Saturday, January 15, 2011

africville update: church plans unveiled, but no mention of protester eddie carvery

the africville heritage trust held an open house in the north end halifax library this afternoon. i stopped by for an hour. it seemed well attended and had some architectural drawings of the planned replica church, a chance for the public to meet the board and a promise to break soil on the church in the spring - when the land thaws.

a release handed out at the meeting says the church will be completed by this summer. they also announced that the HRM land has officially been transferred to AHT - you can read that press release here and the chronicle herald article here.

on the hand-out sheet, which i can't find online, chairwoman daurene lewis writes:

'This is a rare acknowledgement of past injustices in Canada. It helps the dominant culture understand that our feelings of exclusion are based on historic practices. Laws have changed, but the legacy of past wrongs has coloured the present. This embodies hope for the future.'

basically, the unanswerable questions i put to the mayor and aht for my halifax magazine article have been answered - with one exception. the press release and hand out make no mention of the fact that the land HRM transfered to AHT, the land on which the church is to be built, the land where the original church stood, is the same land where eddie carvery lives. in fact, there is no mention of him, or his 40-year protest, anywhere.

eddie was at the meeting today - in fact, i gather he was the first non-AHT member to see the plans, as the board invited him to meet with them this past week. i asked him what he thought of the plans and he said he was very happy to see things moving forward - 44 years after the city tore the church down in the middle of the night and 20 years after the first promise to rebuild the church. after his speech at last year's apology, he said 'one down, two to go,' referring to his three political goals: an apology, a public inquiry and individual compensation. he still wants to see the city and province fully open the books on what really happened to africville and for people who were not paid for their land to be compensated. i've spoken to other community members who feel the same way.

i was out to see eddie in africville earlier in the week, just after he'd met with aht, and he told me he was ready to consider retiring. if the church is actually built this year, he said he would be happy to move his protest off the land to allow that. all he wants is a little modular home across the way, on the water, so he can retire in africville and live out his days in the shadow of the church. there is still talk of him getting a job at the church - a curator, perhaps. i still think that would be a good idea.

no one knows africville like eddie - for the simple reason that he has lived there for pretty much all of his life, from 1946 to today. the thought of him being able to live out his days in africville in a proper house - with electricity, running water, sewage and heating - is a good one. 

the words sound encouraging, but words can evaporate like morning dew. it would be good to see a solid commitment to include eddie in the process. it would be good to see a written agreement to provide housing for eddie in africville and a position at the church. 

as daurene said, this is indeed a rare acknowledgement of past injustices in canada. eddie's protest played a vital role in keeping that wrong unburied, even as the city bulldozed africville and later trucked in tons of soil to bury it under a dog park. his protest played an important role in keeping a living presence in africville, even when a previous mayor of halifax threw him and his brother victor out of that dog park in the mid 1990s.

for four decades, the only sign of africville in africville has been his body - his protest. whatever you think of eddie as a man, or eddie as a political activist, his extraordinary resistance to the long drive to forget africville deserves a place in africville's story - a place in halifax's story. 

i don't think a retirement home is too much to offer him in return for that.  

-30-

my blog post on the halifax article got a 'must read' spot on metro halifax reporter alex boutilier's blog. he links to some other interesting blogs - bookmark his and check the others out.  






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