Project will help preserve local African Nova Scotian history: Three-year panel project launched in Sunnyville

·3 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – This summer sees the launch of a three-year collaboration between the Upper Big Tracadie Seniors Action Club and the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) to erect historic panels in African Nova Scotian communities in the municipality. This year, the focus is on the community of Sunnyville, located off Highway 16, adjacent to the shiretown of Guysborough.

On July 13, community members were invited to gather in the Sunnyville Community Centre, which once served as the school in the community, to provide input and resources for the project.

“As time goes by and the communities dwindle, the information is lost. We’re hoping to be able to gather the information before too long,” said Angie Tavares, MODG’s recreation and special projects director, at the meeting.

Councillor Mary Desmond, who represents the African Nova Scotian communities in the MODG said, “I think this is a project that is really needed because of the dwindling of some of the African Nova Scotia communities. We don’t want the communities to be forgotten…The outmigration of our youth and the aging population of the African Nova Scotia communities, we see that the population is declining. I am just afraid that we are going to have a community that is lost. If we have the interpretive panels at least we can say, ‘There was an African Nova Scotian community there.’”

Desmond said the idea of the panels arose during African Heritage Month last February, when members of the African Nova Scotia community met with MODG council and brought up this concern regarding the preservation of their community histories.

“We are going to try to regenerate communities, and this is one of the projects that the [Upper Big Tracadie] Seniors Action Club has put together. We have got some funding and we hired a community navigator to see if we can collaborate within the three communities [Lincolnville, Sunnyville and Upper Big Tracadie] and with other outside agencies to see if we can improve the situation,” said Desmond.

Knowing community history will not only benefit local residents and encourage youth to see a future when they learn about their past, but the panels will also provide information for visitors to the communities.

“This kind of history is not in our school system, as of yet. I think it is important that these panels go up in the community,” said Desmond.

Tavares added that some African Nova Scotian communities, such as Birchtown near Manchester, had already been lost and, if something wasn’t done now, more might follow.

“It’s important that we gather the information now, that we have the residents, and to have support to push and grow these communities back to where we want them to be,” said Tavares.

Desmond highlighted the urgency of the situation, stating that her community of Upper Big Tracadie used to have 200-plus families and now can only count 10; none of which have any young people. “All we have is seniors… we can’t seem to get our young people to stay.”

Desmond links the outmigration to lack of employment, healthcare and housing.

“If we don’t tackle those three, there’re going to be no African Nova Scotian communities in the Guysborough area.”

Work continues on gathering information and photographic documentation of local landmarks in Sunnyville this summer.

Anyone who has resources to share is asked to contact Madison Jordan by email at, by phone 782-452-2040 or drop in the project office in suite H4 at the Chedabucto Place Shopping Plaza located at 9996 on Highway 16.

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal

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