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Africville apology is a start, not an end

March 3, 2010

….While other parts of the city of Halifax, which had amalgamated Africville, was receiving investments for modernization efforts, the racially isolated community of Africville was left to ruin. The final result of 150 years of unequal opportunity, municipal neglect and institutionalized racism was Africville being literally reduced to a slum; a label it officially gained in 1958 after Halifax moved the town dump to the area. In 1962, Halifax City Council decided to expropriate the land and remove the “blighted housing and dilapidated structures” in the interest of “urban renewal.”

Between 1964 and 1967, residents were removed and placed in public housing projects; those who were previously homeowners became renters. Despite their relocation, Africvillians still faced the same problems of inequality and poverty. Social programs that had previously been promised never materialized. The city of Halifax lent their assistance to the people of Africville in such a manner that perfectly illustrates the attitude with which City Hall regarded them: they moved the residents of Africville with the city’s dump trucks.

The Africville community was razed to the ground. The houses, school, and the Seaview United Baptist Church–which played an integral role in the social life of the community–were bulldozed to make way for development of the north shore of the Bedford Basin and the A. Murray MacKay Bridge, which crosses the Halifax harbour. Due to the controversy surrounding the events, commercial development did not take place and the waterfront was left intact. In the 1980s, Halifax created Seaview Memorial Park on the old Africville site, which was declared a national historic site in 2002.

Reactions to the apology from former residents and their descendants
have been mixed. Most were optimistic and hopeful for the future;
former Africville resident Brenda Steed-Ross, who was evicted along
with her parents and her infant daughter when she was 18, said she
feels “we’re moving forward, not backward.” Rev. Rhonda Britten, a
leader within the Black community in Nova Scotia, welcomed the
settlement, saying “I know that there are some among us who are
wounded, and some among us who bear those scars. But, in spite of all
of that, the victory has been won.”

However, not everyone shared Rev. Britten’s optimism. According to a report from CBC News,
while most of the crowd offered cheers, there were others voicing
dissent, shouting: “Not enough.” Some of the descendants of Africville claimed the settlement was illegal
because the Africville Genealogy Society (AGS) didn’t have the right to
negotiate on their behalf. One criticism of the agreement is that there
is no provision for individual compensation. Eddie Carvey, whose
brother Irvine is president of AGS, has been actively raising the issue
and protesting since 1994. Along with individual reparations (a word
the Canadian press has decidedly avoided using, which I will not),
Carvey is also seeking a public inquiry and for the city to return
ownership of Africville to its former residents and descendants.

Read the whole article.


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