Heritage Minister drums in African Heritage month

Christopher Gooding
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Amherst, Cumberland County turn launch into party

AMHERST – The launch of any campaign is going to invariably draw some political presence. A formal agenda, scripted addresses to the public and then closing remarks.

In the Town of Amherst for the launch of African Heritage Month that’s where the similarities ended when Nova Scotia Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage, as well as Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, got rid of his suit jacket, strapped on a hand drum and joined the Imani Children’s Choir from New Brunswick to entertain the crowd.

Already, the gathering at the town hall had been entertained by Springhill High School student Connor Ruddick, who warmed the crowd up with some Elvis Presley rock n’ roll singing and dancing before the children’s choir took the floor. Clearly, this wasn’t your usual photo-op for Ince, who had brought his own drum and strap that showed sighs of use. As the choir ended its first performance, he didn’t go anywhere. Instead, he waited on the sideline until the choir started playing again and joined right back in. He was there to celebrate with the children.

Which was very fitting. The theme for this year’s African Heritage Month is Rising Stars – Celebrating our Youth, and in the crowd was Summer-Joy Upshaw, the Cumberland County student chosen to be featured in the province’s poster campaign for the month.

“I feel so honoured to represent black Nova Scotia youth,” Upshaw said. “I don’t normally get this type of attention.”

Upshaw stood-out because of her volunteering, philanthropic dedication and being a role model by helping the disadvantage, Ince said, but Upshaw says its possible for all youth to be role models in their communities.

“To the youth, I just want to say don’t be afraid to get involved, to get your hands dirty and volunteer,” Upshaw said.

“Summer-Joy and all this year’s young people are showing us what it means to be community leaders,” Ince said.

Upshaw is part of a new generation of black Nova Scotians with new opportunities and it was duly noted the road here has not been an easy one.

“This is a time for us to celebrate our youth. 125 years ago, this was not even possible,” Theresa Halfkenny, Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association board member said. “260 years ago it wasn’t even a dream. But opportunities come our way each day if we keep our eye on the dream.”

Cumberland County Municipal Warden Keith Hunter didn’t beat around the bush racism has historically held back Nova Scotia’s black community but with each year and each generation attitudes change and will continue to change, he says.

“When I was younger it was much harder for those of Nova Scotian African decent but that’s changing and I think it’s good.”

Hunter says he’s had the distinction of working with some of the areas “firsts” and distinguished members of Nova Scotia’s African Heritage community during his political career and what stands out about them has always been their character.

“All of these people were not just average Nova Scotians. They were extraordinary people who did very well,” Hunter said.

Celebrating success and remembering history, Minister Ince said, is how we create change and it’s an attitude that has been adopted across Nova Scotia.  

“I know many organizations and communities in every region of the province are working tirelessly to make this month a success and make sure our stories are told – and sometimes untold stories are remembered,” Ince said.

To help tell those stories a number of events are taking place locally in part with African Heritage Month. And exhibit is on display at the Cumberland County Museum in Amherst as well as at the CANSA office at the corner of Church and Victoria Street while Tantramar FM Community Radio will feature a series dubbed African Beats, featuring local connections from the local Canadian-African community, Monday’s at 7 p.m.

For a listing of events taken place across the province visit www.ansa.novascotia.ca/events-calendar.

Organizations: African Heritage, Springhill High School, Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association Cumberland County Museum Tantramar FM Community Radio

Geographic location: Amherst, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia New Brunswick Victoria Street

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