African Nova Scotia elders' stories inspire young people
Elders share lessons of perseverance at the Kuumba Cultural Project in Cherrybrook, N.S.
Sitting around a table in the basement of the Black Cultural Centre in Cherrybrook, N.S., five African Nova Scotian elders share their experiences growing up in the province with six young people.
"I started by talking about my mother. When she grew up, she wanted to be a nurse and she wasn't allowed to because back then, blacks weren't allowed to train as nurses," said Blair Lopes, who grew up in north-end Halifax in the 1950s.
The idea behind Saturday afternoon's talk, known as the Kuumba Cultural Project, was for the two generations to connect. The project was organized by the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute.
Kuumba means creativity in Swahili and it's one of the seven guiding principals of Afrocentricity. The elders tell their stories and then the youth create art and illustrations based on them.
"The message was perseverance and how hard work brings you to what you desire in life," said Kim Cain, the artistic director of the project. "I believe it's a very powerful experience for all those in attendance."
Lopes said education helped him find success.
"There are opportunities if one has education but one has to start from somewhere," he said.
"As a young kid growing up from Creighton Street, one wouldn't have thought that I would end up working internationally representing Canada with the Gambian government in the United Nations or that I would be going to Cuba and developing leadership seminars or that I would be invited to join the faculty of management at Dalhousie."
Brenna Gordon and Hailey Craig were among the youth at the workshop. Both girls are in Grade 9 at West Kings District High School in Auburn, N.S.
"You have to just follow your dreams because sometimes people are wanting to bring you down. I've had that experience. And the fact they have overcome it is awesome," said Gordon, who is originally from Jamaica.
Craig said it was interesting to hear about the living standards.
"It was surprising to hear that they were raised in families with 12 and 14 children all in one house and sharing beds. It's kind of crazy to imagine that," said Craig.
Both girls said they would recommend the workshop to their friends.