Wednesday, February 24, 2010

the africville apology

it was an extraordinary day for africville today. yesterday, the focus was on the city council meeting, where the deal was supposed to be voted on. in that strange council way, they briefly discussed it in cryptic terms and passed it unanimously. a woman objected from the public gallery and those of us watching the proceedings on eastlink were treated to kd lang singing hallelujah as business cards of councillors flashed by on the screen until whatever the issue was was resolved. very odd.

at 11am this morning at the north-end YMCA, mayor peter kelly, premier darrell dexter, mla percy paris and, of course, irvine carvery led the meeting. there were hundreds of people sitting and standing in the gym, listening carefully to every word. periodically, people shouted their objections to the speakers but there was dead silence when kelly read the apology.

toward the end of the meeting, eddie carvery led a small group silently up the side of the meeting. trust me, he had people's attention, even though all he did was raise his hand. he stopped short of the speakers when a police officer intercepted him. he walked back to the sidelines.

irvine took the podium shortly after and made a long, passionate speech about africville and why he, as head of the africville genealogy society, was backing the deal. more shouted objections.

irvine spoke over them and said how there was one person missing from the delegation at the front of the room - one vacant seat. he then paid tribute to his older brother, eddie carvery, and invited him to the front of the room. i think it's fair to say eddie was stunned. he took his place in a row of suits, sporting a dirty che guevera t-shirt. a few minutes later, he was given a turn at the podium. he spoke about the protest, why he had been there so many winters and summers, and how God must have a sense of humour, choosing a 'scoundrel' like himself for the protest.

he added he was proud of what AGS had accomplished, but the fight against racism, the fight for a public inquiry and the fight for individual compensation were not over.

with that, he announced: 'i'm going back to africville' and invited everyone to join him.

it was incredible - eddie looked a very happy man as the media scrum moved from irvine to him and he had an audience to say what he's been saying these long, lonely decades.

the money announced will go toward rebuilding the africville church and an interpretive centre and seaview park has a new name: africville.

meanwhile, i've got a book ending to rewrite.
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