Nova Scotia

New podcast on Africville focuses on fight to reclaim land

The series takes listeners through the history of the community and some of the figures who have been fighting for its recognition over the last several decades.

Co-hosts Alfred Burgesson and Eddy Carvery III are the minds behind the series Africville Forever

Alfred Burgesson and Edward Carvery III are seen at a table with mics in a recording studio.
Co-hosts Alfred Burgesson and Edward Carvery III, seen in the Podstarter studio, are the minds behind the Africville Forever podcast. (Robert Short/CBC)

A new podcast about one of Halifax's former Black communities is looking to bring a different focus to the story by featuring advocates who are fighting to have the land returned to its descendants.

Co-hosts Alfred Burgesson and Eddy Carvery III are the minds behind the five-part series, titled Africville Forever.

The series takes listeners through the history of Africville and some of the figures who have been fighting for its recognition over the last several decades.

"We felt as the new generation, we had to find a way to transition this story into something relevant, something for the [listeners] of today to be able to grasp and get a hold of and maybe learn something from," said Carvery.

Located on the northernmost tip of the Halifax peninsula, Africville was a predominantly Black community of about 400 residents. It was officially settled by William Brown and William Arnold when they purchased the land in the 1840s, according to data from the city, though some families have said they can trace their lineage back to the area to the 1700s.

Homes and other buildings in Africville
Africville was known as a thriving community with a school, a church and stores, though homes in the area lacked sewage systems and access to clean water. (Mount Saint Vincent University)

Africville was known as a thriving community, with a school, a church and local stores, though homes in the area lacked sewage systems and access to clean water. It was in the late 1940s when it was designated "industrial land," leading to the development of an infectious disease hospital and a prison in the community. The city dump was also relocated near Africville in the 1950s.

In the early 1960s, Halifax city council set out to remove housing and other structures in the area for so-called "urban renewal." And from the mid-'60s to the end of the decade, the city purchased the land, moved Africville residents to locations across Halifax and bulldozed existing structures. 

In its place today, is a large park and a museum in a replica church.

Most of the podcast series was recorded in a studio, though the co-hosts did take time to go down to Africville to record some audio there. Carvery said he thinks it helps give the audience a richer sense of the place's history.

Over the course of the series, the two speak to local activists, including Carvery's grandfather, Eddie Carvery, a longtime civil rights activist who protests from a trailer on the Africville land to this day.

The podcast's artwork was created by another resident with connections to the community. Halifax-based artist Vanessa Thomas, whose grandmother lived in Africville, said she wanted to show the struggle of the community in the past and hope for the future through her art.

Africville's church is the focal point of the piece.

Vanessa Thomas is seen holding an tablet with the Africville artwork displayed in her art studio.
Halifax-based artist Vanessa Thomas said she wanted to take listeners on the journey of Africville with the artwork she created for the podcast. (Robert Short/CBC)

"I feel like most Black communities in Nova Scotia, the church is the centre of the communities where people go to experience joy and grief," she said.

"Around it [are] ... abstract illustrations of two different sides of the story; one is representing the fight for justice and the sadness of the whole thing, and the other side is the strength of the community."

Thomas added she was honoured to be a part of the project, considering her personal connections to the community, and that the podcast was a great opportunity to spread the story of Africville beyond Nova Scotia and even Canada.

Burgesson echoed the sentiment and said he and Carvery wanted to bring a sense of urgency to the fight for the community.

"People often tend to talk about Africville as something in the past, and we wanted to have this podcast to talk about it in the past, but also in the present and the future," Burgesson said.

"We realized going into this that yes, we're creating Season 1 essentially. A five-part series is definitely not long enough to get the full breadth of what occurred and what is happening. But this is sort of a launching point ... for more dialogue through this brand and podcast of Africville Forever."

Alfred Burgesson and Edwards Carvery III are seen in front of a sign that reads "Africville: The spirit lives on" in Africville.
The pair take listeners through the history of the community through their podcast. (Robert Short/CBC)

Outside the podcast, the pair said there are plans to start a "community visioning" process for Africville that will allow former residents and descendants to share their thoughts on what a new Africville could look like.

In the meantime, as more people tune in, the hope is that the series will encourage listeners to hold Halifax accountable to making real change in the lives of the descendants.

"The biggest takeaway that I hope people get is that there's an opportunity in hearing these stories for each individual to be a catalyst for change," Carvery said. "And as long as that's happening, well, then we get to live Africville, forever."

WATCH | CBC Archives footage of bulldozers in Africville:

Africville is destroyed in 1967

2 months ago
Duration 1:55
Bulldozers move in as residents are shipped out. Aired on Sept. 15, 1967 on Gazette.

Burgesson said he felt the story of Africville and its advocates spoke to a larger tale about the racism Black people in Canada continue to face.

"African Nova Scotians and Black people from Africville not having access to this land as their own has kept back generations of African Nova Scotians," Burgesson said.

"I hope people realize that stories like this have a lot to do with the situation we're in today in society and something can still be done. This is not a story that is in the past or history — this is something that we can still do something about today.

"And so I hope listeners believe that, too."

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Danielle Edwards is a reporter with CBC Nova Scotia. She has previously worked at The Canadian Press in Halifax and the Globe and Mail in Toronto covering a variety of topics. You can reach her at danielle.edwards@cbc.ca

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