Operation Black Lives Matter North Preston calls for change

Advocates ask for a rethinking of police funding, giving North Preston elders deeds to their land and recognizing centuries of systemic racism

click to enlarge Organizer Evangeline Star Downey says "“Change is coming. Hold on, don’t worry about a thing,” at Operation Black Lives Matter North Preston. - FELESHIA CHANDLER
Feleshia Chandler
Organizer Evangeline Star Downey says "“Change is coming. Hold on, don’t worry about a thing,” at Operation Black Lives Matter North Preston.

Black Lives Matter advocates gathered in North Preston on August 1, meeting at the cenotaph near the local rec centre on Emancipation Day to protest ongoing injustices faced by Black people in Nova Scotia.

The event, organized by Evangeline Star Downey yielded a mighty turn out of about 100 people and began with a march through North Preston with signs and megaphones in hand.

Advocates made their way through the neighborhood chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “no justice, no peace” as residents honked and waved in solidarity.

After the march, several notable speakers addressed the crowd, including community elder Denise Allen who spoke about the importance of Emancipation Day, which remembers the date the Slavery Abolition Act ended slavery in British colonies—AKA Canada—in 1834.

“National Emancipation Day is a time to remember Canada, in our case Nova Scotia was once a slave society,” she said to the crowd.

Allen alsos spoke about how many Black elders do not have deeds to their properties, despite a $2.5 million investment by the Government of Nova Scotia meant to rectify this issue, and she addressed one of the larger focuses of the Black Lives Matter movement: defunding the police.

“While North Preston is the largest and one of the oldest communities in Canada, North Preston lacks the service and programs their Canadian counterpart communities and residents take for granted,” said Allen.

“Imagine, our government spends $10 million a day on one department: The RCMP. I can barely wrap my mind around that. What if it were reduced by half a percent?” she added.    

Calls to defund the police from groups like BLM Canada aim to see money redirected into resources to better benefit and help Black, Indigenous, racialized and impoverished communities—the people who are more likely to be subject to unfair treatment in the criminal justice system anyways. Scot Wortley’s report on racist street checks in Halifax confirms this, and makes a convincing case for pushing back against the systemic disadvantages people face in Canada based on background and racial appearance.

Steven Benton also addressed the crowd. He's the interim CEO of Nova Scotia Black Wall Street which hopes to create businesses and opportunities for Black Nova Scotians by providing accepted candidates with a weekly stipend to help get the business up and running. “We are going to bring back business and self sufficiency,” he said.

After Benton, long time Africville protester Eddie Carvery addressed the crowd.

“They murdered my community,” said Carvery about Africville, a predominantly Black community founded and built by former slaves in 1749 that was unjustly demolished by the city of Halifax during the 1960s.

As someone who has fought and is still fighting systemic racism, Carvery reminded the crowd that there are old fights yet to be won like Africville, saying: “We’re in it together."

Of the people who showed up to the event, some were young, some old, some with babies and dogs, all were showing their support for Black Lives Matter, and importantly their support for Black Nova Scotians.

“I came as a community supporter. No matter where the community is doing work. No matter where Black people are assembled, we as Black people need to stick together and support one another,” said event attendee Bernadette Hamilton-Reid, a seventh-generation African Nova Scotian.

And although the turnout was not as big she’d hoped for, organizer Downey is optimistic.

“It was not a big protest and it isn't about who came out. It was about community,” Downey said, addressing the crowd near the end of the rally. “We just want to bring attention,” said Downey. “We want to bring attention to the fact that there’s no dollars turning around in this community. There’s nothing,” she added.

When asked what does Downey hope for the future she answered with a song: “Change is coming. Hold on, don’t worry about a thing.”

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