Wednesday, November 30, 2011

oppression, loss and hope in black nova scotia - a panel discussion

i was on a panel discussion last week at the Universalist Unitarian church in southend halifax. the topic was Oppresion: Loss and Hope among Black Nova Scotians. as a youngish white atheist, i was a little nervous about talking in a church about black nova scotians and earning my keep with the other panelists - Irvine Carvery and Wanda Thomas Bernard. 

i have interviewed irvine many times, both for The Hermit of Africville (my bio of eddie carvery being the reason i was there) and as a journalist, and have deep admiration for his intellect and accomplishments. it was the first time i met dr. thomas bernard (you can see some of her achievements and publications here), and i learned a lot listening to her take, which focused on the importance of education in righting the wrongs of racism. 

given that irvine carvery is the head of the africville genealogy society and eddie's younger brother, i decided to mainly steer clear of that and instead offer what i have learned as a white nova scotian researching africville and other parts of black nova scotian history. 

openfile has an article about it here and you can listen to the discussion via the halifax media coop here

the third and final installment of the series is on the same topic, but in the first nations community. it starts at 7pm on dec 13 at 5500 inglis street. 

here's the openfile article:

Loss and hope in Black Nova Scotia, recorded

The Universalist Unitarian church is two thirds of the way through a series called Oppression: Loss and Hope, where they've focused on different marginalized communities in Nova Scotia and inviting guests with first hand experiences to discuss them together. The most recent panel, about loss and hope in Black Nova Scotia, happened this past Tuesday, and the Halifax Media Co-op has the full audio in two parts.

The first part deals with loss.
Panelist Wanda Thomas-Bernard, a Dalhousie School of Social Work professor, author and activist, talks about the broken promises that brought people of African descent to Nova Scotia in the first place, and in some cases drove them out. Irvine Carvery, the chair of the Halifax District School Board, speaks of how "a culture of sharing, a culture of giving, a culture of mutual support" developed as a self-preservation strategy within the Black community marked by loss.
Until fifty-five years ago, segregated schools were legal in Nova Scotia. Thomas-Bernard, who lives in East Preston, says: "I'd be ok with segregated communities—I live in one, even—if they were separate but equal." They aren't, of course, she says.The legacy of the lost opportunities in education and employment are still felt within her community.
Education was an even more prominent topic in the second half, the hope portion of the discussion. Carvery points out that 74 percent of the children of African descent in iNova Scotia live in Halifax. So our school systen, in particular, is a key one, because if it fails, it is affecting a whole race of children. He says the system "needs targeted funding for those children."
The third member of the panel was author Jon Tattrie, who spoke on the privileges he inherited as a white Nova Scotian, and how his perspective on them shifted as he researched and wrote about Eddie Carvery—the Hermit of Africville—and Irvine's brother.
For more info about African Nova Scotians, a visit to the Black Cultural Centre is always worthwhile. If you haven't been lately, it's newly renovated, with whole new exhibits, so go again.
The next discussion in the Loss and Hope series will be Tuesday, Dec. 13, 7 p.m., on First Nations People of Nova Scotia. The church is at 5500 Inglis Street.
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