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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Word on the street

Mike Fleury is busy updating his city map.

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2007 at 8:38 AM

Last summer, Halifax saw it fit to rename a portion of Gerrish Street after local boxing hero and first black sergeant-at-arms, Buddy Daye, who passed away in 1995. Good move. Not only was Daye thoroughly deserving of the honour (Daye helped set up the Black Cultural Centre in Nova Scotia, and offered guidance and support to countless kids who grew up in the neighbourhood), but "Gerrish" always reminds us of the word "garish." And who wants to live on Garish Street?

On Monday, scores of other Halifax streets, lanes and avenues were re-christened—officially, to aid in the delivery of emergency and essential services. A perfectly sound reason which, on its own, would be perfectly dull.

However! Happily (and going against character), the city reached into their bag of good ideas and decided to sprinkle some zazz on the otherwise bland rebranding. Like the Buddy Daye portion of Gerrish, a number of the new streets honour other local heroes, who have been immortalized as a permanent part of the city. God love that bag.

Perhaps the most famous honouree is Truro-born vocalist Portia White, who achieved international fame as an opera singer. A contralto, White toured the world, performed for the Queen, has been named a "personal of national historical significance" by the government of Canada...the list of achievements goes on. White and her family lived for a time on Belle Aire Terrace, and the newly named Portia White Crescent will sit relatively close to that location, just off of Gerrish Street.

Some of the other honourees include former deputy mayor Margaret Stanbury (Stanbury Street replaced a portion of Oxford), Halifax explosion train dispatcher Vincent Coleman (of "Heritage minute" fame; Vincent Street replaced a portion of Albert), and Billy Wells (Wells Street replaced part of Duffus), a firefighter who responded to—and survived—the Halifax explosion.

"We figured, there's no point in changing the name of a street just for the sake of changing the name," says north end councillor Patrick Murphy. "We wanted to talk to the community, and find people that the community could relate to."

It shouldn't be difficult for the community to relate to Divas Lane (again, just off of Gerrish Street)—most of the Divas still live close by. The Pep Bro Divas are a collective of women living in and around Uniacke Square. Downtown councillor Dawn Sloane, who has worked with the Divas on a number of community projects, was happy to give them the honour.

"The Divas we thought of right away," she says. "They were the first ones to initiate the food bank in the area, the community skating rink...they helped take back the community to make it a better place to live."

Both councillors would like have some kind of formal ceremony to commemorate all of the new Hali-streets—when Buddy Daye Street was named, for example, there was a small but emotional ceremony involving members of Daye's family.

"It would be nice to do that for Portia White... and the Divas," says Sloane. "Even for Martello, which is a new bit of Tower Road," says Sloane. "We might try to pull something off a bit later on in the summer."

Know of other street-worthy Haligonians? Send nominations to: mikef@thecoast.ca

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