Africville Road takes its historic place
Renamed street honours uprooted black community
By MICHAEL LIGHTSTONE Staff Reporter
Sat. Aug 1, 2009
An Aricville ceremony Friday in north-end Halifax helped take the edge off decades of hurt and years of trying to right a past wrong.
Well, for almost everyone in attendance, at least.
Though a potential compensation package and an official apology from city hall have yet to be offered to the defunct neighbourhood’s survivors and descendants, the road that goes through the heritage site, now Seaview Park, had its name officially changed to reflect the history of the area.
Those at the event heard Africville Road (formerly Service Road) will remind park users, and motorists and cyclists, that part of Nova Scotia’s black history is firmly rooted in this district by the MacKay bridge, even though its homes were demolished in the 1960s in the name of urban renewal.
The renamed street is not the only local marker that honours Africville, which was built on the shores of Bedford Basin. A sundial monument in the park pays tribute to the community’s founding families, who settled there in the 1800s.
Africville Road street signs have already been put in place. They were erected during the last week or so.
Friday’s mostly-reverential ceremony took place in the midst of the Africville reunion, which sees folks who used to live in the community, and their children and grandchildren, return to the spot that was once home for black families forced from their houses and moved to such places as Uniacke Square in Halifax.
Reunion participants travelled to Halifax from other parts of Nova Scotia, Ontario, the United States, and elsewhere.
A portable street sign was unveiled under a large party tent that provided shade from the summer sun. The venue was a stone’s throw from families who’ve set up camp for the annual get-together. Those taking part in the unveiling ceremony included former Africville residents, Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly and other local politicians.
Municipal staff and a representative from the Halifax regional school board were there, too.
Attendees heard the Africville Road street naming was a long time coming. Irvine Carvery, president of the Africville Genealogy Society, told The Chronicle Herald his group would also like to see the park renamed.
"That’s our next step," he said after the street naming. "We want to see this park called Africville — period. No ‘park,’ no nothing. Africville."
Mr. Carvery said no formal proposal on a name change for the park has been delivered to Halifax city hall, adding that he thinks the idea will fly once it’s presented.
During Mr. Kelly’s remarks, Mr. Carvery’s brother, Victor, interrupted to protest what he said has been foot-dragging on the part of municipal government to compensate former Africville residents and their families.
Victor Carvery was escorted out of the tent.
Later, another brother, Eddie, who’s been protesting by living in a small trailer in the park, appealed directly to Halifax regional councillors in the crowd to correct a situation he says is unjust and has been going on too long. He said he wants to see a public inquiry and hear an apology from city hall.
"Until you make it right," Eddie Carvery told the councillors, "it’s going to be wrong."
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