Day one of an international conference studying reparations, slavery and education began Wednesday, Oct. 18 in Cherry Brook—an historic African Nova Scotian community just outside of Halifax—at the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia.
Thursday, Oct. 19
8am: H.E. John Mahama, Ghana's former president
12pm: Dr. Sylvia D. Hamilton, University of King's College
6:30pm: Sir Hilary Beckles, University of the West Indies
Friday, Oct. 20
9am: Dr. Afua Cooper, Dalhousie University
12pm: Dr. Harvey Amani Whitfield, University of Calgary
6:30pm: Dr. George Elliott Clarke, University of Toronto
Saturday, Oct. 21
9am: H.E. David Comissiong, Clement Payne Movement founder
One of the two Halifax universities responsible for the conference happening in Canada for the first time is the University of King’s College. King’s and the Black Cultural Centre began the morning by signing an agreement that brings the university and African Nova Scotians together to discuss how their partnership can work to end anti-Black racism in institutions of learning, and centre African Nova Scotians in these conversations.
Russell Grosse, executive director of the BCCNS, along with King's president Bill Lahey and King's board of governors chair Douglas Ruck, signed the agreement in front of conference attendees, including the former president of Ghana, John D. Mahama, who is a keynote speaker at the conference. Mahama congratulated the new partnership and says learning about Nova Scotia’s connection with the trans-Atlantic slave trade “for me locks in what happened on the other side. I was just looking at the migrations and re-migrations of people back to Africa and Sierra Leone, and as a student of history—I did history for my first degree—I think this has been a very enlightening experience.”
The newly signed agreement says that BCCNS and UKC are committed “to meaningfully contributing to all the work that must be undertaken and the progress that must be made to address the legacies of the enslavement of Black people in and beyond Nova Scotia.”
Russell Grosse, executive director of the BCCNS, then welcomed conference guests to the museum and spoke about the different exhibition rooms, including a wall commemorating Nova Scotia's No. 2 Construction Battalion, known as the Black Battalion, that was a segregated group of Black military volunteers who served in World War 1. The father of King's board of governors chair, the late senator Calvin Ruck, wrote the book on this under-acknowledged history, The Black Battalion 1916-1920 Canada's Best Kept Military Secret.
After snacks and refreshments, conference attendees were graced with an invaluable and contextualizing bus tour of both Cherry Brook and nearby historic African Nova Scotian community North Preston by Dr. Isaac Saney of Dalhousie. They day ended with a tour of the site of Africville—a hundred-year-old African Nova Scotian community on the northern shore of the Halifax Harbour that was destroyed in the 1960s under the guise of "urban renewal," forcibly relocating and scattering all residents.