The African Nova Scotian contribution to Cumberland County was celebrated on Monday, Feb. 6, during a ceremony and poster unveiling recognizing African Heritage Month at the Cumberland African Nova Scotian Association’s office in downtown Amherst.
While much has been accomplished, Murray Scott, mayor of the Municipality of Cumberland, said there is still much to do.
“African Nova Scotians have had a tremendous impact on our communities over the years, but there is one thing we should never lose sight of, there is lots more to do,” Scott said during the ceremony that was attended by municipal officials from Cumberland County and Amherst and supporters of the work being done by CANSA.
“You only have to watch the news to realize there’s so much more we have to do, we need to do, as a community and a society.”
Mayor Scott read a proclamation declaring February to be African Heritage Month within the Municipality of Cumberland and presented a certificate to former CANSA executive director Elizabeth Cooke-Sumbu for her years of service to the organization and the people of Cumberland County.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Scott and District 2 Coun. Rod Gilroy joined CANSA’s executive director Bernice Vance in raising a flag at the municipality’s Upper Nappan Service Centre signifying African Heritage Month.
The flag will fly through February.
Crystal States from the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs said this year’s theme, Seas of Struggle – African Peoples from Shore to Shore, recognizes the resiliency, strength and determination and impact of people of African descent from the shores of Africa to the shores of Nova Scotia with the Atlantic Ocean being the everlasting connection.
“The theme is as powerful as the people of African ancestry who are global architects and designers of civilization, advancement and change,” States said.
The theme highlights the role the sea has played in the long-standing history of people of African descent in the development of Canada and Nova Scotia. This year’s theme aligns with the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024.
Nova Scotia has more than 50 historic African Nova Scotian communities with a long, deep and complex history dating back more than 400 years. African Heritage Month provides another opportunity to celebrate and promote the culture, legacy, achievements and contributions of people of African descent in Nova Scotia – past and present. The goal is to strengthen global cooperation in support of people of African descent, increase awareness and recognize their full and equal participation in society. States and Sumbu unveiled a poster depicting this year’s theme.
Sumbu said it’s important to continue celebrating African Heritage Month because it helps foster understanding of the rich contribution African Nova Scotians have made to the province.
“By celebrating and recognizing African Heritage Month we can continue meaningful conversations and actions to combat anti-Black racism, balance out inequities and thrive toward just futures,” Sumbu said.“We all must share our stories, listen to others and learn to increase awareness and build understanding to develop new skills to address real community and workplace issues involving racial dynamics.”
Sumbu said it’s important to learn about stereotyping, microaggressions and other forms of racism.
The beginning of African Heritage Month can be traced back to 1926 when Harvard-educated Black historian Carter G. Woodson founded Negro History Week to recognize the achievements made by African Americans. Woodson purposefully chose February because of the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln who were both key figures in the emancipation of enslaved Blacks. Black History Month was first celebrated in Canada in 1950.