Seven months after holding its largest Africa Festival of Arts and Culture on the Halifax waterfront, the Africa Festival of Arts and Culture Society is hosting a series of Black History Month activities.

The activities include a panel discussion on inclusion and diversity in the workplace, a series of elementary school presentations throughout Truro, Dartmouth, and Halifax, and an annual dinner and dance gala at Mount Saint Vincent University. The events run from Feb. 7 to 11.

The panel discussion is titled, “Experiencing Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace: Challenges and Solutions.”

“The first time we had [the panel discussion] was last year and it was virtual because of the pandemic. But this time it’s going to be in person,” said George Mbamalu, founder and chair of the Africa Festival of Arts and Culture Society in an interview with the Halifax Examiner.

“We have a serious problem of inclusion and diversity in the workplace because the work is not fully inclusive, so that’s why we’re targeting the workplace. So, every year we will try to discuss the same topic but with different people and backgrounds.”

The panel will be moderated by Dr. Theresa Rajack-Talley, the inaugural vice-provost for equity and inclusiveness at Dalhousie University.

Rajack-Talley will be joined by four panelists, including: Barb Hamilton-Hinch, assistant vice-provost of equity and inclusion and an associate professor in the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie; Pemberton Cyrus, head of the department of industrial engineering and president of Imhotep’s Legacy Academy at Dalhousie University; April Howe, deputy minister of the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and former senior advisor to the deputy minister of the Department of Justice; and Tiwa Ogundipe, a lawyer from Nigeria, who is currently a senior policy analyst with Department of Justice.

The panel takes place on Tuesday from 6pm to 8pm in room 303 at the Dalhousie Student Union Building at 6136 University Ave.

School performances

At 9am on Tuesday, Amadou Kienou and the Djeli Sira Band will kick off a series of elementary school presentations and musical performances at the Chignecto-Central Regional Centre for Education in Truro.

Based out of Toronto, Kienou is a master drummer from Burkina Faso. The members of the Djeli Sira Band are from Burkina Faso and Guinea and perform with djembe drums and various other African instruments.

“They’ll be doing some introductions and talking about Black History Month and then they will do performances for them,” said Mbamalu.

On Wednesday, the group will perform at Shannon Park Elementary School in Dartmouth and at LeMarchant St. Thomas School in Halifax.

On Thursday, they perform at Ecole Saint Catherine School in Halifax then at Portland Estates Elementary School in Dartmouth.

Then on Friday, they perform at Fairview Heights Elementary School in Halifax.

Gala dinner and dance

Amadou Kienou and the Djeli Sira Band will also perform along with other artists Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Africa Festival of Arts and Culture Society’s Black History Month dinner and dance in the Rosaria Hall at Mount Saint Vincent University. Doors open at 6pm and the event is scheduled from 6:30 to midnight.

“We start with welcoming people and talking about Black History Month and accomplishments of Black people in Nova Scotia and Canada,” said Mbamalu.

Mbamalu said the performance by Kienou and the Djeli Sira Band will include African drumming, dancing, and song prior to the full course dinner.

Performances later in the evening will include Advocates of Truth, a group of young African musicians; Eritrean dance from members of the Eritrean community, a performance by Rush Culture, a Bahamian group, and a spoken word performance by Dr. El Jones. 

A live DJ will then host a dance for the remainder of the evening.

Mbamalu said that of the 300 tickets for the dinner and dance over half are already sold. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online through Eventbrite or by phone by calling either 902-210-0447 or 902-292-2973.

A graphic that says Funded by Canada

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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