1. Music Nova Scotia announces 2021 award nominees

Keonté Beals got eight Music Nova Scotia award nominations and is the top nominated artist for these awards in 2021. Photo: keontebeals.com

Music Nova Scotia announced the nominees for its 2021 award categories this past week and North Preston’s Keonté Beals leads the way as this year’s top-nominated artist with a total of eight nominations:

• African Nova Scotian Artist of the Year
• Inspirational Recording of the Year
• Music Video of the Year
• R&B/Soul Recording of the Year
• Recording of the Year
• Solo Recording of the Year
• Songwriter of the Year
• Entertainer of the Year

Other nominees for African Nova Scotian Artist of the Year include: Kye Clayton, Owen O’Sound Lee, YFILLA, and YoungMillieRock. Clayton is also nominated for Hip Hop Recording of the Year and New Artist Recording of the Year.

Aquakulture and Neon Dreams are tied with three other acts for the second most number of nominations with five a piece.

Other artists and groups with members of African descent include:

DJ Tranzishen: DJ of the Year
LXVNDR: Hip Hop Recording of the Year
Measha Brueggergosman: Entertainer of the Year and Jazz Recording of the Year

In the Music Video of the Year category, video director Keke Beatz is nominated as co-director with Keonté Beals for Beals’ song KING.

Industry Award Nominees of African descent include:

Music Nova Scotia 2021 award nominees: DJ Tranzishen, LXVNDR, Measha Brueggergosman, and Kye Clayton.

Dena Williams: Industry Professional of the Year
Tamar Brown: Manager of the Year
Kyah Sparks: Media Professional of the Year
• Keke Beatz: Producer of the Year

In the category for Indigenous Artist of the Year, the nominees are: DeeDee Auston, K.U.$.H, Michael Diabo, Morgan Toney, and SHiFT from THA 902.

Voting for the category of Entertainer of the Year is open to the general public until Friday, September 24 at 11:59 pm at the following link. Click here to vote.

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2. RCMP say they’re not issuing an apology to the Black community

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.

The Canadian Press reported last week that “The RCMP says there will be no formal apology to Halifax’s Black communities for its heavy use of street checks, despite the Halifax Regional Police having done so almost two years ago.”

A 2017 CBC investigation discovered that Black people in Halifax were more likely to be “street checked” — randomly stopped or observed and having their data recorded by police — than white people.

This lead to an independent report — “The Wortley Report” — that showed that despite making up less than 4% of Halifax’s population, Black people made up for 11% of street checks.

Street checks are now banned in Nova Scotia.

Following the Halifax Regional Police apology nearly two years ago, the RCMP said they would wait on a national study by the RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission before deciding whether or not to apologize. After several delays, the study was published this summer.

Last summer, during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alberta RCMP deputy commissioner Curtis Zablocki claimed, “I don’t believe that racism is systemic through Canadian policing.” He then walked those comments back.

In response to Zablocki’s comments, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said she struggled with the definition of systemic racism. She later walked those comments back, saying, “Yes, there’s absolutely systemic racism … I can give you a couple of examples that we’ve found over the years.”

Halifax Examiner colleague Stephen Kimber noted in his column on Sunday that “RCMP spokesman Cpl. Chris Marshall — notably not RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki — delivered the no-apology news in an email to Canadian Press.”

Halifax city councillor Shawn Cleary went on NEWS 95.7 and said he thinks the city should do away with its contract with the RCMP.

Earlier this year, Halifax regional council voted unanimously in favour of a review to see if they should do away with a dual contract with the city police and RCMP — a rollover arrangement of sorts following amalgamation 25 years ago.

I reached out to a number of people, including nine Halifax Regional Municipality councilors, after that news was reported.

The districts for the nine councillors — two of whom are Black — that I contacted are either serviced by the RCMP, are home to a large number of Black residents, or both.

I heard back from councillors Lisa Blackburn, Sam Austin, and Pam Lovelace.

