A crowd of more than 50 people filled the halls Halifax North Memorial Library on Thursday for a night of education and remembrance, as the community came together to honour the legacy of the Black United Front (BUF) and the Black liberationist movements of the 1960s.
The occasion marked the 55th anniversary of the meeting that launched BUF, which took place on Nov. 30, 1968, at the North Memorial Library.
“It becomes important to acknowledge these moments,” said Isaac Saney, the event’s organizer and coordinator of Dalhousie’s newly established Black and African diaspora studies program.
“Historical memory is critical not simply as a historical artifact, but critically important, I would argue, in informing future struggles and affirming our right to be, our right to exist.”
The event led off with a lecture in which Saney, along with Chevy Eugene, a political science lecturer at Dalhousie, and El Jones, a poet and journalist, discussed the history of BUF and cultural context in which it developed.
The organization, founded by the late African-Nova Scotian activists William Pearly Oliver and Burnley (Rocky) Jones, among others, formed to advance the economic and political interest of the Black Nova Scotian community and to empower Black people through promoting history and cultural pride. The group remained a significant force in Black Nova Scotian politics until its disbandment in 1996.
The formation of BUF coincided with the rise of Black liberationist movements occurring across the globe throughout the 1960s, most notably the rise of the Black Panther Party in the United States, which was influential on the organization’s platform. While a “turbulent decade,” Saney said of the 1960s, it represented a period in which “the vision of a world centred around justice, peace, internationalism and human dignity seemed within grasp,” and BUF was extension of this.
Eddie Carvery, a social activist from Africville, a small, predominantly African Nova Scotian community in Halifax, was one of the many people in attendance at the event. During the following open-floor discussion, he gave a tearful speech in which spoke about the plight of his people in Africville, many of whom lost their homes as a result of the city’s urban renewal project in the 1960s and were neglected by the city afterwards. He says even now little has been done to rectify this.
“Everybody’s talking about… how far we’ve come,” Carvery said. “How far have we come?”
Brandon Fraser, another attendee, who was moved by Carvery’s speech, says more work still needs to be done. He stated he believes the cause of Africville should be something the Black community in Nova Scotia should rally around and that support should be given those most vulnerable, taking a page from the activist of BUF.
“What could be done is a unified fight to regain possession and power around Africville,” Fraser said. “Hopefully we agitate enough that we are able redevelop the land down there and take control.”
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Karsten Greene is a Master of Journalism student at King's. He's passionate about storytelling and hopes to make a difference through it.