NEW GLASGOW – The beating of drums, clapping of hands and voices of young and old heralded in the start of African Heritage Month in Pictou County.
Representatives from the provincial government, municipal units in Pictou County, the office of African Nova Scotia Affairs, African Nova Scotia North Central Network and members of the general public gathered in the town council chambers for a special ceremony Monday.
This year’s theme for the special month is Rising Stars – Celebrating our Youth.
Tracey Thomas, a senior analyst with the office of African Nova Scotia Affairs noted the strong attendance at yesterday’s ceremony.
“This has got to be one of the largest groups ever here,” she said to the roughly 80 people gathered.
New Glasgow Mayor Barrie MacMillan noted the importance of African Nova Scotian heritage to this region of the province.
“Our town has been and is home to citizens of African descent who have been among the province’s most well-known and respected pioneers,” said MacMillan. “We look forward to highlighting preserving and celebrating the African heritage of New Glasgow and Pictou County through a variety of activities and events.”
He went on to mention several names of prominent local citizens of African descent, including Dr. Carrie Best, Rev. Dr. Peter Paris, Walter Borden, Buddy Daye and Francis Dorrington to name a few.
Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn was in attendance and noted the need to put aside our differences and seek common goals and understanding.
Crystal States, representative of the African Nova Scotia North Central Network, gave a moving libation, a ritual pouring of a liquid in memory of those who have died.
“Today, I’m using water because water is how we arrived in this place,” she said making reference to voyages from Africa via the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. “We pour in thanks of our esteemed ancestors who laid the foundations for human civilization and who provided the model by which we live.”
Minister Tony Ince of African Nova Scotian Affairs was present for the official start to African Heritage Month in the county. He said he was honoured to be present for the ceremony in New Glasgow.
“For many years before becoming minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, I was active in the community and rarely got to any of the African Heritage Month kick-off celebrations,” said Ince. “It was great to be here today in the presence of so many wonderful people.”
African Heritage Month, or Black History Month, finds its Canadian origins in December 1995 when the House of Commons officially recognized February as the month it takes place.
In February 2008, now retired Nova Scotia senator Donald Oliver, the first black man appointed to the Senate, introduced a motion to have the Senate officially declare February as Black History Month. It received unanimous approval and was adopted on March 4, 2008. The adoption of Senator Oliver’s motion was the final parliamentary procedure needed for Canada’s permanent recognition of Black History Month.
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