Nova Scotia’s 38th African Heritage Month opens with virtual ceremony

Nova Scotia’s 38th annual African Heritage Month kicked off with a virtual opening ceremony for the Black Cultural Center for Nova Scotia on Thursday evening, complete with musical performances and memorabilia from the past.

The event was hosted by Crystal Mulder, Co-Chair of the Black History Month Association, and Tamar Pryor Brown, Co-Owner of Melodic Elevation & Entertainment and Senior Advisor to HRM’s Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs Integration.

At the start of the event, Mulder and Pryor Brown responded to online messages from people watching the event live on Facebook.

“We see people from around Halifax, locals, but I also had someone who was on the planning committee who is now in Detroit, Michigan… We love it,” Mulder said.

The evening began with a drumming performance by the Drummers from Home, followed by a recognition of the land with Cheryl Copage-Gehue, Halifax’s Advisor on Indigenous Community Engagement.

“We are doing this land recognition for African Heritage Month to talk about our shared histories and our common challenges and struggles,” Copage-Gehue said.

Bernadette Hamilton-Reid brought the evening libation, a ritual to honor ancestors and those who have passed away.

Hamilton-Reid said the ritual is sometimes performed with wine, although she opted for water.

“Water is the medium of life, it helps symbolize the flow of life, it is used to cleanse our body, mind and soul,” she said as she poured water from a cup in one hand to a bowl in another.

Bernadette Hamilton Reid brought the libation at the opening ceremony. (Halifax Public Libraries/YouTube)

Deacon David Provo then delivered the opening prayer. He was followed by Deacon Anthony Riley, who sang Lift Every Voice. Tracy Jones Grant, co-chair of the Black History Month Association, sent her regards on behalf of the association.

“This year’s theme, Through Our Eyes: African Nova Scotian Voices, highlights for us, as people of African descent, the value and importance of telling our own stories from our own perspectives” said Jones Grant.

After Jones Grant’s speech, Mulder continued to read the memories people were sharing on Facebook.

The opening ceremony was hosted by Crystal Mulder (left) and Tamar Pryor Brown (right). (Halifax Public Libraries/YouTube)

Mulder said one of his fondest memories of past opening galas was the 10th anniversary when George Elliott Clarke was a keynote speaker.

“We always had an opening night, snowstorms didn’t stop us, ice storms didn’t stop us. We continued to celebrate African Heritage Month every year,” Mulder said.

The next performance was by Afro Fusion Band.

Adina Fraser Marsman performed twice at the ceremony. (Halifax Public Libraries/YouTube)

Åsa Kachan, Chief Librarian of Halifax Public Libraries, spoke about all the work that has been done to make the month’s virtual events possible. She acknowledged that this year would be the second done virtually and said she hoped next year would be done in person.

Following Adina Fraser Marsman’s performance, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage officially proclaimed February as African Heritage Month. Marsman then returned for the final performance of the evening.

WATCH | Full virtual opening ceremony

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

Being Back in Canada shines a light on stories about Black Canadians. (Radio Canada)

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