The Society

Africville community reunites

Halifax News Net - Jon Tattrie
Aug 6, 2009

The Africville community gathered in north-end Halifax fields on the weekend to catch up and celebrate the neighbourhood that was bulldozed by the city in the 1960s. Near the start of the five-day festival, the road into what is now called Seaview Park was changed from Service Road to Africville Road.

Irvine Carvery of the Africville Genealogical Society said the event holds national significance. “The name Africville speaks to the former residents and their descendants about home, a place where their ancestors celebrated life in a close-knit community that remains an indelible part of the city’s history,” he said. “The renaming of the road that once led to Africville will allow generations to come to feel a tangible connection to their roots and a sense of belonging.”

Others saw the move as a small, long-overdue step that wasn’t much to cheer about.

Eddie Carvery, Irvine’s brother and long-term protester at the site, said he doesn’t believe the city’s talk about building a church and interpretation centre on the “stolen community.”

“Forty years ago, they were saying the same thing: ‘Oh, next year we’re going to do this, and next year we’re going to do that.’ Just be quiet and don’t say nothing,” he told The Weekly News Saturday morning. “We had our own church, which they tore down at 2:30 in the morning … what they done to us was barbaric. It’s an endless story of betrayal.”

Living in a camp on the Africville site, he’s well aware of the money that has since been made from the land. “They got their container pier — that’s a billion-dollar industry, and it’s ours. They’ve got houses from Lady Hammond Road right across to Barrington Street … but not one black person from Africville lives in any of them.

“Everybody admits that Halifax was wrong and racist in the 1960s and I suggest to you that it’s still just as bad as it was in the ’60s, because they have not addressed us as a community. We have not received an apology — we demand a public inquiry.”

Donald Brown, a Halifax businessman, was the last baby born in Africville. He was about three when the city razed his home. “I remember bits and pieces,” of Africville he says, speaking about baptisms in the harbour and a sense that every house was his house. Renaming the road is a “tear drop” toward making things right, he said.

“What I would like to see is our community back, from small to growing big again. I have six kids of my own, and they don’t know their cousins like I did,” Brown said. His wife and children joined friends and family from across Canada, the U.S. and Jamaica for the weekend of games, music and remembrance.

“It’s just like me going into your house with some strong-arm men and saying ‘You have to move,’” he says of the relocation. “One kid’s going over here, another kid is going here. How would you feel as a father, knowing you would be split up from your root?”

Destroying the physical community destroyed the human community, causing a deep wound that is not healed today, Brown said, adding words aren’t enough to make it right. “You have to do, s­how.”

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