New Africville book could fill void in
Halifax News Net
Thursday October 29, 2009
A book launched in Halifax last week aims to address a gaping hole in the curriculum of Nova Scotian schools, its writer said.
Christine Welldon, a retired teacher, wrote The Children of Africville after years of frustration. It’s a true story based on her interviews with adults who grew up in the community demolished by the City of Halifax in the 1960s.
“(Africville) was in the curriculum, but there was nothing to support it that I could find. It was something I decided I would do when I was retired,” Welldon said in an interview after the launch. “It took a year to do the research, another six months to write it and then another two years where it was sitting on the publisher’s shelf.”
Welldon, who was born in England and moved to Canada when she was 10, read from the book to an enthusiastic crowd at the Halifax North Library. Dozens of former Africvillians and dignitaries attended, including the three stars of the book: Irvine Carvery, Terry Dixon and Bernice Byers, all Halifax residents who grew up in Africville.
MLA Percy Paris, minister of African-Nova Scotian Affairs, introduced the “fantastic” new book. It recalls “the time when the land located on the shore of the Bedford Basin was a bustling community, not just a playground and a dog park,” he said to applause.
Welldon spoke to 15 or 16 grown children and formed a composite of the voices, focusing on Carvery, Dixon and Byers.
One former Africvillian asked her what the chances were for getting it on the school curriculum. Welldon answered hopefully, before another audience member spoke up.
“I think, as chair of the Halifax Regional School Board, there will be interest,” Irvine Carvery said to loud applause. Carvery is the African-Nova Scotian member of the HRSB and its chairman, as well as president of the Africville Geneology Society.
He later clarified that the curriculum is set by the Department of Education, not the school board. HRSB can, however, get it in the school libraries, which Carvery was optimistic would happen.
Dixon said he was “very proud” of the book and congratulated Nimbus for having the courage to explore the Africville story. Byers said she hoped readers would feel like they had lived in Africville, “just to have the same feeling of freedom and being there for each other.”
Wendie Poitras, curriculum consultant for the Department of Education’s African-Canadian Services, was on hand to check out the book.
“What we’d be interested in is having more resources available that were about African-Nova Scotians or had African-Canadian content. We’d definitely take a look at it,” she told The Weekly News.
Welldon’s first children’s book, Pon Git Cheng: The Canadian
Pacific Railway, dealt with the Chinese-Canadians who helped to build the railway through western Canada. Her next work is a secret, but she says it’s historical and about gender issues.
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See also the video of this book release on this site.