Nova Scotia

Mural of Africville's George Dixon to mark boxing champion's 150th birthday

A new mural will help celebrate the 150th birthday of world boxing champion George Dixon of Africville. Organizers hope the mural, set to be unveiled July 25, will spark a discussion around Africville and its history.

The unveiling on July 25 also a chance to highlight challenges still present in Africville

Artists have been hard at work over the last few days transforming an old sea can into a mural dedicated to George Dixon. Organizers hope to keep the mural itself a surprise until it is unveiled on Saturday. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

A new mural will help celebrate the 150th birthday of world boxing champion George Dixon of Africville.

Organizers hope the mural will spark a discussion around Africville and its history.

Dixon was born in the small Black community in Halifax's north end on July 29, 1870. Africville, with a history beginning in the 1700s, was demolished by the City of Halifax in the 1960s.

"It's really important to remember what your history is, who your ancestors are, what work they've done because they've gotten us to where we are today," said Juanita Peters, executive director of the Africville Museum.

"So we can't forget that, we must highlight it, we must celebrate it."

George Dixon was born in Africville on July 29, 1870. (Wikipedia)

Dixon left Nova Scotia at the age of 16 to pursue a career in professional boxing in Boston, Mass. He won the bantamweight title two years later.

He is also credited with championships at featherweight and paperweight.

He has a community centre named in his honour on Brunswick Street, which features a large portrait of Dixon, and he has also been inducted into several sport halls of fame.

"His appeal was international because George Dixon was the first person to win two world titles, more than two world titles, in those days," Peters said.

"Also he is credited for creating shadowboxing, which all boxers use today."

Juanita Peters is the executive director of the Africville Museum. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

Over the last few days, artists have been hard at work transforming an old shipping container with the mural.

Peters said the sea can is being used for storage but is "really ugly." She wanted to find a way to make it more beautiful and fit in with the land.

She said the organizers want to keep exactly what the mural will look like a surprise until the unveiling on July 25. A ceremony will take place at the Africville Museum at 2 p.m.

Michael Burt said he and the other two artists used old pictures of fights, posters and other records to come up with the design.

Burt and his company Trackside Studios were also involved with the murals in Mulgrave Park. That project aimed to revitalize the area and bring attention to the underrepresented community.

Burt said he hopes the Dixon mural will do something similar.

Michael Burt is the owner and artist at Trackside Studios. (Robert Guertin/CBC)

"I hope it adds to the overall culture and the look of the community," he said.

"But I also hope it brings some awareness to bring people in to see the community, actually react to people, see what conditions they're in and improve that in any way we can."

A mural of Truro-born opera singer, Portia White, done in 2019 in Mulgrave Park. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Peters said seeing the Mulgrave Park murals make her feel excited and proud to be Nova Scotian.

"The other thing it does for people is it makes them ask, 'Who was that person?' And that's what we want. We want people to be more connected to the history," she said.

The unveiling will be a chance to highlight the challenges still present in Africville today, Peters said.

"There's going to be a group that are part of a walk, stroll, bike who will be coming down here to show how very difficult it is to get to Africville — after all these years we need public transportation down here," she said.

"Then while they're here — it's like a gift — we will unveil a beautiful piece of artwork for this audience."

Craig Smith, president of the Black Cultural Society, and Bruce Rainnie with the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame spoke with host Jeff Douglas about George Dixon's legacy. He was born 150 years ago in Africville and was possibly the first Black athlete to win a World Championship in any sport. 11:17