Black Lady with red hair poses with camera crew and Halifax skyline blurred out in the background.
Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch, is an associate professor in recreation and leisure studies, and assistant vice‑provost, equity and inclusion, at Dalhousie University. Photo: Matthew Byard

A combination of gentrification and assimilation into white society continues to have deteriorating effects on the province’s Black communities, according to Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch, an associate professor with Dalhousie University.

Hamilton-Hinch, who’s done research on racism and diversity, shared those thoughts and others in a new web series called Our Stories Our Experiences with Rajean Willis. The four-part web series was recently released on YouTube by the Halifax Public Libraries as part of a collaboration with TD Bank for African Heritage Month.

Hamilton-Hinch appeared in the episode titled ‘Exploring the Complexities of Grief and Loss.’ She’s done work in the Black community hosting groups to help people process grief and loss following a number of gun murders in Halifax in recent years. She said grief and loss aren’t always limited to just the loss of life, and that grief in the Black community often goes unrecognized.

“We don’t think about loss with land, we don’t think about loss with education and culture, we don’t think about the impact of … post- traumatic slave syndrome, and how we’ve been impacted by that,” she said.

Rajean Willis and Barb Hamilton-Hinch discuss grief and loss in the Black community. Photo: Matthew Byard.
Rajean Willis, left, and Dr. Barb Hamilton-Hinch discuss grief and loss in the Black community. Photo: Matthew Byard.

Hamilton-Hinch is from the Black community of Beechville and her husband is from Africville. She talked about the impact of seeing the ongoing physical changes in Black communities such as gentrification in Halifax’s north end and land development in Beechville by people from outside the community.

“Even when we think about land, and I think some of us don’t know the value of the land we have, that we’re so quick to say ‘You know what, I just want to move,’” she said.

“And because the developers know the value of our land, they come in and they buy it. And so we’re seeing our communities getting smaller and smaller.”

She said that while she moved out of Beechville for different reasons, she always made a point to visit her community with her children to help them stay connected. But she added they still don’t have a sense of what it’s like to grow up in an original Black community.

Hamilton-Hinch talked about how certain cultural traditions such as church and Sunday dinner play a role in Nova Scotian Black culture and how a loss of those traditions can also impact the fabric of the Black community and the Black experience.

“How many of our young families still go to church on Sundays?” she said. “And we, traditionally, would then go to our grandparents’ home. And at the table, that’s where you learned the stories, that’s where the oral histories passed down. That’s where you have debates about politics and what was going on in the world — around food, around community gathering.”

Black lady in dark dress with red hair is seated and talks with a black lady, who is also seated, in a pink shirt with her back to the camera
Barb Hamilton-Hinch, right, is a guest on Our Stories Our Experiences with Rajean Willis. Photo: Matthew Byard

Hamilton-Hinch said she recognizes at least some value in assimilating into the broader society, describing it as a desire and a need to wanting to achieve more than past generations. She added that shouldn’t happen “at the expense of forgetting about where we came from.”

“And so that loss is really real when you think about community strength, when you think about resilience, and that’s how so many of us have been able to achieve what we’ve been able to achieve,” she said.

“I always tell folks I’ve not done this in isolation. I stand on the shoulders of my community. I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors. And I think, to a degree, that has been lost.”

A graphic that says Funded by the Government of Canada.

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A smiling Black man with a shaved head and wire rimmed glasses wears a headphone in a recording studio

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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