1. It’s all white, so it’s all right! (Part 1)

Pat Dunn, Justin Huston, Dr. OmiSoore Dryden, and Dr. Késa Munroe-Anderson.

The new provincial PC majority government was sworn in last Tuesday, including the new Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives, as well as Communities, Culture, Tourism and Heritage — Pat Dunn.

Premier Tim Houston faced questions and criticism for not appointing one of the four Black sitting MLAs from one of the other parties, or an unelected Black/African Nova Scotian to the position(s).

The next day, Houston fired Dr. Késa Munroe-Anderson, the Black Deputy Minister to the departments of Communities, Culture and Heritage and African Nova Scotian Affairs, and replaced her Justin Huston, who is also white.

Houston also fired Dr. OmiSoore Dryden, the first and only Black member of the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s board of directors, when he dissolved the board and replaced it with an all-white, four-person “leadership team.”

Dr. Késa Munroe-Anderson.

This added to the frustrations of many Black Nova Scotians. Black community meetings and group sessions were organized, including one by former Black NDP candidate Colter Simmonds, with more organizing scheduled throughout the coming weeks.

In response to questions about Dunn’s appointment, Houston said, “Democracy works best when the people that are elected, are put into positions of accountability and that’s the best way it works.”

Though the next day, Houston was non-specific in his reasoning for replacing Munroe-Anderson with Huston, who is unelected.

When asked for her thoughts on the loss of Black representation in a Nova Scotia Health leadership role in an interview with CBC News, Dryden said, in part:

Dr. OmiSoore Dryden.

What I have been saying, I think the responsibility for addressing systematic racism, systemic anti-Black racism, rests with all of us, including the four white people who are on this leadership committee. And so my question is what is their expertise? What is their expertise in equity, diversity, and inclusion? And I don’t mean, you know, are they listening and learning — gosh, I would hope everyone is listening and learning. What I’m wondering is, is what is their background in being effective in change regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion? What have they done in the past and how will they bring that to bear on this new structure?”

Photo: Shyna Beals / Facebook

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2. Percy Paris: Dunn’s appointment “harkens back to the days of slavery”

Percy Paris, former minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Photo: Percy Paris/Facebook.

Percy Paris, the first Black MLA to hold the position of minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, spoke to The Examiner this week about his disapproval over the appointment of a white person in his former role. Paris told the Examiner:

I had thought that we had gone beyond the paternalistic attitude of whites when it came to the African Nova Scotian community … that whites are best suited to look after the needs of the African Nova Scotian community more so than we ourselves.

When we see steps like this, it harkens back to the days of slavery when the white community didn’t do things with the African Nova Scotian community, but for. How can a white individual adequately understand the predicament and situations and all that goes with being Black in the province of Nova Scotia when, indeed, white males have long been a large part of the problem?

One of the problems with the appointment is that this is 2021. And with all that we’ve gone through in recent years, and certainly in my lifetime, and with the awareness that has been created through television and internet and social media … and by the Black Lives Matter movement, we’ve watched people being murdered — Black individuals being murdered on TV — I would have thought by now, in 2021, with that awareness, that there would be some understanding. But obviously, when I see things like this being done, that second step which is the understanding part, hasn’t reached it’s full potential yet.

I’m not sure if (Premier Tim Houston has) thought of the downside. I think that, with all due respect to the premier … him and those advising him, I’m curious as to who they are and what they look like. I wonder if any of them look like me.

And maybe the advice, and I don’t know this to be true, but maybe the counsel that he’s getting said, ‘Oh well, in a week this will blow over and life will go on as normal.’ I do not know that, but it would be interesting to hear what was being said at that table.

After serving in the legislature as an opposition MP since being elected in 2006, Paris was the second MLA appointed as Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs in 2009 when the NDP was elected. PC MLA Barry Barnet was the first Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs when the office was first launched in 2003. At the time, there were no Black MLAs serving in the legislature.

