The Society

Commemorating end of slavery

Black Freedom 175 Concert adds special flair to Natal Day weekend
Halifax Herald
Fri. Jul 31, 2009

Halifax Herald Photo - setting up the tent.People all over Halifax will be celebrating Natal Day this weekend, but Saturday marks a particularly special event for some Nova Scotians.

That’s the 175th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. To celebrate, the Black Freedom 175 Concert is being held at Queen’s Landing in downtown Halifax.

"We started four years ago with a concert called the Freedom Festival, and each year what we’ve been doing is commemorating different dates," said Lou Gannon, president of the African Nova Scotian Music Association.

During previous holiday weekend celebrations, Mr. Gannon’s organization put on gospel concerts on Sunday afternoons and an urban concert on Friday evening.

This year’s urban concert falls on the Saturday to commemorate Aug. 1, 1834.

The Saturday night lineup features rap, blues and jazz by many local artists. Canadian Idol contestant Gary Beals, who released a new CD about three weeks ago, will be performing, as will Beechville rapper Hellafactzand Harvey Millar and B Sharp, who Mr. Gannon claims is one of the best jazz groups around.

For the past 11 years, the association has worked to promote African Nova Scotians who want to break into the music industry. Mr. Gannon said the partnership with the Natal Day celebrations is special for his organization.

"There’s other venues that we also use . . . but this one here, these two nights are ours," he said. "It gives us the chance to showcase a lot of young artists that people don’t get to see."

The new artists get the chance to play in front of a crowd of about 1,000 people.

"It gives them more incentive to work on their craft," said Mr. Gannon.

Natal Day organizers are also looking forward to Saturday night.

"It’s going to be a heck of a night of entertainment and, I think, brings a lot to the community," said Doug MacDonald, who’s in charge of partnerships for the Natal Day celebrations.

To commemorate the special anniversary, Natal Day organizers have also partnered with the Amistad Freedom Society of Nova Scotia.

The tall ship Amistad will be visiting the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic wharf. The schooner is a replica of the 1839 slave trade ship that became famous for an African slave rebellion. The slaves were put on trial once they reached the United States, and were found innocent.

"We celebrate a lot of different cultural groups throughout Natal Day," said Andrew Cox, Halifax Regional Municipality’s civic events co-ordinator. "The importance for Natal Day is that it’s everyone’s celebration in our community,"

At Seaview Park, events over the Natal Day weekend in honour of Africville include a dance, renaming of the road to Africville, children’s events, a Sunday memorial church service and a family picnic on Monday.

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