This past summer, current Liberal MLA for Preston Angela Simmonds and her husband, Halifax Regional Police Sgt. Dean Simmonds, who are both Black, alleged racial profiling by the Cole Harbour RCMP after being pulled over at gunpoint following reports of a shooting in North Preston where they live and were coming from at the time of the incident. An official complaint into that matter remains under review.

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3. Flag controversy

Despite three years of meetings with the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs and consultations with Black-led community groups, many Black African Nova Scotians had never heard of what CBC described as the “New official African Nova Scotian flag” when it was unveiled this past African Heritage Month at the Black Cultural Centre.

Wanda Thomas (not to be confused with Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard) says that she didn’t learn of it until months later when her grandson brought a paper copy of the flag home as part of a school activity through the African Nova Scotian student support worker program.

Last week, I reported on how Thomas wrote to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs and asked if their departments were officially endorsing the flag, and about the nature of the consultations with the Black community.

After an initial response from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs wrote Thomas, saying, in part, “The Government of Nova Scotia has not formally recognized the flag being promoted by the Afrocentric Learning Institute (ALI) as the flag for African Nova Scotians.”

“We have encouraged ALI to further engage with the various African Nova Scotian communities should they want their flag to be adopted more broadly.”

Thomas created an online petition calling for people as well as government offices, educational institutions, other organizations to “halt to the adoption of the flag,” among other claims and resolutions.

Chad Lucas is the only Black full time crew worker on the MacDonald Bridge that connects Halifax and Dartmouth. Photo: Wendie L. Wilson

Last week I spoke with ALI board members involved in unveiling and promoting the flag, Harvi Millar and Delvina Bernard, as well as the flag’s creator Wendie L. Wilson, who says she was encouraged by then African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince to take the flag to ALI and other community groups for support.

“I’m one person, I did what I thought was reasonable,” Wilson said after detailing her process at length.

“The question is do you give people the narrative ahead of the launch, or do you launch and give people the narrative at the same time? Which is what we did,” Millar said.

In a Halifax City Council meeting this past summer, Halifax’s managing director of the office of diversity and inclusion Tracey Jones-Grant acknowledged “There’s no ‘one voice’ that speaks for the community,” in response to on-the-record questions about her department’s plans to engage Black community groups and “stakeholders” about anti-Black-racism initiatives.

Despite consulting and engaging with the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs, the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, the Black Educators Association, the Delmore Buddy Day Learning Institute, and the Africentric Learning Institute, as was evident by comments made in widely followed social media group of one of those very organizations, a reasonable question can be posed as to whether or not — beyond the core membership of many of these top Black community organizations — an adequate system exists to properly reach, engage, and gauge any type of overall census, or lack thereof, of Nova Scotia’s Black residents.

Where a strong argument can be made that an adequate system is not in place, it will be interesting to note what stakeholders and organizations will be called on by Pat Dunn, the newly appointed Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs and Minister of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives, and Justin Huston, newly appointed Deputy Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, when seeking to hear and listen to advisement on African Nova Scotian issues and affairs.

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4. Pat Dunn

Speaking of Pat Dunn, last week marked his second official week on the job as new Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs and Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives.

“My intention is to reach out to as many community organizations and key stakeholders to, I guess, to learn, to understand,” Dunn told reporters last week in his first public comments since his appointment on August 31.

I reached out to Minister Dunn two weeks ago following his appointment, but Dunn was unavailable due to a family medical issue.

I reached out to Dunn twice last week — first, in response to the RCMP saying they won’t be issuing an apology to the Black community for street checks; and again for comment on the petition and Black community reaction to the African Nova Scotian flag in his role as Minister and former official opposition critic to the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs.

Though I made contact with a representative from the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs, I have yet to be able to make direct contact with Minister Dunn.

As one of the only (if not the only) full-time contracted Black journalists in the province of Nova Scotia, and as the only Black journalist in recent memory (perhaps ever) to conduct an on-the-record interview with a sitting Nova Scotia premier on issues pertaining to African Nova Scotian affairs, I would think it only fitting and appropriate — if at some point — to make direct contact with Minister Dunn.

