil rights. We can all learn from her extraordinary example. I hope that the recipient of this award carries the qualities of Viola with them as they journey through their education at CBU and beyond.David Dingwall, President and Vice-Chancellor of Cape Breton University
I came up with this idea in the eighth grade when I was researching Viola Desmond for an English assignment. I learned that she was wrongfully fined $26 for tax evasion but was posthumously pardoned in 2011. The removal of the conviction against Mrs. Desmond's name is an acknowledgement of her innocence. I believe that one should not pay a fine for a crime they did not commit. That prompted me to write a letter to the premier of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil about a symbolic repayment of the $26 fine. Varishini Deochand, student from Vaughan, Ontario
Viola Irene Desmond was a Canadian civil rights activist and businesswoman of African descent born in Halifax on July 6, 1914
Viola Desmond was charged on Nov. 9, 1946 with attempting to defraud the provincial government based on her alleged refusal to pay a one-cent amusement tax
Monday was the beginning of Black History Month — something we’ve been celebrating in Canada since 1995 thanks to the first Black Canadian woman MP, the Hon. Jean Augustine.
As a refugee from Somalia and a grateful public servant, I usually look forward to this month as a time for reflection and a recognition of Canada’s progress. But, this year, it is different. In 2021, we must reflect on Black history through the lens of deeply troubling events.
We all watched in horror last May as, over the course of eight minutes and 46 seconds, George Floyd’s life was ended by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minn. We were also shaken by what we did not see. When an angry mob of mostly white rioters smashed windows and pushed their way into the U.S. Capitol, many of us in the Black community had the same thought: “How would those officers be reacting if that crowd looked like us?”
Here at home, Black Canadians paid close attention to all of this, knowing that we continue to live with racism, discrimination and implicit bias. Young Black Canadian boys are often profiled by law enforcement and Black Muslim women are targeted for their looks and religious clothing. Canada is where the Proud Boys got started, we’re home to the Soldiers of Odin, and not too many weeks pass without a racist incident in the news.
On the other hand, anti-Black racism no longer lives in the shadows. We have proof that racial injustice has not been consigned to the annals of history. And, because of that, as we mark Black History Month 2021, we must remember and believe that we have much more work to do — and much more history to make.
That begins, I believe, with having honest and open conversations about our individual biases and the sometimes subtle but undeniable pervasiveness of anti-Black racism. Creating a better society is difficult, uncomfortable work. We need people to step up with more than just showing up or words of understanding, but with real action. And that means all of us.
I’m reminded of how Dr. Martin Luther King called people to action. In 1963, facing criticism from clergy for participating in what they called an “unwise and untimely” protest, he wrote:
“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice …”
More than any other event since Dr. King’s assassination, I believe the murder of George Floyd has motivated many moderate people to positive action. Here in Canada, it has led us to take words like “diversity” and “inclusion” and transform them from noble aspirations to an organizing principle for living and working together, every minute of every day.
Acknowledging systemic racism isn’t the job of those affected by it. It’s the job of leaders. Which is why I have been working hard every day with my colleagues to do that, and to make sure my representation leads to action.
And I believe it has. Canada signed the UN International Decade for Peoples of African Descent. We have invested in the mental health of Black communities and in youth programs. We launched Canada’s first Black Entrepreneurship Program. Through our Anti-Racism Strategy, we will continue to address anti-Black racism and systemic inequalities in Canada — including in our criminal justice system.
But that’s not all there is to do. And sometimes, we will fall short. But we have to try because the alternative — which is to do nothing — is unacceptable.
So, in this Black History Month, let us not be afraid to work together, to hold ourselves accountable to ensure that Black dignity, Black accomplishment and Black justice are more a part of the present than our past, and more a part of our future than our present.
As a proud Canadian, I believe we can, we should and we must.Ahmed Hussen is minister of Families, Children and Social Development and MP for York South–Weston.
February marks Black History Month or African Heritage Month, It is a recognized, nationwide celebration that calls on all persons of African descent and others to reflect on the significant roles that Africans in North America have played in shaping US and Canadian history. But how did this celebration come to be and why does it happen in February?
The man behind the holiday:
Carter G. Woodson, considered a pioneer in the study of African-American history, is given much of the credit for Black History Month. The son of former slaves, Woodson spent his childhood working in coal mines and quarries. He received his education during the four-month term that was customary for black schools at the time. At 19, having taught himself English fundamentals and arithmetic, Woodson entered high school, where he completed a four-year curriculum in two years. He went on to earn his master's degree in history from the University of Chicago and later earned a doctorate from Harvard.
