The Society

A project to remember, finally

Chronicle Herald
January 16, 2011

The Africville Heritage Trust unveiled plans Saturday for a remembrance project in Halifax it hopes will be an inviting tribute to community spirit and a future destination for black history enthusiasts.

Trust members said a museum housed in a replica of Seaview African United Baptist Church will pay homage to the memory of Africville, the close-knit community by the Bedford Basin that was demolished in the 1960s.

Twenty years after the provincial government of the day announced the project would go ahead, the $4.5-million development — $3 million from the city and $1.5 million from the province — is finally moving forward. Construction will start in a couple of months, attendees at an open house heard.

The one-storey museum, to be built near the original church site in what is now Seaview Park, should be open this summer.

"This project is going to be happening," said Daurene Lewis, chairwoman of the trust’s board of directors.

The museum is Phase 1 of a planned development in the park. An interpretive centre is the second phase.

In an interview, Lewis said plans for the centre are in the works but she couldn’t say when that project would proceed. She said fundraising will have to take place to support it.

"In the fall, we’ll really start working on the plans for the interpretive centre," she said. "We have had some discussions on it but we haven’t concentrated on it. Our concentration has been on construction of the church and the church-museum."

Lewis said exhibits placed inside the church-museum will provide visitors with a view of the history and culture of the area. She said school groups are going to be part of the user group attracted to the site.

The volunteer heritage trust was formed last year shortly after a multimillion-dollar redress package for Africville was announced in February. The majority of the trust’s members are descendants from the defunct north-end neighbourhood or lived there.

Part of the compensation agreement is to change the park’s name back to Africville. That’s happening, too. A city hall staffer said the changeover should take place soon.

Municipal employees are working on proper signs and staff are working with trust members on how to graphically represent the name, in terms of the font, on the new signs.

Lewis said Halifax Regional Municipality is looking after servicing the lot, which is slightly more than one hectare of land.

The city transferred the deed for the property to the trust on Friday. Lewis said Mayor Peter Kelly presented the framed document to board members during a brief meeting in his office.

Phil Townsend, a senior staffer with the municipality, is a non-voting member of the trust’s board. He told The Chronicle Herald once the interpretive centre is built, Africville could become a tourist destination popular with people of African descent and others interested in black history.

Part of the Africville settlement package included a formal apology, which the mayor publicly delivered almost a year ago during African Heritage Month. Individual compensation isn’t part of the deal.


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