African Heritage Month begins in Halifax

African Heritage Month begins in Halifax

The celebration honors the history and heritage of Black Nova Scotians

Sobaz Benjamin and the youth drummers from “The Circle in the Square” played through a series of traditional drum tunes on January 26, 2023 at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library. Brad Chandler

The Black Nova Scotians family history will be celebrated as Halifax officially kicks off African Heritage Month 2023.

“Our ancestors are the focus of respect and gratitude, so we must honor them,” event host Tracey Jones-Grant said as she helped kick off the month-long celebration Thursday night at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library.

Just days before the events kicked off on February 1, guest speakers, performers and a sell-out crowd gathered to get the celebrations going early.

Sobaz Benjamin and The Circle in the Square youth drummers played a series of traditional drum tunes to welcome attendees to the 39th annual event.

This year’s theme is Seas of Struggle – African Peoples from Shore to Shore and focuses on resilience, strength and determination.

The theme highlights the role played by the Atlantic Ocean in the history of the people of African descent in the development of Canada and Nova Scotia. Some of the earliest black settlers in the province arrived by boat, including enslaved people brought to Halifax in 1749, black loyalists and refugees from the War of 1812, according to records in the Colchester Historeum.

During her speech, Beatrice J. Wilkins of the Africville Genealogy Society spoke about the struggles Africville residents faced during their early settlement in Nova Scotia.

“I want people to know our story,” Wilkins said. “We lost so much, and that taught me, ‘You can’t hold the hate. The hate will only ruin you.’”

Åsa Kachan, Crystal Mulder, Tamar Pryor Brown, Tracey Jones-Grant and Mayor Mike Savage pose at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library on January 26, 2023. Brad Chandler

African Heritage Month was first observed in Nova Scotia in 1988. It was originally called Black History Month before changing its name in 1996.

During his speech, Mayor Mike Savage reflected on the “long, deep and complex history of systemic racism” in Halifax.

There has been progress, “but there is so much more to do,” Savage said. “We have a responsibility to own our story … the responsibility to change rests with us individually and collectively.”

During Thursday’s event, singer-songwriter Jah’Mila serenaded those in attendance with songs about redemption, freedom and unity.

During her performance of Go Down Moses to conclude the night’s celebrations, Jah’Mila was accompanied by a sea of ​​voices chanting in unison, “Let my people go.”

A full list of African Heritage Month celebrations can be found here.

Brad Chandler

Brad Chandler is an aspiring video journalist from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia with a particular interest in sports reporting and broadcasting. He has previously worked as a reporter for The Inverness Oran newspaper in Cape Breton since 2020 and now serves as a media correspondent for the U18 Cape Breton West Islanders hockey programme.

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