By RON FANFAIR
For more than 150 years, Africville was home to a strong and proud community of Black Nova Scotian families.
In the 1960s, Halifax’s city government acquired the land and in the process displaced nearly 80 Black families and 400 individuals from Canada’s largest and oldest Black community. Parts of the land were used for an off-leash dog park and construction of the approaches to the A. Murray Mackay Bridge.
Last Friday, Seaview Park – a recreation area that the city established in the razed community – was renamed Africville.
Brenda Steed-Ross who, along with Linda Mantley and Debbie Dixon-Jones, organized the first Africville Reunion in 1982, said renaming the park was an opportunity for young people to grasp their heritage.
“We are trying to give them a little sample of the happy days that we had in Africville and the unity that we had,” said the co-founder of the Africville Genealogy Society. “Even though we are all spread apart all over the globe, we all come together for these days.”
Nova Scotian playwright and educator Dr. George Elliott Clarke said the park’s re-dedication is recognition that the City of Halifax could only destroy the physical dwellings there.
“It, however, could not destroy Africville as a site of homes and as a community for it remains so,” he added. “Now the city needs to re-designate the spit of land itself as “Negro Point”, where it was historically on city maps and Seaview United Baptist Church must be rebuilt.”
The 130-year-old church, which was a popular gathering place that overflowed on Christmas and many worshippers had to pray outside, was bulldozed by city workers without warning one night in 1967.
Plans for a replica of the historic Seaview United Baptist Church, which will serve as a memorial to Africville, were unveiled last January. The Halifax Regional Municipality plans to spend $3 million to build the replica.
Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly participated in the renaming ceremony.
“Giving the name Africville back to the community is a very fitting tribute and another step to correct those errors of the past,” he said.
Ottawa declared Africville a heritage site nine years ago.