‘It’s our pride’: Caribbean community gathers for celebration in Dartmouth

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Caribbean community celebrates 10th annual festival in Dartmouth
WATCH: A local Halifax organization is getting an early start on Jamaican Independence Day celebrations. The Jamaican Cultural association of Nova Scotia hosted an event with food, music, and exhibits showcasing the history of contributions to the province from Jamaicans and individuals from other Caribbean nations. Vanessa Wright has more – Jul 30, 2023

Many people flocked to the Dartmouth waterfront on Sunday afternoon to get a taste of the Caribbean experience as The Jamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia (JCANS) hosted a day’s worth of events complemented by traditional foods, entertainment, and educational exhibits.

The 10th annual Caribbean Diaspora Multicultural Celebration, held at Ferry Terminal Park, offered several educational displays in addition to cultural activities.

Elmo Burrows, a member of JCANS, said it was a “must” for him to get involved in the day’s events.

“It’s our pride,” he said. “We love Jamaica, we love our country, it’s our mission to spread the green, gold, and black. It’s in our blood.”

Elmo Burrows, right, stands next to Avrian Dolcy, who DJ’d at the event. Vanessa Wright

Burrows said the celebration feels more like a family gathering than just a regular festival.

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“There are lots of Jamaicans that are coming, living in Nova Scotia … and we want them to know that we are here, we have a presence, and we are looking to build our community.”

Olive Phillips, the president of JCANS, said the days’ events are designed as a celebration of freedom, liberty, emancipation, and Jamaican independence.

“It doesn’t matter your ethnicity or background, together we can do great things,” she said.

Panels showcasing biographies of outstanding Nova Scotians of Caribbean ancestry were on display for those in attendance to observe.

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Phillips said the panels are the result of a research project into Caribbean Nova Scotians and their contributions to various professions.

“We have quite a number of them,” she said. “We’re working to hopefully educate the younger generation that we can do just as good as anybody else.”

Phillips said the history is “very strong” between Jamaica and Nova Scotia, citing the federal government’s February designation of the Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia as an event of national historic significance.

About 500 families of Jamaican Maroons, who were descendants of formerly enslaved people of African ancestry, were forcibly transported to the then-British colony of Nova Scotia from Trelawny Town, Jamaica, in 1796.

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Despite receiving an inhospitable reception upon their arrival in Nova Scotia, the Maroons maintained a strong sense of community and culture as they adapted to life in different surroundings.

JCANS also helped facilitate the display of a Pier 21 Museum exhibition honouring Jamaican-Nova Scotian roots, titled, “Jamaican Nova Scotian Connections: From the Maroons to the Present Day”.

Dwayne Provo, Associate Deputy Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs, reiterated the importance of Sunday’s event by noting that Caribbean contributions to Nova Scotia “have been significant”.

Dwayne Provo stands in front of an exhibit during the day’s events. Vanessa Wright

“Anybody who’s been here for any time understands they’ve helped to shape and build this province,” he said, noting his personal connections to the Maroon heritage. “We’ve all been here and have contributed significantly for a number of years, matter of fact, centuries.”

Provo said in addition to recognizing the history, it’s essential to use these gatherings as an opportunity to discuss the future of what these community relationships look like.

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“Being able to be here today and being able to share, whether it’s a meal or a conversation or a hug, those are the important pieces as we start to build on what tomorrow looks like for the youth,” he said.

In addition to the food and educational element of the day’s events, live music began to fill the air as local artists like Zamani Folade, DJ Amazona Sound, and the Nova Dream Drummers took centre stage.

Phillips said despite experiencing her fair share of challenges over the last 10 years, as time goes on, her organization continues to receive increased support.

“We want to share not just our history and culture, but we also want to go towards the future building together … we believe in building the community,” she said.

She said she’s very proud to see how far the event has come after 10 years.

“It’s a decade, it’s an achievement, it’s a milestone, and we look forward to the next 10,” she said. “They (Caribbean community) see the value in spreading your culture and just getting people to know that we are the same under our skin.”

The day’s event also acted as a precursor to Jamaica’s 61st Independence Day celebrations, which fall on Aug. 6.

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Following Sunday’s celebration, JCANS will look ahead to hosting an event highlighting similar themes next week — as their 10th annual Caribbean float parade, which encourages Halifax residents with ancestry from any of the island regions to participate, takes place Aug. 7 on Gottingen Street.

— with files from Vanessa Wright

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