How the holiday came about:
Disturbed that history textbooks largely ignored America's black population, Woodson took on the challenge of writing black Americans into the nation's history.
To do this, he established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. He also founded the group's widely respected publication, the Journal of Negro History.
In 1926, Woodson developed Negro History Week. He believed "the achievements of the Negro properly set forth will crown him as a factor in early human progress and a maker of modern civilization."
In 1976, Negro History Week expanded into Black History Month.
Why he picked February:
Woodson chose the second week of February for his celebration because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the black American population:
Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and became an abolitionist and civil rights leader; though his birthdate isn't known, he celebrated it on February 14.
President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery in America's confederate states; he was born on February 12.
For his work, Woodson has been called the Father of Black History.
TORONTO -- Educators say last summer's anti-Black racism protests have given Black History Month increased resonance in 2021 and amplified long-standing calls to incorporate more Black voices into school curriculums.
“The month is a way to try and get non-Black people to contextualize what the Black experience means,” Nadia Brown, associate political science professor of American studies at Purdue University in Indiana, told CTV News Channel on Monday.
“We can use this month as a way to teach people about the rich history and legacy of people of African descent throughout the world,” she said, adding that there is still a lot of work to be done to regularly incorporate the voices of Black people.
Brown said the ”summer of racial reckoning” served to show that “there is an unequal world [where] people of African descent have different lived experiences, different relationships, particularly with police and policing.”
Jerisha Grant-Hall, the chairperson for the Newmarket African Caribbean Canadian Association, told CTV News Channel on Monday that to be Black woman “has always been somewhat of an exhaustive thing” but that this year’s celebration of Black voices “feels a little heavier.”
Brown said the police killing of George Floyd spurred on non-Black people seeking out anti-Black racism literature. That and organizations pledging systemic change were positive steps, she said. But Black History Month offers yet another reminder to go further.
“We, as educators, believe it's very difficult to become what you don't see,” Rachel Zellars, an assistant professor of social justice and community studies at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Monday.
“It is the responsibility of teachers to make sure that all children in their class have a mirror,” she said.
Because of the protests, Zellars and seven other educators co-founded the African Nova Scotian Freedom School -- a month-long, mostly virtual course to highlight Canadian Black history, as well as weightier subjects such as transformative leadership, activism and abolition.
“We focused on the contributions of African Nova Scotians since the 1700s, leaders particularly who were active of black political protest in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s here,” she said. The school graduated 25 students last August, a number they’re hoping to increase this year.
Zellars said two of the pillars of the school are teaching leadership and examining anti-Black racism, the roots of which can be traced back to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
“It happened over four centuries and literally took our people and scattered us all over the world,” she said, explaining that “in turn, left behind a legacy of Black demonization,” which has a direct impact on Black students’ lives in 2021.
She said understanding that history can give context to lingering effects of systemic racism and “help students understand why a single isolated act of violence in this single city, in a single state, in one country caused 60 other countries and every major city to erupt in protest.”
FREEDOM SCHOOLS STARTED DURING CIVIL RIGHTS ERA
Her school isn’t the first in Canada. In 2016, Black Lives Matter Toronto crowdfunded their own Freedom School, inspired by the 41 similar schools in the U.S.. They were created by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the mid-1960s, and went on to serve 2,500 students.
The original Freedom Schools were created as a way to ensure certain histories were taught, including the abolition and civil rights movements; and Reconstruction -- the short-lived push following the U.S. Civil War to redress the inequities of slavery that was ultimately cut short by practices that ushered in the Jim Crow era.
Zellars explained it’s incumbent on all educators and Canadians to move away from simplistic narratives such as Canada being the end of the Underground Railroad, and not ignore the sordid history of slavery in the colonies that would become Canada. She said we have to move past Canadians solely looking down on their southern neighbours when it comes to race relations.
“That simple myth is the foundation of our international reputation and local reputation of being safe and being good in relation to the United States,” she said, referring to Canada.
She said nuance is essential for everyone to understand what Canada is today for many Black people, including disparities in health care and overpopulation in prisons.
YOU NEED TO TELL THESE STORIES: TEACHER
Other groups in Canada are also promoting Black History Month by creating online resources for parents and educators.
One such group created an interactive choice board that includes topics such as art, activism and notable figures in Canada and the U.S. The segments of the board lead to class outlines, biographies on notable Canadians, and advice depending on grade levels.
One educator tweeted that she hopes her colleagues use the resource to "infuse Black excellence and Black histories into the tapestry of your curricula."
Meanwhile, Ottawa-based advocacy group Parents For Diversity created the interactive “Periodic Table of Canadian Black History.”
