With electrical distribution being an essential part of the construction industry, in honour of black history month, Sonepar has partnered with the historical Canadian museum Africville, to help spread awareness about the importance of ethical planning and sustainable land development.
The Africville museum, located in Halifax, Nova Scotia is a relic of a community that represents black solidarity in Canada. Through the guise of gentrification, the people of this community we forced from their homes and displaced. This story is a reminder of how ethical and sustainable development should be at the forefront of urban renewal projects, especially when communities and the environment are affected in the name of advancement.
“Over 3,000 Black people came as part of the Loyalist migration between 1783 and 1785,” said Juanita Peters, Africville Heritage Trust’s Executive Director. “When people arrived on the shores of Shelburne, NS they were exposed to extreme weather conditions, resulting in many deaths. There were forty-seven black communities in Nova Scotia at that period.”
Over time, after being discriminated against and pushed to the edge of society, many African Nova Scotians would migrate to a community that welcomed them and would later be known as, “Africville”.
“As the community of Africville continued to grow, the city of Halifax began to place undesirable facilities such as, an infectious disease hospital, a jail, and an open dump around the community,” she said. “In 1964, without the consultation of any Africville residents, the Halifax City Council authorized the removal of its residents in the name of urban renewal. Ultimately, displacing members of the community – forever.”
Although the community was displaced the creation of the Africville Genealogy Society helped identify where former residents and their families were located. Families started returning for community reunions simply to engage with each other on the Africville land. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Africville reunion initiative which emphatically embodies their motto, “A Spirit That Lives On,” a saying that has remained timeless and continues to resonate with the essence of the community today.
“The people of Africville have always known that their spirit is stronger than anything they have been forced to endure, and if they rely on each other and work together they can continue to spread awareness about their beloved community for future generations,” said Juanita.
In 2010, the Mayor of Halifax made a public apology for the destruction of the Africville community. The Africville Museum was constructed as a tribute to the old Seaview Church and sits on the 2.5 acres of land the community once occupied.
“We are not just a museum”, Juanita stated. “We are living history! The story of Africville is a cautionary tale,” she said. “Ethical planning and sustainable development should be the foundation of urban renewal. We need to start asking the right questions to ensure we are doing our due diligence as a society. This means inquiring about what we lose in the process of a specific goal. Is it harder to replace? What does it mean to the people? What does it mean to the environment? What level of damage are we causing long-term and short-term and is it worth the potential benefits?”
“I’m happy to say that the world has changed,” she said. “We work closely with urban and community planners to advise them of the components of our community. Essentially, we don’t want to be disruptors; we want to be progressors, which means thinking about creating long-lasting and strong communities.”
“Corporations taking that extra step to support marginalized communities through diversity initiatives, such as scholarship programs, are an example of effective ways to ensure the community is progressing in a safe and inclusive manner.”