Friday, November 5, 2010

best book of 2010: The Hermit of Africville


it's been an uplifting and encouraging week in africville, after a dark beginning to autumn.

a few weeks ago, eddie's dog spike died. spike plays a role in the hermit of africville and is photographed inside - this darrell oake picture of spike and eddie is from the same day. spike had been eddie's constant companion on the protest for 15 years, acting as friend and protector. he had been in declining health and eddie sat with him as he passed. he buried him on the church grounds.

part of the gathering darkness was that spike's grave is the only thing that's changed at the africville church since february, when mayor peter kelly and others promised - yet again - that the church would be rebuilt. last time i checked, the city of halifax said they were waiting to hook up the area to water before starting the church. when i told eddie that, he laughed. 'it's supposed to be a replica, right? we didn't have water in the original church,' he said.

but onto the better news. in the summer, i heard from a dalhousie university student named neil bailey. he had read tim bousquet's editorial on the hermit in the coast and wanted to know what he could do.



i didn't have many ideas then, but saturday he came with one of his own. he was organizing a tour of halifax for about 30 first-year students and started them off on the top of fenwick tower overlooking halifax and lead them out to africville.

i arrived a little late and slipped onto the big dal bus in the main parking lot next to africville. eddie was at the front, microphone in hand, telling the students how it was, how it is and how it will be. he then got off the bus and took them on a tour of africville - where his grandmother hattie carvery's house and post office was, where his birth house was and finally out to his camp, the site of the school and the church.

i'm a dalhousie alumni myself and can tell you that 12 grades of nova scotia public education followed by an honours degree in social anthropology managed to teach me nothing at all about africville, its destruction and the poisonous role racism played and plays in nova scotia. these students got their education off to a better start.

it was pleasing that tim's article lead to the gathering, as it was an earlier piece he wrote on eddie that first piqued my curiosity about the hermit down by the park when i moved back to halifax.

the last bit of good news came earlier this week, also courtesy of the coast, when its readers voted the hermit of africville Best Book of 2010. eddie was greatly cheered by the news. summer protesting is relatively easy, with warm breezes, plenty of sunshine and lots of company. the winter is another matter - ferocious cold, darkness and few friends. heading into his 41st protest winter is daunting, but it means a lot to eddie to know he is not alone - that others have read and valued his story and perhaps share his passion to fight racism and build that church.

another supporter has planted the seed for a social media campaign to resurrect that church. i'm setting things up now and hope to roll it out next week. the idea is to create a snowstorm of queries about the church to finally hold the city/province/genealogy society to their word after so many years of false promises.

trevor adams, editor of halifax magazine, mentions it in his november editorial and i'm working on a piece for the jan/feb edition.

trevor writes:

"We’re also going to continue covering the quest for justice for Africville. After our editorial, “Stand with the Hermit” in the October issue, we received word of a soon-to-be-launched social-media campaign to pressure government to keep its promises to former residents. We’ll keep an eye on that and let you know how it unfolds. And regular contributor Jon Tattrie, author of The Hermit of Africville, is working on a sure-to-be-controversial story for our January issue on governments’ broken promises."

i'm an atheist, but hey! maybe miracles can happen. maybe we can build that church.

more to come...

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