Black youth from across Canada attracted to Africville community

The story of Africville, a vibrant community torn apart and leveled by the city of Halifax in the 1960s, is a story of loss and resilience, says Juanita Peters, executive director of the Africville Museum.

“Yes, the city of Halifax took the houses, took the church, took the land. But when you see Africvillians coming back to this land, you realize the real power is in their spirit, in the way they continue to connect with each other – and how they want to connect with you.”

“If you are in Nova Scotia,” she insists, “it would be wise to visit Africville because we have a story no one can tell.”

We invited her to visit Africville and we went there during the National Black Canadian Summit. We talked with the young people about why they wanted to see this land and what they learned.

Camille Georges

Camille Georges works at McGill University on the action plan to combat anti-black racism. She stands in front of the Africville Museum. (Alvero Wiggins)

“I heard about black Nova Scotians in a book a few years ago, so I always wanted to come visit them. It was great to meet people who lived here and see their joy. Even though it’s a painful story, they’re telling it from a place of love and peace. I think storytelling is one of the ways we resist, as black people, so it’s really amazing.

We have a similar story in Montreal. The first black community was in Little Burgundy and it was destroyed by urban renewal. I see a lot of similarities and it’s really interesting to learn.

We are united through this. Much of what happened here in Africville is happening to black communities all over the world. It’s our shared history, so we can’t just ignore it.”

Mural of world boxing champion George Dixon of Africville. (Alvero Wiggins)

Drayton Mulindabigwi Jabo

“It’s scary to think that an entire population can be displaced. It reminded me of indigenous people and how it happened here too.”

What was most surprising was that they actually had pictures of people in Africville. You know, seeing that images existed when this was happening is like wow, that’s crazy. It shows that there is still racism in Canada as much as people say there is not. We have come a long way compared to other countries, but there is still a long way to go. It’s a story people should know.”

Marcus Carvery

Marcus Carvery is a third generation descendant of Africville. A benevolent and competent guide, he stands in front of the Africville museum. (Alvero Wiggins)

“My grandfather was born and raised here. He’s not very forthcoming about what happened, but it’s very, very obvious that he still loves his community. It’s his home and it’s the will always be.

I am the only one of his grandchildren to be very interested in Africville and for me to work at the museum, it shows him that this story is still there, that it is being told. The community is still there and the spirit lives on.

There’s something about being on this land, being here by the water, it just makes you feel safe, it makes you feel calm. Just knowing that there is love here, always has been and always will be, is a unique experience.”

The city destroyed the church of Africville in the middle of the night. Today, the Africville Museum is housed in a replica of Seaview Church. (Alvero Wiggins)

Alisha’s Senate

“I had made plans on Africville as a kid in primary school. What stood out was the sense of family community before Africville was torn down and torn apart. is not just black people, it’s everyone, it’s a family community, and it was very welcoming. It’s something that I never really grew up with, or looked for in the different communities in which I grew up in Ottawa, so coming here and seeing it in person was absolutely out of this world.

Learn more:

Look: Walk in the museum of Africville

Read and listen: New Africville podcast focuses on the fight to reclaim land

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

Five raised fists with different skin colors for the Being Black in Canada logo.

About Michael C. Lovelace

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