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AT THE LIBRARY: Our history is your history


Trecia Schell

February is a month of many special occasions, celebrations and commemorations. It is African Heritage Month, and a time to reflect, honour and celebrate our diverse cultural roots. 

The 2019 provincial theme is “Our History is Your History,” and recognizes the unique story of African Nova Scotians and how this story is interwoven throughout the past, present and future of all Nova Scotians. This year’s theme reminds us that when we all acknowledge and understand the truths of our shared history through awareness, cooperation, dialogue and learning, we will be able to bring about positive changes in Nova Scotia.

The theme also aligns with the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent, with the goal to strengthen global cooperation in support of people of African descent as they strive for full inclusion in all aspects of society. 

The beginning of African Heritage Month is traced back to 1926. Harvard-educated Black historian Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week to recognize the achievements made by African Americans. Woodson purposefully chose February because of the birthdays of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln who were both key figures in the emancipation of enslaved Blacks. In 1976, Negro History Week was expanded to Black History Month before being celebrated in Canada in early 1950. To learn more about African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia, please visit  

Some special programming coming up at the library to celebrate AHM 2019, include African Storytelling, Dance and Drumming workshops with the Maritime Centre for African Dance on Saturday March 2 at 10:30 a.m. at the New Glasgow Library, and 1:30 p.m. at the Westville Library.  

The NFB Film Club at the River John Library will be showing, “Black Soul,” “Christopher Changes his Name” and “Journey to Justice” on Thursday, Feb. 28, starting at 6:15 p.m. Black Soul is an exhilarating immersion into the heart of Black culture via a whirlwind voyage through the defining moments of black history. Christopher changes his name, tells the tale of a little boy’s wish to change his ‘all too common’ name.  When his Aunt Gail from Trinidad tells him a story about a larger-than-life character called Tiger, Christopher decides to change his name to Tiger. But then, he finds a better name...  

Journey to Justice, the main feature film, pays tribute to a group of Canadians who took racism to court. They are Canada’s unsung heroes in the fight for black rights. Focusing on the 1930s to the 1950s, this film documents the struggle of six people who refused to accept inequality. Viola Desmond insisted on keeping her seat at the Roseland movie theatre in New Glasgow in 1946 rather than moving to a section normally reserved for the town’s black population. Fred Christie was denied service at a Montreal tavern because of his skin colour and took his case to the Supreme Court in 1936. Hugh Burnette and Bromley Armstrong pressured the Ontario government to enact fair accommodation practices in the 1940s. Donald Willard Moore dedicated his life to reforming Canada's biased immigration policy. Stanley G. Grizzle, president of the Toronto Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, worked to ensure fair employment practices for his predominantly black union members. These brave pioneers helped secure justice for all Canadians. Their stories deserve to be told.  

For more information on upcoming library programs, special events and services, please drop by your local library branch, follow us on Twitter, find us on Facebook, or visit us online at" 

Trecia Schell is community services librarian, and branch librarian – Books-by-Mail, River John, Stellarton and Trenton Public Libraries.

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