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3. $30,000 scholarship for Black Nova Scotian writers

Diggstown creator Floyd Kane has partnered with Saint Mary’s University for a $30,000 scholarship for aspiring African Nova Scotian writers. Photo: Writers Guild of Canada.

Applications are now open for a new Saint Mary’s University (SMU) scholarship for Black graduating students seeking a career in writing.

The Edna and Velma Thomas Kane award was created by CBC’s Diggstown creator, Floyd Kane of East Preston. It is named after his mother and aunt.

Speaking with his alma mater SMU, Kane, who once practiced law after earning a degree from Dalhousie University, said:

I thought of this as a way to encourage Black Nova Scotians who want to pursue a career in writing.

A lot of people’s dreams are limited by their financial backgrounds, and I just wanted to remove that barrier from the equation. So if you have the drive and ambition to pursue your dream, you can go and do it and not have to worry about where your next meal comes from or how you’re going to pay your rent.

The award, set at $30,000, is open to graduating students of African descent, with first priority given to students with roots in Nova Scotia. According to SMU, recipients of the award will receive it “upon graduation to help mitigate the burden of financial debt; to support them in further post-secondary studies or training such as internships, apprenticeship, or self-directed projects; and to advance their aspirations for careers in writing.”

Kane also spoke with African Nova Scotian CBC Radio host, Portia Clark, on Information Morning where he spoke about the award, his mother and aunt, and how his Aunt Velma gifting him with a typewriter in the seventh grade inspired him to write.

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4. New documentary honouring Rocky and Joan Jones

The documentary Rocky and Joan premiers at this year’s FIN Atlantic Film Festival. Photo: White Lelou Media / YouTube.

Film director Olesya Shyvikova and Tracey Jones-Grant spoke with Information Morning’s Portia Clark last week to discuss the upcoming documentary that explores the civil rights advocacy of the late Rocky Jones and his late former wife, Joan Jones.

Speaking with Clark, the couple’s daughter, Tracey, who appears in the film along with her late mother, said:

Watching the film now with my Mom having, you know, passed away a couple of years ago, it’s very emotional. Especially because, you know, as a child you live through this time almost with innocence. And to realize what they went through, especially through the voice of my mother, is so empowering and so informative. It’s very emotional for me, even as I talk to you right now, it’s just very emotional but it’s very powerful. And a story, especially through a woman’s voice, that needs to be heard.

The film documents the Joneses who were heavily involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and even brought Stokley Carmicheal and the Black Panthers to Halifax. Said Jones-Grant of her and her siblings’ childhood:

We didn’t know necessarily what was happening. We knew there was always lots of people, lots of excitement, always somebody in the house to look after you, but we never felt afraid, we never felt vulnerable. There were a couple of times in our life where there were actual incidents in our home that were a little scary as a child, but overall I felt that their goal was to keep us kids as children for as long as possible. To enjoy being a child even with everything that was happening in the world around us.

Rocky and Joan is scheduled to air at this year’s FIN Atlantic Film Festival on September 19 at 3:30pm at Park Lane Cinema in Halifax. Click here to purchase tickets.

You can watch the trailer for Rocky and Joan here:

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5. George Elliott Clarke in conversation with Mayann Francis

A virtual public event takes place tomorrow where Black Nova Scotia author George Elliott Clarke will be discussing his new memoir, ‘Where Beauty Survived: An Africadian Memoir‘, with the province’s first Black Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis.

In part, Amazon describes the book as:

A vibrant, revealing memoir about the cultural and familial pressures that shaped George Elliott Clarke’s early life in the Black Canadian community that he calls Africadia, centred in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

At the book’s heart is George’s turbulent relationship with his father, an autodidact who valued art, music and books but worked an unfulfilling railway job. Bill could be loving and patient, but he also acted out destructive frustrations, assaulting George’s mother and sometimes George and his brothers, too.

