COVID-19 may have once again halted most in-person events, but a Dal-hosted virtual panel held last Wednesday was a shining reminder that community engagement is still alive and well in Halifax.
An African Nova Scotian Community Calling In, organized by the Dal-based MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance in partnership with the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute and non-profit Inspiring Communities, focused on different issues facing African Nova Scotian communities, including housing crises and government accountability.
Panelists were asked off the top why they chose to be a part of the evening’s discussion. Among their reasons, one in stood out clearly: love for community and culture.
Panelist Barb Hamilton-Hinch, Dal's assistant vice‑provost equity and inclusion and an associate professor at the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie, spoke about responsibility.
“As an educator and researcher and activist within the community, I have a responsibility to be here. To engage in this conversation. To see what difference, we can make," said Dr. Hamilton-Hinch. "This conversation is important to [see] what can we do better and what can we do next?”
It would seem as though attendees felt the same. Frequently, the speakers’ statements were met with words of praise in the public chat.
Passing the mic
Louise Adongo, the executive director of Inspiring Communities and a sessional instructor at Dal, was one of the planners of last week's event. She said she has already seen first-hand the positive impact such discussions can have.
“Hosting an event like this demonstrates to the Halifax-Dalhousie community that we are holding space for [voices] and passing the mic to have people share their perspectives on what matters impact them," she said.
One of the varying topics discussed by the panelists was how African Nova Scotians could get involved in their communities. Social worker Robert Seymour Wright, one of the panelists, suggested a couple ways people can get involved. One of his suggestions was for civics classes to be offered “away from partisan systems.”
That would mean that African Nova Scotian Communities would have a better opportunity to understand how the government works in an environment that is more supportive to their learning.
Recognition and resources
The fourth panelist, Carolann Wright, director of capacity building & strategic initiatives African Nova Scotian communities with the Halifax Partnership, drove home one vital point outlining what governments should be doing about reconstruction. “Recognize the plan that [communities have] developed. Not to develop the plan for communities. [And then] put resources to that plan.”
Following Wright’s statement, educator and community historian Lynn Jones voiced her disapproval for the lack of action that all three levels of government have taken for African Nova Scotians.
“We should be ashamed of our governments in not signing onto recognize slavery as a crime against humanity and the need for reparations,” she said. “The United Nations came down [to Halifax] and said that reparations should be taking place. It has been [years] since that happened and we have moved absolutely nowhere.”
A powerful statement from panel moderator Sylvia Parris-Drummond, CEO of the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute, closed out the evening.
“Your voice is one, but it matters.”
Watch the full panel event below
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