In late April, Randy Headley, Black Student Support Advisor at Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU), and Dr. Catherine Baillie Abidi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Child and Youth Study at MSVU, together with community collaborators, hosted a series of events focused on celebrating Africentric representations of peace.
“We organized this event series to build dialogue between youth and elders, to share peace approaches between African Nova Scotian and African communities, and to celebrate the many successes for peace through justice,” said Catherine.
About 150 people attended the three events that were held at MSVU, the community centre in Upper Hammonds Plains, and the Ward One Social and Recreation Centre in New Glasgow.
The intent of the events was to feature the lived experience of people of African descent.
“The community told their stories and captured what they wanted to keep as historical records for future generations to learn. Through this method, the project placed all the power in the hands of the community – a stark difference from the norm, where researchers typically extract knowledge,” said Randy.
Among the keynote speakers at each of the three events were Achaleke Leke and Myrah Oloo. Achaleke is a multi-award-winning peacebuilder and violent extremism expert from Cameroon with 15 years of experience working as a practitioner, researcher and academic. Myrah is a passionate youth leader and dedicated to empowering the next generation of change-makers in Africa and bringing investment to the continent, beginning in her home country of Kenya.
Dr. Késa Munroe-Anderson, an MSVU alum and Associate Professor in the School of Education at Acadia University, led the session held in Upper Hammonds Plains.
“The Upper Hammonds Plains session was a timely opportunity to highlight this historic African Nova Scotian community’s legacy of peaceful protest and activism in fighting anti-Black racism,” she said. “From an Afrocentric, anti-racist perspective, this session created space to centre the work of African Nova Scotians in peacebuilding and defining peace, rather than as stereotypical recipients othered and marginalized as requiring the aid of White-led peacemaking missions.”.
Angee Bowden, a community leader, had this to say following the event in New Glasgow:
“It is a given that our communities have always engaged in Afrocentric peace building methods and the evidence of this is embedded in the fabric of our community and people. Community capacity building, self-advocacy, collective activism, community events, extensive programming, individual and collective hobbies and our close spiritual ties are some of the distinct ways in which we have always come together to meet the needs of each other as they arise and continues to cultivate and foster peace through love and safety in our community. It was a great opportunity to reflect on those legacies and to think about ways to preserve, build and continue the work of our ancestors going forward.”
Asia Bannister, a recent MSVU Bachelor of Child & Youth Study graduate who helped plan the events, found inspiration and a renewed appreciation for exploring what peace means to her.
“The speakers reminded me to continue to be myself in this world that sees me as a threat just by the colour of my skin. Continue to smile, be polite and greet people. To continue to be intentional about practicing peace daily and to practice forgiveness for my own peace of mind.”
The series was sponsored by Mount Saint Vincent University, the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace, and Security, Dalhousie University, Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute, YMCA Gender Based Violence Project, and the communities of Upper Hammonds Plains and New Glasgow.