The Society

Africville trust gets financial boost

Halifax Herald - DAN ARSENAULT Staff Reporter
Mon. Feb 22, 2010

A plan to create a memorial project on the grounds of the former black community of Africville got a financial shot in the arm Sunday.

Ottawa gave organizers $250,000 to create the Africville Heritage Trust, which is poised to plan, build and run a church, museum and interpretive centre in Seaview Memorial Park in Halifax.

"It’s a beginning of a larger reconciliation and recognition of the significance of Africville, of a historic wrong that can never be truly, perhaps, compensated or righted," Defence Minister Peter MacKay said after making the announcement on behalf of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

Descendants of black refugees from the War of 1812 founded Africville. The community was controversially torn down in the late 1960s to make way for the building of the A. Murray MacKay Bridge. The last house was removed in 1970.

The Africville Genealogy Society and Black Business Initiative will work with other groups to create the trust, which will hire architects to plan the buildings. The trust will oversee day-to-day operations.

Society president Irvine Carvery said his group voted Saturday to accept an offer from Halifax Regional Municipality to compensate the former community.

He didn’t provide details of the offer, which municipal council must accept at a meeting Tuesday.

Carvery, a resident of Africville until its destruction, said the plan to settle the decades-old dispute excites him as much as the birth of his first child years ago.

"I believe that we’re at a point now where we can bring closure to the question of Africville. People have been festering their feelings for a long time. People can begin to heal."

If approved, he said a replica of Seaview Baptist Church would go up, as well as a museum and interpretive centre.

"It’s going to be one heck of a party," Carvery said. "We are going to celebrate this."

He said 150 people attended Saturday’s genealogy society meeting and 80 per cent of them voted in favour of the proposed plan, which reportedly includes municipal land and $3 million.

Those who voted against the plan want individual compensation from the municipality, Carvery said. The municipality made it clear they wouldn’t offer that, he said.

Carvery’s brother, Eddie, who has been living in a tent on former Africville land for years to protest the situation, said he is upset there will be no apology, individual compensation or public inquiry.

Eddie Carvery contradicted his brother and said Saturday’s vote didn’t show much support for the proposed plan.

"We all voted for individual compensation, and they said the city said no, and so they weren’t pursuing it."

He and some others at the announcement said the society did not represent their opinions and he intends to continue his protest.

MacKay said the project will go forward and more money will be coming from Ottawa when the time is right.

"This centre will tell the full story of Africville," he said.

It will focus on three themes — life in Africville, the uprooting of the community and its surviving legacy, he said.

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The Africville Genealogy Society gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Department of Canadian Heritage for this project.
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