Nova Scotia

N.S. communities take stand against anti-Black racism

Marches and gatherings in Shelburne and Africville showed solidarity with Black people and the fight against racism on Sunday.

Close to 200 people attended a demonstration in Africville Sunday evening

The event was held in Africville because it represents 'prayer, spirituality and protest,' the organizer said. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Under cloudy skies and heavy rain, about 200 people took a stand against anti-Black racism in Africville Sunday evening.

The "prayer-full protest" took place on the grounds of the Africville Museum.

"I felt that we needed an opportunity to come together to unify, to pray and to seek God so that we can move forward in unity and so that we have this opportunity to understand the importance of all of us working together toward the goal of equality and equity," said Kesa Munroe-Anderson, who organized the event.

Her husband, Pastor Lennett Anderson, welcomed people of all faiths to join the demonstration to pray for justice, advocacy and racial harmony.

Kesa Munroe-Anderson organized the event in Africville on Sunday evening. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Munroe-Anderson said she organized the demonstration around Africville because it represents the "epicentre of prayer, spirituality and protest."

"It's a reminder. It's a stark reminder. It's a sad reminder of what happens when people, when good people say nothing," she said. "When people in power abuse power in terms of what results from anti-Black racism, which to this day, the trauma continues."

Demostrators attended the event with signs that read 'Black Lives Matter.' (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

The African Nova Scotian community of Africville was expropriated and demolished by the city of Halifax in the 1960s, forcing hundreds from their homes. A formal apology didn't come until decades later.

Lorna Crawley, who attended the event, said she feels Africville was the right location for the event.

Lorna Crawley attended the 'prayer-full protest' because she believes in the power of prayer. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

"It's so appropriate that we're here today, because this was taken from us. Lives are being taken, there are such parallels," she said.

Munroe-Anderson said she was grateful to see people of all ages and faiths from all over Nova Scotia attend despite the cold and rain.

People gathered outside the replica of Africville's church. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

"I feel grateful. I feel excited to see what's going to come out of this," she said. "I'm looking forward to movers and shakers just going into their spheres of influence and making a positive difference and tackling anti-Black racism to the ground." 

In light of concerns over COVID-19, masks were available and volunteers worked as ushers to ensure physical distancing guidelines were followed.

Shelburne stands in solidarity

Several demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement were held across the province over the weekend, including one in Shelburne, another community with a history of anti-Black racism.

On Sunday, people there took a stand with a peaceful march through downtown, ending at the town's community centre. Participants knelt or bowed their heads for eight minutes and 46 seconds in honour of George Floyd and his family.

Organizer Darren Jacklin estimates about 600 people showed up to the march in Shelburne. (Robin Smith Photography)

"I'm hoping that people get the message that they understand that it's not OK to treat any human being as a lesser human than anyone else," said Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall, who attended the event.

Darren Jacklin, one of the event's organizers, said about 600 people showed up. That's nearly half of the town's population.

After marching through town, people knelt or bowed their heads for eight minutes and 46 seconds in honour of George Floyd and his family. (Robin Smith Photography)

"It was nothing but a huge amount of support … it was phenomenal," he said. "I've never seen anything like this."

Jacklin co-organized the march with his cousins Belle Bruce-Goulden and Vanessa Hartley.

Organizers Belle Bruce-Goulden, left, Darren Jacklin, centre, and Vanessa Hartley. (Submitted by Belle Bruce-Goulden)

"We have a relatively large Black population, we have a strong voice, and we need to speak up about this," Bruce-Goulden said.

The march was supposed to keep to the sidewalk, but Bruce-Goulden said the turnout was so big that people had no choice but to walk in the streets.

Bruce-Goulden said it was "overwhelming" to see so many people in the streets of Shelburne standing together against racism. (Robin Smith Photography)

She said seeing her small town, which was the site of the first reported race riot in North America in the 18th century, flooded with people standing against racism was "overwhelming."

"To see people today, gathering, whether you're Black, white, whatever, was what made it the most powerful," Hartley said. "It made generations among us, the past, the future, connect. United."

People marched peacefully through the streets of Shelburne, some holding signs with messages of solidarity with the Black community. (Robin Smith Photography)