Honouring local leaders
Halifax News Net
Thursday February 18, 2010
Community leaders from North Preston and Halifax were among an elite list inducted into the Rev. Dr. W.P. Oliver Wall of Honour in a ceremony at the Black Cultural Centre Saturday night.
Wylie Cain, who spent his career helping the elderly and youth in his native North Preston and in Toronto, was honoured for his work with the North Preston Day Care Centre and the St. Thomas United Baptist Church.
Irvine Carvery was inducted for his leadership roles as president of the Africville Genealogy Society and as the first African-Nova Scotian to head the Halifax Regional School Board.
“Anytime that you can have your name associated with Dr. W.P. Oliver is an honour in itself,” Carvery told The Weekly News. “That gentleman was a visionary and a leader in the African-Nova Scotian community throughout his whole career.”
Carvery, who lives in north-end Halifax, said he was humbled to be recognized by his African-Nova Scotian peers. “I’m just overwhelmed. I was not expecting it,” he said. “Not many make the wall.”
He was quick to point out that the honour was not his, but Africville’s. “In accepting this tribute, I accept it on behalf of all of those people. Without their support, I wouldn’t be here tonight,” he said. “That’s where I’m from, until the day I die. I’ve got sons and daughters and grandchildren, and all of them are from Africville.”
With rumours once more afloat that an Africville resolution is at hand, possibly involving an apology from HRM and reparations, Carvery would only smile widely when asked if he thought it would finally happen after so many decades of broken promises.
“Every time that I’ve been interviewed, I’ve been labelled the optimist. But I can say at this time, that I am truly confident — not optimistic, confident — that before the end of African Heritage Month, there will be an announcement that we have reached an agreement,” he said.
Dr. Leslie Oliver, son of W.P. Oliver and president of the Black Cultural Society, said his father ministered to souls and to mundane lives.
“He would look at a person andhe would say, ‘I don’t care that you’re only doing such-and-such now. I know that as a human, you can learn so much more,” he said.
W.P. Oliver was born in Wolfville in 1912, graduated from Acadia University in 1934 and served as pastor at the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church. He died at his Lucasville home in 1989. Organizers described him as a wise, compassionate visionary who believed in the transformational power of education. He helped found the Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People in the 1940s, the Black United Front in the 1960s and the Black Cultural Society in the 1980s. That lead to the opening of the Black Cultural Centre.
Carvery’s leadership roles and commitment to education made him a natural for the wall, Oliver said. “The story of Africville was a dead story — there was nothing there,” he said of the black community bulldozed by Halifax in the 1960s. “Over the years, he has made it into something that is now in people’s consciousness.”
Pat Watson entertained the audience of about 100 people with some dazzling jazz and gospel numbers and Maia Bruce, a Grade 12 honours student at Prince Andrew High School, received a standing ovation for her cello rendition of Bach.
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