The story of African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia and the significance it holds – Halifax
Nova Scotia celebrates African Heritage Month by celebrating the history and contributions of African Nova Scotia through recognition and education.
The month was first observed almost 40 years ago and continues to be an important part of honoring the community.
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“The Black experience is not incidental, it is not secondary, it is not insignificant,” said Isaac Saney, a Black Studies specialist at Dalhousie University.
“It’s integral to the narrative of this entity we call Canada. It’s important to understand that. So to understand Canada, we must also understand the black experience.”
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The African Nova Scotians have more than 400 years of history in the province and a rich heritage.
“Nova Scotia and Black Nova Scotians have always been at the forefront and vanguard of these struggles, in my opinion,” Saney added. “And in Black History Month (nationally), I think they played that central role as well.”
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Because of this, Saney says it’s important that the black experience be recognized as part of Canadian history.
“If you hope to build a Canada where there is social justice, where there is equality and justice, where everyone can find their rightful place in this society, you have to reckon with the past. That’s a story to be reckoned with,” he said.
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Part of this recognition comes from the Royal Canadian Mint issuing a commemorative coin honoring the No. 2 Construction Battalion as part of their ongoing Commemorating Black History series.
The No. 2 Construction Battalion was formed in Nova Scotia in 1916 and was the only Canadian black soldier battalion to serve in World War I.
“It brings so much joy and pride not only to Canadian history, but also to the descendants of these brave men of the No. 2 Construction Battalion. It’s a great continuation of the legacy, something that will not be easily forgotten,” said Russell Grosse , the executive director of the Black Cultural Center for Nova Scotia.
Grosse is a descendant of one of the serving members and says the mint recognizes her tenacity and determination to serve despite racial prejudice.
“Looking at the artwork on the coin and the fact that the artwork was created by a Black Canadian artist really creates a truly unique feeling. A unique sense of pride and honor and you can see the presence of these men and their bravery in the image on the coin,” said Grosse.
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While recognition is important, Dalhousie University’s Saney points out that it’s just as important to remember that the fight isn’t over.
“I think Construction Battalion #2 is about the history of segregation here in Canada, but I think it’s important in acknowledging that this fight is still ongoing,” Saney said.
“If we are to build a decent Canada, a Canada of equality, of justice – we must recognize that the struggle is still ongoing.”
– with a file from Rebecca Lau of Global News
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