38th Nova Scotia African Heritage Month opens with virtual ceremony
Event held virtually for the second year in a row
The 38th annual Nova Scotia's African Heritage Month launched with a virtual opening ceremony from the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia Thursday evening, featuring musical performances and memories from the past.
The event was hosted by Crystal Mulder, co-chair of the Black History Month Association, and Tamar Pryor Brown, co-Owner of Melodic Elevation & Entertainment and senior advisor for HRM's African Nova Scotian Affairs Integration Office.
As the event got underway, Mulder and Pryor Brown responded to online posts from people who were watching the live event on Facebook.
"We're seeing people from around Halifax, local folks but I also had someone who used to be on the planning committee who is now in Detroit, Michigan ... We love that," Mulder said.
The evening started with a drum performance by the Drummers from Home and then a land acknowledgement with Cheryl Copage-Gehue, Halifax's advisor on Indigenous community engagement.
"We're doing this land acknowledgement for African heritage month to talk about our shared histories and our shared challenges and struggles," Copage-Gehue said.
Bernadette Hamilton-Reid brought the libation for the evening, a ritual to honour ancestors and those who have died.
Hamilton-Reid said the ritual is sometimes performed with wine, though she opted for water.
"Water is the sustaining of life, it helps to symbolize the flow of life, it's used to cleanse our body, mind and soul," she said, pouring water from a cup in one hand to the bowl in another.
Deacon David Provo then gave the opening prayer. He was followed by Deacon Anthony Riley, who sang Lift Every Voice. Tracy Jones Grant, the co-chair of the Black History Month Association, brought greetings on behalf of the association.
"This year's theme, Through Our Eyes: The Voices of African Nova Scotians, highlights for us as people of African descent the value and importance of telling our own stories from our own perspectives," Jones Grant said.
After Jones Grant spoke, Mulder continued to read memories people were sharing on Facebook.
Mulder said one of her best memories from opening galas of the past was the 10th anniversary when George Elliott Clarke was a keynote speaker.
"We always had an opening night, snowstorms didn't stop us, ice storms didn't stop us. We have continued to celebrate African Heritage Month every year," Mulder said.
The next performance was by Afro Fusion Band.
Åsa Kachan, chief librarian of Halifax Public Libraries, spoke about all the work that went into making the virtual events for the month possible. She acknowledged this year would be the second one done virtually and said she hoped next year's would be in person.
Following Adina Fraser Marsman's performance, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage gave the official proclamation of February as African Heritage Month. Marsman then came back for the final performance of the night.
WATCH | Full virtual opening ceremony
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.