Africville commemorative stamp released by Canada Post
'I'm thrilled,' says Bernice Arsenault, one of 7 girls pictured on the stamp
Canada Post has released a new stamp commemorating Africville, Halifax's oldest and largest black neighbourhood, in honour of Black History Month.
The stamp, issued Thursday, features a photo of seven girls superimposed against a painting of the former community.
Bernice Arsenault, one of the girls in the picture, said the photo was snapped 56 years ago outside a Bible study class. Now it will be seen across the country.
"I'm thrilled, I'm elated and that picture there is of me," said Arsenault.
"When I look at the stamp, the first thing I get out of the stamp is family, community and then the church. You see, it speaks volumes about who we are, where we were and where we came from."
Africville, the former black settlement in north-end Halifax, was first settled in the 1830s when former American slaves and other black people moved to the area. It was neglected by the former City of Halifax and became run down over the years.
By the 1960s, years of neglect and racism had made Africville one of the worst slums in the country. The residents were relocated as the idea of urban renewal took hold.
It meant the end of a vibrant community. As one former resident put it, they lost more than a roof over their heads — they lost their happiness.
Irvine Carvery, president of the Africville Geneology Society, said the community has come a long way.
"This stamp and the issuing of this stamp is just one more step down that long road of recovery," he said.
For years, former residents battled for an admission that the destruction of Africville was wrong. They finally received an apology from the city in 2010.
Today, Africville is a park and an historic site. The homes are gone, but there are many reminders of the old community.
"I'm not saying that all the scars have healed. But certainly that recognition, again, makes us relevant," said April Howe, chair of the Africville Heritage Trust.
"It's a very basic human need to matter and I think that stamp helps the residents of Africville understand that they matter."
Arsenault said the stamp takes lessons learned from the razing of Africville across the country.
"We're not gone, we're still alive. We're keeping the memory, like the spirit lives on," she said.