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Halifax Public Library and the Black History Month Association celebrate 40 years of African History Month

Halifax Public Library is hosting events all February long

This February marks Halifax Public Library and the Black History Month Association’s 40th annual African History Month celebration featuring a month-long schedule packed full of events.

The celebration kicks off the annual opening ceremony on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m., in Paul O’Regan Hall at the Halifax Central Library. The event will also be streamed online.

This year’s opening ceremony features speeches from a range of community members including the Minister for African Nova Scotian Affairs Twila Rose Grosse, Consul General Lyra Carr and Halifax Regional Councillor Lindell Smith. 

The ceremony will also feature entertainment from Owen O’Sound Lee and Jupiter Reign.

The opening night celebration has run continuously for the past 40 years, including an adaptation to online programming during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This year’s theme for African History Month is “Our Smiles, Our Joy, Our Resilience as African Nova Scotians.”

For Crystal Mulder, the African Nova Scotian community specialist at Halifax Public Libraries, the theme represents a spirit of resilience in the face of hardship.

“We are a resilient people,” said Mulder. “We’ve never had an easy row to hoe in this province.”

Mulder points to the historical challenges facing the African Nova Scotian community, whose roots in the province date back hundreds of years. But, despite the difficulties African Nova Scotians have faced across the province, she said the community maintains a spirit of joy.

“We’ve always found joy in whatever it is we are doing. We’ve found joy in our communities,” said Mulder.

Mulder has been a member of the Black History Month Association for the past 29 years.

Programming will take place throughout February across the Halifax Regional Municipality at many of the library’s branches. Events include scavenger hunts, jazz performances, book launch panels, film screenings and much more. 

Entertainers, including the Nova Scotia Mass Choir, are set to perform throughout the month. The choir primarily performs Black gospel music and has scheduled performances on Feb. 7, 21 and 28. 

Another highlight is the event on Feb. 10, “5 Poets Breaking Into Song: Saltwater Spirituals & Uppity Blues.” The performance will feature Jazz Pianist and composer D. D. Jackson and vocalist Linda Carvey turning the work of poets Aquakultre, Delvina Bernard, George Elliott Clarke, Robert de la Chevotiere, the Honourable Mayann Francis, Abena Beloved Green and Reed iZrEAL Jones into song. 

“We did one last year and it was such a huge success,” said Mulder.

This year’s celebration aims to get youth involved in the programming by planning child-focused events. At the Captain William Spry Public Library, people of all ages are invited to build Lego murals of iconic Black figures and activists, including Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.

Cooking classes with Chef Mary Nkrumah from Mary’s African Cuisine will teach participants to make Abolo, which are steamed rice cakes common in West African countries. Another event provides grab-and-go kits for people to bake powder biscuits at home, with a recipe from the cookbook In the Africville Kitchen: The Comforts of Home.

A complete list of program information is available on the Halifax Public Libraries website. Mulder says that organizers are still working on finalizing the schedule and advises the public to keep an eye out for new events.

Over the past 40 years, African History Month celebrations have provided the community with the opportunity to learn the role of African Nova Scotians in the development of the province

“Until a few years ago, we weren’t part of the curriculum of schools. There was no in-depth study of Black Canadians. What we’re asking for from Nova Scotia is to see worth in our being here,” said Mulder. “We add to the fabric of the province.”

Mulder says while African History Month is officially just February, the impact is felt throughout the year. 

“It allows us to share knowledge. It’s a hyperfocus for a few weeks. But, that hyperfocus can quickly develop into a year-long focus,” said Mulder.

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