Nova Scotia commemorates Black Loyalists with a new coin

·2 min read

A new $20 silver commemorative coin was unveiled Monday to honour the contributions made by Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Lt.-Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc, federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, Premier Stephen McNeil, and African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince all joined the online event that marked the first day of African Heritage Month.

"This commemorative coin will serve as a lasting symbol of the contributions made to our country by the Black Loyalists. It is a privilege to recognize this today," said Jordan.

Developed by Kristen Bruce, a Nova Scotian Black Loyalist descendant, the coin is 38 in diameter and is made of pure silver. It features the armorial bearings of the Black Loyalists granted in 2006 by the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

The reverse of the coin is engraved with three lions, symbolizing the pride of Africa and the courage demonstrated by those who sought a better life in Nova Scotia. Beneath the shield, the province is represented by its official floral emblem, the mayflower, while the rock symbolizes the arrival of Black Loyalists near Birchtown, Nova Scotia.

On the shield, three loyalist civil coronets represent the non-combatants who fled to British North America (Canada), while the anchor in the crest honours the sacrifices of the families who undertook the journey, which is represented by the footprints in the mantling.

The history of Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia told by their descendant

Cynthia Dorrington, another Black Loyalist descendant and site manager of the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre located in Shelburne, was the first to speak at the virtual event.

Dorrington made a simple acknowledgement of her identity.

"I'm a Black Loyalist descendant. My ancestors were formerly free Africans who were enslaved and brought to the Americans," she said.

Approximately 2,500 Black Loyalists stayed in British North America (Canada), and those who remained, formed the basis of the African Nova Scotian population that we know today. Birchtown is one of 52 historic Black communities across Nova Scotia.

Go beyond symbolic actions

Dr. Isaac Saney, a teaching fellow at Dalhousie University who specializes in Black Canadian history, said the symbolic gesture is important but runs the risk of being simply "cosmetic and decorative"

"I think people take pride in these things. But also, at the end of the day, they realize that these need to be connected to real meaningful change," he said.

Saney said he does not deny the "extreme importance" of the events that symbolize the contribution of the Black community. He said they are the result of a long history of advocacy from the community.

However, Saney said in order to transform these symbolic actions into actual democratic changes, there needs to be a higher political engagement from the community.

" It requires political will. Instead of trying to appease and create cosmetic change, people have to be committed to a political will," said Saney.

Lu Xu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald