Friday, October 30, 2009

back to africville/in praise of librarians


the hermit of africville is moving along nicely. that's the working title i've given my in-progress bio of africville protester eddie carvery. when i first met him, he told me he was illiterate. then i started noticing the books stacked around his little camper - books on history, especially black history, books on mi'kmaq spirituality. he also was curious to see what my writing was like and burned through a copy of black snow in a week or two. (he liked it, but thought it should have had more africville).

now, it turns out he's a budding writer, too. i dropped off the very rough first draft a couple of weeks ago for him to check. i wanted to see how badly i'd got things wrong and what was missing. he picked up a pen and started correcting it and then started writing out lots of additional information on the backs of the pages. i picked up some scribblers and he's starting to fill those up, too. he insists he still needs me. i guess, given that he doesn't have electricity, he needs someone to type it up.

while he's been doing that, i've busied myself digging through the stacks of newspaper clippings and microfiche at the library. for a print journo, it's like finding there is an afterlife! we think we write stuff and it dies the next day, never to be seen again, but all along the angelic hands of librarians diligently bring salvation to our words, storing them in the heavenly filing cabinets.

there is certainly a lot about africville, though less about eddie. this clipping is one of my favourites - it's also currently the opening of the book. eddie was at a mid90s meeting on africville when he got heckled. he ignored him, but the man - who isn't from africville, but has links to the carverys - belittled eddie over welfare claims. eddie marched over, blew his top, and just about took the other guy's top off with this right hook.

he has since recanted his violent ways, but he's onboard with opening this way. it's got a lot of pop and gives us a compelling way into his life. according to a subsequent column, there was much debate in the daily news news room at the time on how to play the photo, and they took some criticism for running the violent picture 'out of context'. i think they were right to run it (eddie certainly has no objections) and the hermit will show you exactly how it got to that.

there's a new children's book out on africville, too. i was at the launch for the weekly news.
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