‘Our History is Your History’

    African Heritage Month launched in Antigonish

    An RCMP guard stands behind Junior MacLellan (right), Antigonish enforcement officer John Pellerin (middle) and Antigonish Town Councillor Mary Farrell as she reads the proclamation declaring the official start to African Heritage Month on January 31 outside town hall during a flag raising ceremony.

    ANTIGONISH: “Our history is your history.”

    Celebrating the launch of African Heritage Month in Antigonish, a full house, which included Tony Ince, Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, gathered in the Bloomfield Centre on January 31 at StFX.

    “We gather to honour and celebrate the many achievements that African Nova Scotians have made to our society,” said co-emcee Kelsey Jones, StFX African Descent Student Affairs Coordinator, who hosted the ceremony with Lorraine Reddick, Student Support Worker with the Strait regional centre for education (SRCE).

    African Heritage Month marks a time of reflection, but more importantly, a time for education, they said.

    Dwelling on this years’ theme of “Our history is your history,” Jones encouraged everyone to listen and to learn, to attend events, and to listen o voices, not just during the month, but throughout the year.

    Photos by Drake Lowthers
    Students Allanique Hunter (left) and Marcel Desmond (middle) unveil the 2019 African Heritage Month poster during the launch event in Antigonish on January 31. The poster features the local Tracadie United Baptist Church, the second oldest segregated church in Canada.

    In a special moment of the ceremony, and an historic first, she said this marks the first time the Pan African flag will be flown on campus for the entirety of African Heritage Month. The Pan African flag was raised at both the Antigonish Town Hall and in front of the President’s Office on the StFX campus.

    During both the flag rising and the launch event, town councillor Mary Farrell read a proclamation to highlight the contributions of people of African descent to societies locally and throughout the world.

    “Strengthening and dividing diversity and inclusion to ensure human rights of people of African descent are respected, protected and fulfilled,” she said. “And whereas this year’s theme ‘Our History Is Your History,’ history is the key to success. Respecting and embracing each one’s values, uniting in diversity, we’ll strengthen and celebrate in our communities to enable safer and peaceful communities for all people.”

    Another special moment came in a tribute and a moment of silence for the late Dr. Agnes Calliste, StFX sociology professor, national and international celebrated academic, and community champion who tirelessly served the Xaverian and Nova Scotian communities, including as StFX’s Black Student Advisor. Dr. Calliste passed away in August 2018.

    Antigonish enforcement officer John Pellerin (left) and Junior MacLellan attach the Pan-African flag on the flagpole at Antigonish Town Hall during a flag raising ceremony on January 31 to kick off African Heritage Month.

    Minister Ince told the school kids in attendance that this is an important time, a time to learn something different and unique.

    “African Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and share culture, history, contributions and achievements of people of African descent in Nova Scotia.”

    The provincial theme “Our History Is Your History” recognizes a distinct story of Nova Scotians and how this story is interwoven through the province’s past, present and future.

    “The theme reminds us when we all acknowledge, understand and appreciate the diversity that exists in Nova Scotia, we will be able to facilitate positive change for our province.”

    Both Antigonish Warden Owen McCarron and Farrell spoke of how the month celebrates the culture, legacy and achievements of African Nova Scotians, while sharing how this story is part of the Nova Scotian fabric.

    “When we all acknowledge our shared history, we will be able to facilitate positive change,” McCarron said.

    Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, Tony Ince, highlighted how he believes African Heritage Month events are almost pointless without having younger generations present to learn they have to have tough conversations to learn the lessons of history.

    As part of the ceremony, SRCE teacher and StFX alumnus Morgan Gero led an African Drumming performance with students from St. Andrew Junior School and Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School. Ince, an accomplished drummer himself, joined in the closing performance.

    The event was hosted by the Town of Antigonish, Zone #7 African Cultural Awareness Association, African Nova Scotia Affairs, Support 4 Culture, the County of Antigonish, Black Educators Association of Nova Scotia, SRCE, and StFX.

    Student Support Worker Lorraine Reddick said African Heritage Month is a time spent coming together as a community during her welcoming remarks at the launch event at StFX University.