Friday, September 17, 2010

the hermit and the library

eddie carvery and i spoke at the north end library in halifax last night - a somber, potent gathering of about 30 people, many of whom felt a raw connection to eddie and his struggle.

i wasn't sure what to expect - or who to expect - but trevor adams from halifax magazine did a superb job of mixing his own questions with those from the audience.

i opened with a reading from the opening of the book. it was a last-minute change of plan, because it occurred to me that the opening scene took place in the very room we were sitting in. the end of the book - the february apology - took place a next door in the ymca.

after that, trevor asked eddie what he thought when i turned up at his camper last year and suggested we write a book about his life. i've often wondered that myself. eddie said he'd been waiting for me. that makes sense, looking back. after i asked him, i sounded out pottersfield press. when they gave it a yellow 'proceed' light, we got to work. the first 20,000 words flowed like he'd been polishing them for years.

another person asked eddie if he felt liberated when the book came out, or vulnerable. he said at first, he felt freed - it was not a good book, but it was a necessary book. but he said he soon felt vulnerable as people started asking him questions about the 'heavy duty' things he's lived through.

one woman stood and made an impassioned speech about raising kids in halifax in the 1960s. she was white, but she said it didn't matter - if you are poor, 'you always have a wrecking ball behind your head'. she too was dislocated and wound up in mulgrave park where poor white people, poor black people and poor chinese people were thrown together and had to make do.

eddie seemed tired and low on hope. maybe it was because we were sitting in the same room where the book starts - and in almost 20 years, little has changed. the africville church is as unbuilt as it was the morning after the city bulldozed it in 1967.

i asked the city where things stood this week. they said they needed a court order to hand over the money for the church and the order came july 7. so the money should be handed over any day now. they're trying to get water to the site. that hasn't happened yet.

it will. any day now.

that was the answer. so maybe it will get built this time. or maybe not. for eddie, after 40 years of fighting, it must seem an even chance on a good day.

at the end of the meeting, eddie asked anyone who felt so moved to visit he and his brother victor at the protest site. bring donations, bring food, bring food for the dog - or just to provide company and conversation.

so he's back in africville today, listening to the rain patter on the roof of his camper, watching the wind blow through the ghost of the africville church.
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