Children to write a 'book in a day' about reparations for slavery

As many as 40 children will come together late next month to write an ABC book exploring reparations for the enslavement of African people between the 16th and 19th centuries — and they'll do it all in one day.

'It will also be a piece of history that young people will be able to gain some understanding,' publisher says

As many as 40 children will come together late next month to write an ABC book exploring the idea of reparations for the black community. (CBC)

As many as 40 children will come together late next month to write an ABC book exploring reparations for the enslavement of African people between the 16th and 19th centuries — and they'll do it all in one day.

The event marking African Heritage Month — open to all children aged seven to 12 — will be held at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library on Gottingen Street on Saturday, Feb. 24. Registration is required.

The Nova Scotia chapter of the Global Afrikan Congress is hosting the event. 

The congress is part of a coalition of African-Nova Scotian groups that is urging the province and federal government to make reparations for historic injustices against black people.

Nova Scotia activist Lynn Jones chairs the Nova Scotia chapter of the Global Afrikan Congress. (Kyah Sparks/CBC)

"We're so excited about this event," congress chair Lynn Jones said in an interview. 

"The Global Afrikan Congress saw a need within the community because we found that [children] were beginning to be engaged about what reparations is in Nova Scotia," she said, pointing to recent discussions around land title issues.

"But we found that some children generally weren't being engaged to understand what it meant from their perspective."

Children's books on reparations rare

The congress wanted the children to have a lasting record about reparations so it came up with the idea for a children's book.

Community elders and local artists will be on hand to help the children create the book, complete with illustrations. The children will learn about reparations through poetry, dance and song.

Jones said she has searched extensively — even as far as the Caribbean — to see if there are any other children's books on reparations. She hasn't found any.

"So we may be the first to do this children's book on reparations," she said.

Children are invited to help write a book in a day about reparations for the enslavement of African people on Feb. 24 at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library. (Global Afrikan Congress)

Important to understand history

Fernwood Publishing plans to release the book in about a year.

Writing a book in a day is fairly unique idea and will be a great project for children who participate, said Fernwood publisher Errol Sharpe.

"It seemed to us to be a book that would be a very important contribution to the question of racism and discrimination, and these kids then can reflect on [that]," Sharpe said.

"It will also be a piece of history that young people will be able to gain some understanding of their history, their background and some of the problems and issues that have existed for them."

Last September, a UN working group recommended that both the Nova Scotia and federal government issue an apology and consider providing reparations to African-Canadians for enslavement and historical injustices.

Slavery was common in Nova Scotia in the 18th century and it remained legal in most of Canada until it was abolished in the British Empire in 1834. In 1750, about 400 of the 3,000 people living in Halifax were slaves. 

The upcoming children's event is one of hundreds of activities happening across the province for African Heritage Month.

About the Author

Sherri Borden Colley

Reporter

Sherri Borden Colley has been a reporter for more than 20 years. Many of the stories she writes are about social justice, race and culture, human rights and the courts.