Nova Scotia

Increasing diversity in businesses in Halifax's north end

Several businessowners, as well as some people from the local African Nova Scotian community, say there isn't enough reflection of that community within new bars and restaurants on Gottingen and Agricola streets in Halifax.

How to reflect the African Nova Scotia community in new restaurants and bars

Rodney Small says it's really important to him that his community thrives. (CBC)

On the streets, online and in the bars and restaurants, two stories aired last week on CBC Radio's Information Morning have sparked a conversation in Halifax's north end.

Several restaurant owners as well as some people from the local African Nova Scotian community were interviewed for the two part story "Halifax's two north ends."

All agreed there isn't enough reflection of the local African Nova Scotian community within new bars and restaurants on Gottingen and Agricola streets. They say systemic racism is at the root of this lack of diversity and they want to change that.

'This conversation has opened up'

Patricia Cuttell is from the North End Business Association. She first brought this story to the CBC Information Morning's attention.

Patricia Cuttell of the North End Business Association. (CBC)

Since the story aired she says "a number of people from businesses and the African Nova Scotia community have reached out to her association" and they "appreciate this conversation has opened up."

Cuttell says people have lots to say, many ideas, and now it's a question of what to do to get more of the African Nova Scotian community reflected in the north end businesses.

Lindell Smith grew up in Uniacke Square and is the youth programmer at the North Branch Public Library. He's also the co-founder of a recording studio and arts centre for youth called Centreline in Uniacke Square.

Action needed

Smith says he's heard mostly positive responses and he has heard from business owners and community members who want to meet up and talk about what to do to lessen the divide.

He's also working with the Uniacke Centre for Community Development to have a "community conversation meeting" with community members and business owners. 

When interviewed last week, Smith mentioned that many people from the local African Nova Scotian community did not feel welcome in many of the new bars and restaurants in the north end.

But this past weekend to try to help bridge the gap Smith made a decision to go to a few of the new businesses. He visited three restaurants he'd never been in before. Smith says the experience was positive for him, but he did notice that no one else from his community was there. 

Lindell Smith, Halifax (CBC)

Rodney Small also grew up in north end Halifax, in a mostly African Nova Scotia community he describes as "the box."

Small, who is just graduating from Dalhousie University's bachelor of management program, works at Halifax's Common Good Solutions. The business development group focuses on community.

At 36 years old, the north end has been Small's home his entire life.

He says it's really important to him that his community thrives.

Restaurant owner reaches out with job postings

He says since these pieces aired on CBC, several business owners and members of his community have reached out to him.

"There's good momentum now and the conversation is more positive than negative," he said.

David Gallagher works with his son Sean, who owns the bar and cafe Lion and Bright on Agricola Street.

He says people have been positive about this story and not defensive.

They've been talking about what to do to change the situation at Lion and Bright. Gallagher says says that from now on when Lion and Bright has a new job posting, the notice will be emailed to a number of community groups in the area.

Conversation growing, says cafe owner

Michelle Strum opened Alter Egos Cafe on Gottingen Street almost 14 years ago. From the start, Strum has made it her responsibility as a business owner to reflect the local community in her business, so she makes sure some of her staff are from Uniacke Square or the surrounding area.

She's involved in community development meetings and she says this story is leading to a bigger discussion — not just how to get more diversity in bars and restaurants, but how to involve people who aren't normally part of development meetings to become engaged in conversations about how the north end should be developed and how the African Nova Scotian community can be a part of that discussion.

She's hoping to engage not just leaders from the local African Nova Scotia community, but everyone.

She says these cross-cultural conversations are sometimes difficult to initiate, but it's important to have them in order to retain what makes Halifax's north end a good place to be.

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