The digital bilingual resource uses the template of the Periodic Table of Elements but instead of elements, highlights different topics such as Black government figures, entrepreneurs, LGBTQ+ figures and other Black Canadians who were the first in their field to do something.
“In this moment where so many students are learning online, the digital version of the Periodic Table of Canadian Black History is a true gift to learners and educators alike,” the group said in a press release.
The table, which organizers encourage other schools and teachers to fill in with their own figures, includes many contemporary Canadians, including Black trans activist Syrus Marcus Ware and Olympian Perdita Felicien. This is to instill the idea that Black history is still happening.
A bedrock of Zellars’ Black history program is the idea of children carving out their place in Canada today and leading the way.
Her program examines how historically, lots of forms of Black leadership and inspiration existed beyond the most commonly known stories.
For example, she tells students about an impoverished, illiterate Black woman who was taken from Boston to Halifax to be enslaved in the late 1700s. But she knew to hire a lawyer and managed to petition for her freedom there.
She and her colleagues use historical examples to prompt the students: “what kind of world would you like to shape? And how would we do that?”
Brown echoed that sentiment, saying people needed to “celebrate the differences” not just between Black and non-Black people, but also the nuance among leaders in the Black community.
“[It’s] understanding that our history is complex and nuanced and that there are people who have multiple different visions and what unity inequality would look like,” she said.
“You need to tell those stories and really examine the structures that have enabled people to have these different recognitions of what black humanity and fullness of equality would look like.”
A Halifax couple say they're convinced that racial profiling was at play when they were stopped for several minutes at the doors to a Halifax Walmart store despite having a receipt for their purchase.
April Lawton and Cadney Flint were at the Walmart on Mumford Road Wednesday night and purchased a new TV. When Flint, who is Black, reached the front door, though, he said a store employee angrily and loudly demanded to see the receipt. Lawton showed the receipt, but says the employee wasn't satisfied.
“First, he was saying he wanted the receipt, he wanted the receipt, he wanted the receipt. Then when we went to show him he said he didn't care and didn't want to see it, and that he was going to call the cops,” said Lawton, who is white.
She has since talked to the store manager, who told her he watched the video and spoke to the employee.
“He said (the employee) said once we showed the receipt he didn't care anymore and didn't want to see it,” she recounted Friday, “I said 'so why did he do it?' and he said 'I don't know.'”
She said the employee told her at the time of the incident that he owned and ran the store. The manager told Lawton that he is actually the assistant manager.
She posted her experience online, and “since then my inbox has been going nutso with people messaging me.”
Lawton said some people have told her they have worked with the employee and he has acted that way before. Others said they have been customers and been treated similarly by the employee.
“This is not a new thing for him, apparently,” said Lawton.
She said she has no issue with being asked to show a receipt, “but once the receipt was shown, it should have been done.”
But instead, the employee wouldn't let them go. When he made the threat to call the police, Flint told him to go ahead.
The police didn't show up. Spokesman Const. John MacLeod said the force received no calls from the store that night.
Lawton said the manager told her he had no idea why she and Flint were stopped from leaving for so long after the receipt was shown. She said separate customers worked to calm her and Flint down during the ordeal.
The woman who was talking to Flint “told (the employee) 'you're racially profiling right now. You're a racist. Buddy, you're a racist.' That's when I think the wheels in his head started to turn and he went 'uh-oh,'” Lawton said.
She said he then wanted to talk to them off to the side, but they refused.
“The woman who was talking to my husband said 'you have your receipt, there's nothing they can do, so leave,' and we did.”
She said they were held up at the door for several minutes. Flint said he was already upset because as he took the TV off the shelf in the electronics department to take it to the counter there to pay, a different staff member was demanding to know if he had paid for it. That employee then told him he would get a cart for him, “then he starts pushing me out of the way to take my TV to the checkout. I told him I was very capable of taking my own TV to the checkout.”
The employee then crowded him on the way there, Flint said.
Lawton said the couple still isn't sure what they want to see done about the incident, or what their next steps will be, but feel there needs to be some kind of consequences for the employee.
“Something has to happen,” she said. “(The manager) said they just went through ethics training. Well, clearly, their ethics training isn't working. Something needs to change, something needs to happen.”
Walmart Canada spokeswoman Felicia Fefer said in an emailed statement the corporate headquarters is aware of the incident.
“We take these matters very seriously and are looking into the incident. The store manager has since been in touch with the customer,” she said.
“Respect is a core value at Walmart Canada. Walmart is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for our associates and our customers.”
Eddie Carvery is bundled up in three layers inside his trailer, which is hand painted with his face on it and plastered with Africville Protest in bold letters. It’s where he and his long-standing fight for reparations and justice live year round.