Following Dunn’s appointment two weeks ago, Colter Simmonds — who ran for the NDP in Preston this past election —  hosted a virtual meeting two weeks ago with members of Nova Scotia’s Black community to discuss the appointment. Much disappointment was expressed in that meeting.

Last week, the Association for Black Social Workers, the Health Association of African Canadians, and the African United Baptist Association co-hosted a follow-up meeting that had more than five times the turnout of the first meeting. Many notable members of the Black/African Nova Scotian community were in attendance, including members and/or former members of all three of the major political parties.

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5. Black Ice

Though I recall hearing about it on social media this past summer, this week CBC officially reported that filming will start in the Maritimes this fall on a new documentary about the Coloured Hockey League. The documentary, Black Ice, is based on a book of the same name. Its executive producers are NBA superstar LeBron James and Toronto rapper Drake.

The film’s Oscar-nominated director Hubert Davis spoke with Portia Clark on CBC Radio’s Information Morning last week, and said:

I think I was drawn to the story because I had never heard it. I never heard of the Coloured Hockey League or the contribution or really that the time that the league was happening in.

I think I was surprised and I thought, ‘Oh, if you know, if I don’t know this, I think that there’s a lot of people out there who have no idea that this even existed.’

It’s always the challenge, you know, ‘How do we go back into history but make that history feel contemporary?’ I think in telling the story of this league, what we’re trying to do is in the rest of the documentary, find these parallels in the game today.

The Truro Sheiks, one of the Colored Hockey League’s teams, in 1931. St. Clair Byard is in the middle row, far left.

In January of 2020, an official Canadian stamp commemorating the former Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes was unveiled at a ceremony at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherrybrook. My grandfather, St. Clair Byard, played in the Coloured Hockey League as a member of the Truro Sheiks. His son, my father Paul Byard, was in attendance the day of the unveiling ceremony. Days later, my father and I spoke on a live call-in radio show through my Radio Television Journalism program at NSCC. He said, in part:

Those men that played in the league, they were young men, and they worked hard and they did this in their spare time and it was a great tribute to them. I mean they would be just dumbfounded if they were here today and knew that something like that was happening.

They didn’t talk a whole lot about it because, you know, in actual fact, they didn’t see the significance of the league because back when they were young, most things that they did were done separate from white society in any sports or anything.

They really didn’t register the significance of it. But they used to talk about some of, you know, going on the trips. You know, I mean … it was an adventure back then just to travel to Halifax. They talked about stuff like that and, you know, the games themselves.

(St. Clair Byard) the position that he played, doesn’t even exist today. He was called … what they called a Rover. … The Rover was exactly what it says it was, they roved the ice and they didn’t have a particular position, they played everywhere.

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6. What’s in a name?

Portia Clark, Portia White, Viola Desmond, and Viola Davis

Speaking of CBC’s Portia Clark, after mentioning her twice in last week’s Black News File, Examiner editor Suzanne Rent pointed out to me that I had erroneously referred to her as Portia White in one of those instances. Portia White, of course, is the celebrated late Black/African Nova Scotian opera singer who reached international fame in her lifetime. Thankfully, Rent corrected my error prior to publishing. (Editor’s note: Suzanne Rent here! I’ve made this same error and corrected it after a reader pointed it out).

I remembered Clark gracefully laughing off the same mistake being made on an occasion where a speaker was introducing her as panel moderator in front of about 200 people at a community meeting at the Halifax North Branch Library two years ago. I thought to myself that this must be a common thing, so I went on a private social media page and asked: “Show of hands: who all, AT SOME POINT, has referred to Portia Clark as Portia White, and/or Viola Desmond as Viola Davis?” — as I had once, years ago, pointed out to an Examiner writer that they had mistakenly referred to Nova Scotia’s late Viola Desmond as American actor Viola Davis. And then there were some interesting comments from David Woods and Portia Clark herself. See below:

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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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