A Look at Black Freedom Struggles in NS and South Africa

On Tuesday February 12, in celebration of African Heritage Month, Saint Mary's hosted a panel discussion on “Racial Apartheid and Black Freedom Struggles in Nova Scotia and South Africa” in the Patrick Power Library.

More than 40 people attended the event, held in connection with a month-long exhibit of materials from The Lynn Jones African-Canadian & Diaspora Heritage Collection, curated by researcher and filmmaker Francesca Ekwuyasi.

Ekwuyasi was also a panel speaker that evening. Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, she provided her perspective as a former international student at Saint Mary’s and as a current Halifax resident.

Regina James of the East Preston Empowerment Academy traced the heritage of African Nova Scotians, beginning in Africa, and spoke of the struggles that African Nova Scotians have had, and continue to have, for equal rights and the right to have their voices heard. “No one is going to write your story for you,” James emphasized. “We have to write our own story.”

A question and answer period after the discussion also featured Dr. Lynn Jones (Global African Congress, NS Chapter). “Our goal was to ensure the elections were free and fair”, said Dr. Jones, recalling her work as an election observer for the 1994 South African Presidential election of Nelson Mandela. She described how Black South Africans showed up early and waited in long lines so they wouldn’t miss their chance to vote. For most who had lived under the recently ended apartheid system, it was their first time voting.

The event ended with a roundtable initiated by Dr. Jones, who asked: "Who you be, so I can know your name?” According to Dr. Jones, this is the way African Nova Scotians are able to learn about each other and place one another in the community. Africans and African Nova Scotians in the audience stood up and introduced themselves in this fashion, sharing their histories with the panel and audience.

Both the panel and exhibit were organized by Dr. Val Marie Johnson and Saint Mary’s Archivist Hansel Cook, and are sponsored by the Department of Social Justice & Community Studies, African Nova Scotian Affairs, and SMU Library & Archives.

Submitted by Shawna Murphy, Patrick Power Library.