“I’m here and I’m here for the long run, until they recognize what they did to Africville,” said Carvery, 73, who is also sitting next to an electric heater on this chilly September day.
His grandson Eddie Carvery III looks on, as the elder Carvery recounts memories from the last 50-plus years. In that time span, he’s fought eviction orders, heart attacks, the cold and racially motivated attacks, among other things, in hopes of resurrecting the community he grew up in.
Africville was a predominantly Black Nova Scotian community located on the south shore of the Bedford Basin, on the outskirts of Halifax. In the 1960s, the City of Halifax razed the community in the name of urban renewal — what many, Carvery included, say was an act of racism.
Lot by lot, the homes of about 400 residents were bulldozed to the ground, as was the Seaview United Baptist Church, which was described as the “heart of the community.” The church served not only as a place of worship, but as a social gathering space.
Carvery was enraged by the destruction of Africville, to the point where he “wanted to blow up city hall.”
Instead, he listened to his late mother, who Carvery called his “champion.” She suggested he “come out here and lay out on the ground and start to protest,” which he began to do in 1970, with inspiration from the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
Carvery expected his protest to “last three months and people would catch on and things would move,” he says, adding, “but no, nothing caught on, nothing moved.”
In 2010, then-Halifax mayor Peter Kelly apologized to the former residents of Africville and promised them a hectare of land and $3 million to build a replica church, now called the Africville Museum, which opened up in 2012.
However, the city did not "put (the) community back" as it was or proceed with a public inquiry for those who once called Africville their home, which Carvery demands to this day. So, his on-again, off-again occupation of Africville and protest continue.
Last fall, the longevity of Carvery’s protest was met with yet another threat: his few trailers, including the one he lived in that housed all his personal belongings, were destroyed while he had an extended stay at the hospital to treat his heart problems.
“I lost everything,” he recalls.
Luckily, his story has drawn supporters over the years, who have pitched in where they could to keep him going.
Last fall, David Ward, an Ontario resident who read about Carvery and the history of Africville while attending a conference in Halifax, was compelled to advocate for Carvery’s cause. He reached out to Jon Tattrie, who wrote Carvery’s biography, and together they launched a GoFundMe campaign to financially support Carvery as he continues his fight.
According to Ward, the fundraiser was sitting around $600 for some months.
Then, after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis made international news, sparking Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S., Canada and around the world, the fundraiser saw a spike in donations.
That money funded Carvery’s current trailer, which he purchased back in April. Today, the fundraiser is just shy of $30,000.
“It blew me away, it restored my faith in people, to understand that other people supported what I was doing to the point where they ... went into their wallet and they funded me,” said Carvery.
“That’s why I’m here now. I would’ve never got back if it wasn’t for the people.”
Carvery credits Floyd’s killing for advancing his cause and the general BLM movement.
“Because that cop put his knee in that guy’s throat, I think that activated a lot of people that were on the fence who just didn't give them too much thought about it. That gave them the courage and commitment to say, ‘Hey, we want to do something about this, we’re tired of this happening,’” he said.
“But I’m the benefactor.”
All these years later, Carvery, who is surrounded by his grandson and great-grandchildren outside his trailer now, says he doesn’t regret his protest.
“I’ve laid on the ground. I’ve been taunted. I’ve been shot at. I’ve seen the police do dirty tricks. I’ve seen the Ku Klux Klan. I’ve seen my own people turn against me. I’ve seen white people throw rocks at me. I’ve seen the winter, the summer, the spring and the fall,” he said.
“I’ve been through it all. But I’m still here, because I believe what happened was wrong and I believe the only way to fix it is through protesting.”
Carvery says he wants to eventually pass on the torch “to my son, to his son and to his son behind him” to get justice for what happened to Africville.
Eddie Carvery III says “it’s an honour” to continue the fight, having watched his grandfather’s protest start around the time that civil rights activists like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were gaining prominence.
“I’d go to school and people would ask me, ‘Who’s that guy who lives under the bridge?’” he said.
“That’s my grandfather and he’s pretty much doing the same thing, fighting for the same reason that they were, but because we’re in Canada, people don’t turn an eye to that and Canadian history isn’t such a pretty one when you really look into it.”
He adds that it’s “frustrating” to see his grandfather “still have to do this and to put himself out here at this age for nothing to be resolved.” But, he says he tries to support his grandfather, learn from him and carry on his legacy “from a different perspective and different era.”
In order to move forward, he says it will take the co-operation of all former Africville residents and other community members in Halifax, so they can all work towards a mutual goal.
“I want to be able to bring everybody together, because that’s the only way it’s ever going to be settled and satisfied,” he said.