The book is currently available for sale online through multiple platforms. Free registration for tomorrow’s virtual event, which takes place at 8pm (Atlantic time) is available through the Eventbrite website.

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6. Thandiwe McCarthy talks with ‘Black In The Maritimes’

Head of the New Brunswick Black Artist Alliance Thandiwe McCarthy. Photo: BlackInTheMaritimes.com

The Black In The Martimes podcast released a new episode last week where they were joined by Thandiwe McCarthy to talk about his life and thoughts in Atlantic Canada.

McCarthy is poet, writer, and head of the New Brunswick Black Artist Alliance (NBBAA).

On its Facebook page, the NBBAA is described as “a multi-disciplinary non-profit organization, aimed at providing a supportive and safe community for Black artists living in New Brunswick … Our work is intended to assist a variety of creatives, ranging from emerging artists to professionals.”

This week’s episode, as well as past episodes of Black In The Maritimes, are available through various links on its official website, blackinthemaritimes.com.

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7. New website to honour ‘Black Canadian Veterans Stories of War’

Grave identifier and grave marker for Douglas George Dorrington of Springhill, NS, a gunner who was killed in action in Normandy on August, 10, 1944. Dorrington was born December 12, 1922 to George Edward and Dora Mae (Jackson) Dorrington. Photos: Paul Byard

Last week I was shocked when I read the sad news that one of my favourite Black social media platforms would be shutting down.

The Facebook group Black Canadian Veterans Stories of War has been highlighting the stories of Black Canadian veterans since its creation in 2013.

Founded by public historian and senior administrator, Kathy Grant, the page’s information section states, in part:

For the past decade, I have devoted my efforts to documenting, digitizing and videotaping the stories of Black Canadian veterans.

I place an emphasis on interviewing veterans, inviting participation from the loved ones of deceased veterans, public engagement, and connecting Black veteran stories to Canadian history.
I’ve collaborated with the Canadian War Museum, Library and Archives Canada, Department of National Defence, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and Veteran Affairs Canada.
Men of the No2 Construction Battalion . Photo: Black Canadian Veterans Stories of War / Facebook.

Grant partnered with Thomas St. Middle School in Peel Region, Ontario to create an official website. The initiative is funded through Veterans Affairs.

Initially, the plan was to shut down the Facebook page and archive it. After much disappointment was expressed from the page’s followers following a post informing them of the impending plans, those plans were nixed and the page was brought back online after being taken down for a brief period last week.
A fundraising campaign has also been set up “to further create educational programming and to facilitate workshops” with respect to Grant’s work.
The plan is to launch the official website for Black Canadian Veterans Stories of War ahead of Remembrance Day 2020.

8. It’s all white, so it’s all right! (Part 2)

As controversy swirled last week about both the appointment of a white minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, Pat Dunn, as well as the firings of two African Nova Scotian female civil servants, Dr. Késa Munroe-Anderson and Professor OmiSoore Dryden — the PC federal candidate for Central Nova, which encompasses the provincial riding held by Dunn, was on the campaign trail.

“Dropped by to see Foster Elms while canvassing! Thankful for his advice and support,” read the caption in Facebook post by Steven Cotter of a picture of him and Elms, a Black elder from New Glasgow.

Two days later, on Saturday, it was revealed that Cotter had previously made at least four social media posts and comments that expressed hatred towards Muslims and immigrants to Canada.

Cotter apologized via a statement, saying, “In the past I have shared social media posts without thinking about how these posts might hurt or offend others.”

“I have deleted these posts and apologize unreservedly to those I have offended.”

Cotter took a break from campaigning on Saturday and spent time with Peter MacKay, the former MP in the Central Nova Riding, and his family at a local fire department. He posted photos of the visit the next day on social media.

Cotter will remain the Conservative Party candidate in the federal election.

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Matthew Byard, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Matthew Byard writes news, profiles, and stories of the Black Nova Scotia community. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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