NEW GLASGOW – When Glenda Jones was growing up, she was always taught to remember where she came from.
She doesn’t think that has been instilled into the minds of the younger generation, pointing a finger towards busier lifestyles of their parents as the possible cause.
Whatever the reason, she wants to see it change.
“It’s incomplete unless they have a past,” she says, speaking to one’s life story and identity.
The history of the development of Pictou County’s black community is something worth preserving, a local committee believes, which is why they’re developing a second interpretive panel at the Africentric Heritage Park on Vale Road in New Glasgow.
They received a $10,000 grant from the provincial Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage to develop the panels in 2009, putting it on hold for many years for a few reasons, one of which was the loss of two committee members.
The committee is continuing with the project in honour of the late Allan Patterson and Bill Paris, who were both instrumental in the development of the first panel.
“Through these panels, we’re trying to depict the story of how we came here and where we’re heading,” Jones says.
Jones, Cherry Paris, Natalie Gero and Beverly Bonvie, working with local historian and graphic artist John Ashton, know much of the history they’ll uncover won’t be positive, but they plan to recognize the good and the bad.
Though there was an African Nova Scotian presence in Pictou County six years before the arrival of Ship Hector in 1773, the community began to really grow during the 19th century when black citizens left other areas of the province for economic opportunities.
By 1963, 653 Black Nova Scotians were living in Pictou County with more than 500 in New Glasgow, and close to 100 in Priestville, a population survey the group has collected says.
As they pored over documents, the committee discussed prejudice in the community many decades ago, their appreciation for those who went against the grain, including the first person to sell land to black families, and the rebuilding of the Second Baptist Church after a devastating fire in 1984.
Though they’ve already collected a lot of information about the early days, they hope to gather more.
“Don’t assume we know everything about our own culture.”
They’re holding a collection day at the Second Baptist Church on Washington Street on Sept. 27 from 1 until 3 p.m. where they plan to have a scanner on hand to make copies of photos, newspaper clippings, information, artifacts, and anything else citizens have to offer.
What they can’t fit on the panel they hope to archive.
“All children want to know where they came from,” Ashton says.
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