“I want to see a future, just like everybody else, for Africville. I don’t want it to just be a park, I want it to be a place where people can flourish.”
For now, the elder Eddie Carvery remains firmly in his place.
“I’m fighting for change. I’m not going nowhere as long as God leaves me here. Until we get justice, I’m here,” he said.
man approached them and started to make racist comments.
"We were sitting outside of the Local Jo (Cafe & Market), just chatting about our research, and he literally walked around the corner on Edinburgh Street and said, 'What's a white girl like you doing with a ... (Black person)?'" recalled Ajadi.
"I asked him, 'What did you say? Could you repeat that?' and he said, 'She shouldn't be around ... (Black people). She should be dating a white guy,’ and I said, ‘Why do you think that?’ And he said, ‘Well, there’s plenty of brown women in the world you should date.’”
Ajadi captured the majority of the incident, which occurred around 11:40 a.m., on video and posted it to Twitter. That post has since gone viral.
“There was no confrontation before that. We were just sitting on the street and this happened,” he said, adding he was “surprised” that the man continued to make racist comments even after he started recording.
Nicole Arsenault, who was catching up with Ajadi over coffee, said she was “taken aback” and “much slower” than Ajadi at processing what happened because “as a white woman, I’m quite insulated; these experiences are not a part of my daily life.”
“I was really, really angry and confused,” added Arsenault, who joined Ajadi in confronting the man.
‘I had no recourse'
When asked how he feels in the aftermath of the encounter, Ajadi said, “tired, mostly."
He said he wishes “mercy upon (the man’s) soul” and that he chose to pull out his phone and record the video because he felt it was the only option available to him.
“I had no recourse because as a Black man in Halifax, a Black person in Halifax, I’m not going to go to the cops — it’s not safe,” he said.
“For goodness sake, just two weeks ago, someone was threatened with a noose in Chester and the cops blamed them. Why would I trust these people?”
Ajadi added racism “invariably happens because we live in a racist society, so (there are) people with racist ideas, but also systems that are racist,” but he’s “concerned” that other Black people have to face it in silence because they, too, feel there is no recourse for them.
“For me, luckily I have enough of a platform where I can record that on Twitter and now we’re talking,” he said.
“There’s a whole bunch of people in this city, in this province and in this country who don’t have that recourse and just have to swallow that rage and the sadness and the paralysis that comes with it.”
Arsenault said she’s not sure "to what extent the police have a role to play” in these sorts of encounters and that she trusts Ajadi’s “assessment of this situation and strategy to try to build empathy among people” by sharing it on social media.
Arsenault noted she has been witness to people “suffering this kind of violence before” in Halifax in the past, so she’s “not surprised” that it happened.
But, she said it was the first time she was “so intimately involved” and felt “really sad” that Ajadi was attacked “just because he had the audacity” to sit and have a coffee with her.
“It certainly was a really awful reminder that people move through space in the city very differently and that I occupy privilege everyday and I don’t have to have this happen to me everyday,” said Arsenault.
Councillors condemn racist comments
In a statement, Lindell Smith, city councillor for Dist. 8, where the incident occurred, said the video was “disturbing” and condemned the comments made by the individual in the video.
Shawn Cleary, councillor for neighbouring Dist. 9, echoed this sentiment.
“My heart was broken when I saw that. It’s not the kind of impression we want people to have of Halifax and it’s important for people who live in the Halifax Regional Municipality to stand up and say we’re not going to tolerate this,” said Cleary.
Cleary said he was similarly “not all that surprised” to learn of the incident that Ajadi and Arsenault encountered, adding “we hear about racism everyday here in Halifax, across Canada, around the world,” but it’s become more apparent with technology that can record it in real time.
According to Cleary, anti-racist rhetoric from elected officials in Canada and the United States is also making “small minded racists that were maybe more guarded about their views seem more emboldened to espouse them more publicly now.”
“As we see more of this kind of (anti-racist) rhetoric that is pushing this kind of narrative, we need to fight against that with every opportunity that we have through the police, through the city mechanisms for including people and engagement,” he said.
“But it’s not something that the city can fix on its own. This requires the provincial government, it requires citizens to engage and speak up and be heard about what kind of city they want to have and what kind of country they want to live in.”
While he's received lots of messages of support after publicizing the encounter, Ajadi said "the fact remains that we live in a fundamentally racist society and I don't know what needs to be done about that."
And, despite feeling "unsafe" in Halifax, Ajadi said he isn't going to stop going out for a coffee or carrying out his normal activities, just like racism hasn't stopped thousands of other Black people from doing so, who have been here who have "become part of communities of support and of care."