Survivors, descendants and allies of Africville gathered on Saturday to demand all three levels of government step in and compensate them, over 50 years after their community was demolished.
“We have yet to get our community back,” said Eddie Carvery, an Africville survivor, ahead of Saturday’s rally.
“They’re talking about change. Well, racism, as far as I’m concerned, it began in Africville and it’s alive and well in Africville.”
The coastal community along the shores of the Bedford Basin was founded in the middle of the 18th century. It was a vibrant Black community for decades, but for years the city of Halifax refused to provide residents access to clean drinking water, garbage disposal or sewage services, even though Africville residents paid taxes.
A prison, garbage dump and infectious disease hospital near the community were all built near the community by the city. And in the 1960s, the city demolished homes in the community, forcing approximately 400 residents to relocate with little compensation for their homes and land.
After years of enduring the injustice, the displaced residents and their descendants, as well as allies of the communities, are still demanding compensation.
“I’m here still, waiting to be compensated,” said John Carvery, who was 11 years old when he and his family was forced out of Africville. “Thank God I’m still here, but I’m going to die myself, wondering when are we going to be compensated?”
“We need to be compensated — land for land — to bring our family back,” said Africville descendant Donald Brown.
On Sept. 29, Premier Stephen McNeil issued an apology to Black and Indigenous Nova Scotians for systemic racism in the province’s justice system, saying institutions such as the police and the courts have failed Black and Indigenous people.
But Africville survivor Denise Allen says actions speak louder than words.
“Apologies are nothing new,” said Allen. “But neither is compensation for other groups, with the exception of the Black community of Africville. Those members received nothing.”
On Saturday, demonstrators said they feel their voices aren’t being heard, so that’s why they took their message to the streets of Halifax.
“The government wants a pathway forward. We cannot see a pathway forward when Africville still remains unresolved,” said Eddie Carvery Jr. “We’ve now come three generations since the demolishment of our community.
“It’s time for it to end.”
The demonstration began outside the Africville Museum, where more than 100 protesters gathered to decorate their cars ahead of the vehicle convoy through the streets of Halifax.
Halifax Regional Police officers were on hand to direct traffic as demonstrators marched.
Survivors and descendants said even though they’re calling for compensation, they say money still won’t fix everything.
“It’s never going to heal the emotional and psychological wounds and scars that we suffer,” said Denise Allen. “We’re tired of the racist, tired rhetoric that destroyed Africville.”