More than a hundred people attended an event in North Preston marking the official opening of the latest regional office for the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs (ANSA).
The regional office, which is located at the North Preston Community Centre where the event was held on Saturday, will serve the communities of North Preston, East Preston, Cherry Brook, and Lake Loon.
“These three offices, in addition to the ones that are in Sydney, Truro, Dartmouth, and Halifax, provide good coverage across the province,” said African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Pat Dunn at the event. “We’ve heard loud and clear that the rural African Nova Scotian communities have unique needs and concerns. So, that is why we’ve increased staffing and support.”
The regional office in North Preston is the third of three new regional offices for ANSA following the opening of an office last weekend in Digby that will support Digby, Annapolis, and Kings counties. Another regional office opened in New Glasgow two weeks ago that will support Pictou, Antigonish, and Guysborough counties.
“We’re giving ANSA a stronger regional presence, which was the intent when the office was first created by Premier John Hamm in 2005,” Dunn said.
The office will be ‘a voice of many’
Dunn gave credit to ANSA’s associate deputy minister Dwyane Provo, who Dunn said “was instrumental in bringing forward a plan to increase access for African Nova Scotian communities across this province.”
Provo, who is from North Preston and spoke at the event, said the centre will be good for the community.
“Part of the issue we’ve had, is that we are never in the know, in terms of what we need in our community as a Black community. Now you’re going to know,” Provo said. “Now, we’re gonna have some challenges but the challenges are going be whether or not we can do these things together externally … inside the community, but also internally because we’re within systems that aren’t really built, they were never built for us to be part of.”
“But with that said, we are making strides in the right direction and starting to sit at tables for which we can actually have a say and a voice. But I want it to be a voice not just of a few; I want it to be a voice of many.”
‘Everyone’s going to be taken care of’
The event was emceed by Rhonda Johnson, who will serve as the program administration officer at the Preston office.
“That office is not a store-front office that you walk in off the street 24-7,” Provo said. “That is a hub office because our program admin officers are going to be in all of those communities that we serve. So, Rhonda will be in East Preston, in North Preston, in Cherry Brook, in Lake Loon. And if she’s in the office that’s by scheduling as well.”
Provo said that after he was appointed associate deputy minister of ANSA he had three immediate goals. The first was to increase access for African Nova Scotian communities to become informed about government services available to them. He said these new offices will help with that work.
He said his second goal was “capacity building,” so within Black communities “everybody knows what’s going on” and what’s happening.
And his third goal was about “taking action” in order to address “pressing needs” within the Black community that “can’t wait.”
“If you have a question, whether it’s on education, or health care, or whatever it is, and you need to be connected to the department that has a responsibility to do it, that’s what we’re going do,” Provo said. “And then we also ask that you keep us in the loop on what’s happened so we can follow up internally on what’s happening with those things.”
“I just want make sure that everybody understands that everyone’s going to be taken care of. We got some plans for everybody,” said Provo.
The event also included prayers, African drumming, musical performances, and a libation ceremony.