National Black Canadians Summit to focus on experiences of African Nova Scotians

·3 min read
Audience members at the 2019 National Black Canadians Summit in Ottawa. After a two year wait, the summit is coming to Halifax this July 29-31. (Steve Daniel - image credit)
Audience members at the 2019 National Black Canadians Summit in Ottawa. After a two year wait, the summit is coming to Halifax this July 29-31. (Steve Daniel - image credit)

Former governor general Michaëlle Jean says the African Nova Scotian experience will be front and centre at this summer's National Black Canadians Summit in Halifax.

After a two-year delay due to COVID-19, more than a thousand people are expected to gather at the Halifax Convention Centre from July 29-31 to share stories, participate in workshops and celebrate their heritage.

"We can't wait," Jean told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Thursday. "People are so excited."

Despite 400 years of history, Jean said the African Nova Scotian experience isn't well known outside the region. She is hoping this summer's event will help change that.

Listen to former governor general Michaëlle Jean's full interview:

"Black history is Canadian history," Jean said, adding that it is crucial that African Nova Scotians get the chance to articulate their own stories, experiences, realities and challenges.

The local co-chairs of the 2022 summit, Vanessa Fells and DeRico Symonds, echoed the need for better recognition.

Fells, the director of operations for the African Nova Scotian Decade for People of African Descent Coalition, said she would like to see legislation officially recognizing the 52 distinct African Nova Scotian communities, and their contributions.

Mathieu Thériault/CBC News
Mathieu Thériault/CBC News

She hopes the summit will spur government action.

"We are the birthplace of Black presence and Black history within the country of Canada before Canada was a country," Fells told CBC Radio's Mainstreet on Wednesday.

The workshops and sessions at the summit are designed to address what Symonds called "the biggest and longest standing issues affecting the Black community in Canada," including barriers in education, human rights and activism, Black mental health and business development.

Listen to Vanessa Fells and DeRico Symonds' full interview:

In addition to celebrating Black and African Nova Scotian history and success, Symonds said the goal of the summit is to articulate a shared vision and a call for action.

"We also want to create and continue the momentum for change in the communities," said Symonds, who works with the Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives with the Nova Scotia government.

For all Canadians

This is the third summit organized by Jean's charitable foundation in response to the UN's International Decade for People of African Descent from 2015-2024.

The first two events were held in Toronto and Ottawa in 2017 and 2019, respectively. The Halifax summit was originally scheduled for 2020.

At the end of each summit, a report is produced that is shared with local and national governments.

Craig Paisley/CBC
Craig Paisley/CBC

Participants' stories, activities, and recommendations are incorporated into a national plan to fight systemic racism, which Jean calls the most recurrent form of violence in the human experience.

This is why, Jean said, it is important for everyone to get involved.

"It's not just a Black issue, it's a Canadian issue," she said. "It has to engage the society as a whole."

This year's National Black Canadians Summit will culminate on the eve of Emancipation Day and the Africville reunion. It will close on with a declaration, which will be crafted by community members and presented to UN delegates.

Participants in the summit include lawmakers, activists and representatives from the private and public sector.

Free youth tickets 

To ensure youth participation, Fells said tickets are free for youth between the ages of 18-30, and organizers will also cover travel and accommodation expenses for African Nova Scotian youths.

There are 400 youth tickets available on a "first come, first served" basis through registration on the summit's website.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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CBC

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