Black Summit in Halifax connects communities across Canada

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The National Black Canadian Summit in Halifax brings together Black people and allies from across the country to discuss issues facing their community and to share their culture.

The summit kicked off Friday with a visit to the Africville Museum in Halifax and the Black Cultural Center for Nova Scotia in Cherry Brook.

Tara Lapointe, executive director of the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, said Nova Scotia was a clear choice for the summit. The foundation is hosting the summit.

“There was a very active group from this province that said the next event had to be in Nova Scotia, the birthplace, the cradle of black presence in this country,” Lapointe said.

“African Nova Scotians, their history is not celebrated. She is not known throughout the country. She must be.

Organizers were expecting around 1,000 people at the Halifax Convention Center for the summit, but Lapointe said there were more than 1,200 and more than a third were under 30.

“We hear a connection,” Lapointe said. “We hear community. We hear celebration and we hear change. So yeah, that’s all I had hoped for.”

Omolola Adeyemi is the owner of Ova Afrique, an African clothing and accessories company in Halifax. (Dylan Jones/Radio Canada)

The three-day summit includes presentations, workshops, panel discussions, and poetry and music performances.

There are also vendors and performers at the convention center celebrating black culture.

Omolola Adeyemi, owner of local clothing company Ova Afrique, said she came to show that African culture exists in Halifax.

“Also, we are here to see our brothers and sisters come from all over Canada,” she said. “So we can reconnect, connect and be able to feel ourselves among everyone,” she said.

Panels and workshops cover a wide range of topics from justice and activism to environmental racism and barriers to education.

Edward Matwawana, director of programming for the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, said a key topic of the summit is black health.

“There are disparities in the healthcare system,” he said. “A lot of people in our community don’t trust the healthcare system. So how can we change? In places like this where we can have serious talk and tough talk.”

Edward Matwawana is the director of programs for the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. (Dylan Jones/Radio Canada)

Matwawana said he wanted people to leave the summit with new relationships and new ideas.

“We want people to take away knowledge that they didn’t have before, maybe they didn’t know before,” he said. “And that way in their own communities they can use that data, they can use the information to effect change.”

The summit ends on Sunday with the presentation of the Halifax Declaration, the culmination of the exchange of ideas and recommendations over the weekend.

Dr. Natalia Kanem is Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, its sexual and reproductive health agency. (Dylan Jones/Radio Canada)

Dr. Natalia Kanem, executive director of the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, also attended the summit. She said the declaration would be an anchor for black rights.

“In unity there is strength. And I think this is a time when the world yearns for peace – or black people around the world need to make sure that our declaration also expresses our hope that peace and justice will go hand in hand.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to stories of success within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(Radio Canada)
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