Nova Scotians urged to listen, learn, share, act during African Heritage Month

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African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia kicked off with a virtual celebration on Tuesday featuring musical performances, speeches from members of the African Nova Scotian community and tributes from politicians and the lieutenant-governor.

The theme for this year's African Heritage Month is Black History Matters: Listen, Learn, Share, Act.

Tony Ince, the minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs and the emcee for the virtual launch, said the theme calls on Nova Scotians to recognize the history and legacy of African Nova Scotians, but also to acknowledge the "racialized issues" and adversity faced by people of African descent.

"The theme reminds me of an African proverb: 'For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.' This means the change we seek will not happen until we teach and educate ourselves, which will ultimately lead to better awareness, empathy and respect towards each other. We must do this together," Ince said.

Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia
Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia

Lt.-Gov. Arthur LeBlanc noted that the year 2020 was significant.

"I speak not of the pandemic, which has touched all of our lives, but of the Black Lives Matter movement, that has prominently raised the issues of systemic racism and prejudice that exist in our world," he said.

"The movement has burned into our consciousness that what has transpired in the past cannot be allowed to occur going forward and that we must take steps now to address this systemic racism."

Premier Stephen McNeil noted progress on some issues including the land title initiative, the restorative inquiry into the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children and the apology for systemic racism in the justice system.

"But we have more work to do. The Black Lives Matter movement motivated us to look inward and confront the systemic issues we have been overlooking for centuries," McNeil said. "It is important that government continue to collaborate with the African Nova Scotian community to build stronger relationships and an even stronger province."

The virtual launch also included leaders of municipalities reading the proclamation of African Heritage Month.

A list of African Heritage Month events can be found here.