“A Year of Advancement:” African Heritage Month Opening Night 2019

On Thursday, January 24, the Black History Month Association and Halifax Public Libraries celebrated the beginning of African Heritage Month in Halifax with a full-house crowd of community members.

2019 marks the 35th year of African Heritage Month in Halifax, opens a new window. This year, the Opening Night Ceremony, traditionally held at Halifax North Memorial Public Library, relocated to the George Dixon Centre, opens a new window in Halifax. Halifax Public Libraries' Chief Librarian and CEO, Åsa Kachan shared the reason for the move: "This event has grown so much, we needed a bigger space to accommodate this crowd!" The gymnasium at the George Dixon Centre was filled with several hundred attendees, and reinstating a past Opening Night tradition, the back of the room was transformed into a local vendors' marketplace. Local African Nova Scotian businesses displayed and shared products ranging from jewellery and beauty products to custom artwork.

Support from TD Bank Group has made it possible for the Library, in collaboration with a Community Advisory Group and many partners, to host over 75 African Heritage Month programs in the weeks to come.

As always, Opening Night shared a sample of the many types of programs and events happening throughout the month of February—and beyond. RCMP Sergeant, Craig Smith, noted as he discussed the early beginnings of African Heritage Month tradition in Halifax, "Slowly it went from a week, to a month, and now...from about Martin Luther King Junior Day to March 21, International Day for the Elimination of Racism." 

Reflecting on the past 35 years with a photo slideshow and a line-up of performances representing the past 3 decades, emcees, organizers, and Black History Month Association representatives Tracey Jones-Grant (Halifax Regional Municipality) and Crystal Mulder (Halifax Public Libraries) also called attention to the many attendees and community members who have contributed over the years, making this month so special in Halifax. "African Heritage Month launches are happening all across Nova Scotia," said Tracey. "Unlike any other province in Canada, we have made this a provincial initiative." Emcees and speakers alike also looked back to honour the memory of Terry Symonds and all early founders.

The audience enjoyed musical performances representing the past and future by Drummers From Home; and mothers and daughters, Delvina Bernard, Kim Bernard, Amariah Bernard-Wasington, and Zamani Bernard-Millar. Former Halifax Poet Laureate, El Jones shared spoken word, followed by 2 up-and-coming young poets: Martha Mutale and Dominque Oliver-Dares.

Wrapping up the evening, Councillor Lindell Smith shared parting words to mark the beginning of celebrations in Halifax. "I'm thankful to be part of this African Heritage Month community. It's been around longer than I have. We continue to persevere, but we also continue to be left behind...We need to work together to bring each other up to not only remember the great we have done, but how to move forward and grow together. Let's make this a year of encouragement, not discouragement. Support, not report. Reaching out, not spreading out. Let's make it a year of advancement."

Explore African Heritage Month at Halifax Public Libraries

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