When it came to selecting historical Black figures for a video game, Halifax youth narrowed their choices to the Maroons, Viola Desmond, Burnley “Rocky” Jones, Mathieu Da Costa and Richard Preston.
In the end, the majority favoured Preston for an action-filled video game which was launched last Tuesday at Nova Scotia’s Black Cultural Centre.
The cutting edge 3D video game is based on the life of Preston, a freed slave, who travelled to Nova Scotia in search of his mother and ended up laying lasting spiritual and community foundations.
Dawn Harwood-Jones of Pink Dog Productions conceived the idea for the project which was produced over an eight-month span with Silverback Productions.
“About five years ago, RCMP officer and author, Craig Smith, and broadcaster George Jordan approached us to consider producing historical videos,” said Harwood-Jones. “It took us three years to get a grant and this new video is a by-product of that…
“One of the things I realized is that we have to move away from the old traditional route and reach out to the young people where they are which is online and playing video games.”
The Preston video along with two other videos the young people produced will be included as part of an exciting new online educational resource dedicated to African-Canadian history. The other two 2D videos highlight 84-year-old Eveline Upshaw’s community advocacy and upliftment through food and prayer, and Sinclair Williams, the first Black Nova Scotian member of the Dartmouth detachment of the Halifax Regional Municipality police.
The video package is part of the community’s “Empowerful” project aimed at engaging and inspiring young Black Nova Scotians to research, write and develop stories and video games about African-Nova Scotian heroes.
“When I moved to Halifax years ago, I was shocked by how little Black history was taught in the schools here,” said Harwood-Jones. “I believe that if you do videos, it should be representative of the diversity that exists in the country in which you are. What you see on TV is not representative of what Canada is and we are trying to change that….”
The games that were demonstrated on Tuesday are designed to teach Black Nova Scotian history in a way that will captivate and engage youth across Canada.
One of 12 African-Canadian historic persons, Preston wielded enormous influence in Nova Scotia’s Black community in the early 19th century. Arriving in the province in 1815, he made his way to Preston and was reunited with his mother who was sold into slavery. She recognized him by a scar on his face.
He became an ordained Baptist minister and co-founded the African United Baptist Association which helped to consolidate Black congregations, build new churches and, by extension, strengthen Black communities. He died in 1861.
Harwood-Jones said the Preston 3D video game will be available next month for distribution to school boards across the country.
By RON FANFAIR