Friday, February 5, 2010

the end of the hermit

so i woke up this morning and for the first time since august, didn't immediately turn to the hermit of africville. i typed the final word - "enough", fittingly - yesterday morning. 54,210 words after opening the book with eddie decking a heckler at a public meeting it came to an end out in the cold of africville on a february morning.

i printed off the first drafts yesterday and will now distribute them to my superfriends team of copy editors, plus pottersfield press and of course eddie.

while there's still lots of work to be done if we want to launch this book in august at the africville summer reunion, i've got the end-of-book blues. it's not as bad as fiction, where the end of the book generally means the end of the characters, because eddie remains at his protest site and i can visit whenever i'm passing by, but still.

the pic is one of the floor cuttings from darrel oake's photo shoot for a cover shot for the book. there are almost 400 images to chose from and i'm going a little batty flicking back and forth between frames, trying to decide which fractional difference makes for the strongest image.

last week, eddie and i were invited to speak to the transition year program (typ) at dalhousie. there's no one more qualified to do that than eddie - it's aimed at black and mi'kmaq students (his father was black and his mother comes from mi'kmaq people) and he was in fact a student in the first year of the program, way back in 1970.

the students listened intensely to his recounting of life in africville, the destruction of africville and the 40 years of his protest. he ended with a tear-inducing passionate plea for a bigger canada that recognizes its 'black space' and faces up to past racism to avoid future racism. he was surrounded by the students after the class.

as part of researching HOA, i came across the old tidbit that on maps of the world - the usual, euro-centric ones hanging on our walls - the world has literally been distorted so that africa is shrunk while north america and europe are bloated to look much bigger than they are.

listening to eddie, it seems a similar thing has happened to the 'black space' in canadian history. africville can trace its roots back to the 1700s (according to a UN report) but that usually gets shrunk to the 1840s or 50s. it originally included the land that is now fairview and a large chunk of the north end, but people now imagine it was more or less where seaview park is today. the story is that the 'last africvillian' moved out in 1970, but eddie's still living there.

i was at the launch of african heritage month last week and at one point a white councillor addressed the crowd, talking about the importance of celebrating 'your history.' a voice from the back quietly corrected her: 'our history'.

it's the same for africville - mi'kmaq, black, white or other, it's our history.

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