Black History Month celebrated at Kensington library with drums and traditional dance

Story and photos by Jim Brown

Mufaro Chakabuda, left with Kat Carroll during a drumming session.

Mufaro Chakabuda, who was born and grew up in Zimbabwe, was a special guest at the Kensington Heritage Library on Feb 23, during Black History Month on PEI. She gave a compelling presentation on her native country and the 54 nations that make up the continent of Africa.
The presentation also featured traditional drumming and dancing, with everyone getting to their feet to join her in ceremonial dances.
She said Africa’s largest nation by population is Nigeria, with 150 million people.
Mufaro went on to say Ethiopian Airlines is the largest airline in Africa and is bigger than Air Canada and British Airways.
There are literally thousands of different tribes in Africa, with each tribe having its own language and culture.
In many ways African nations are ahead of the developed world. There is much more to Africa than the grim stories that routinely make news headlines.
Rwanda, for instance, leads every other nation on earth in an important environmental initiative.
“They are the first country in the world to introduce a no-plastic policy,” she said.
Anyone with plastic items in their possession, even a toothbrush, can be charged with a criminal offence.
Mufaro, who arrived in Canada at the age of 19 to study at Dalhousie University, went on to found the Maritime Centre for African Dance with just $20. She also founded a publishing house and a charity for scholarships directed towards Zimbabweans.

Mufaro Chakabuda shares a lighter moment with Kensington youngster Zoe Carroll.

Zoe Carroll, after a miscue or two quickly picked up the beat of Mufaro’s drumming.

She has won numerous national and regional awards for her entrepreneurial accomplishments and her community leadership.
Mufaro divides her time between her work in Canada and her native Zimbabwe.
She said she hoped her presentation, in addition to entertaining people, would leave everyone with a “realistic picture of the continent.”

Black History Month

Viola Desmond

 
Black History on Prince Edward Island
By Dale Amundson, Editor, SeniorsPEI.ca, February 2, 2019
Again this year there is a paucity of events related to Black History Month. A few related events at public libraries – one at each of 5 libraries and a second event at the Confederation Centre Public Library. The only listing related to Black History Month on the PEI Government website is of these events. Even the Black Cultural Society of PEI facebook page has nothing more to offer.

One wonders if there is a belief that there is no black history on Prince Edward Island. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Not only is there a black history, there is also a history of slaves and slave ownership. Some of Prince Edward Island’s most prominent residents were slave owners.
Under French rule, it was legal to own slaves on Île St.-Jean. However, the first record of enslaved Africans was in 1784 when 16 “negro servants” arrived with the Loyalists; by 1785 there were almost 100. After 1799, when the name was changed to Prince Edward Island, there were enslaved Africans in Charlottetown and Summerside. In PEI, perhaps due to the small number, enslaved Africans were allowed to be baptized and to marry legally. The wealthy owned enslaved Africans, including businessman William Shurman and the Lieutenant-Governor Edmund Fanning.
Many people are not aware that there were black people on Prince Edward Island in the 19th century, but there were. A black community known as The Bog, developed around Euston and Rochford streets in Charlottetown, near Government Pond, in the 1800s.
Most of the descendants of these black Islanders have been assimilated into the population and are no longer a visible minority. There are black people in thousands of families, from one end of the Island to the other.
In 2014, as part of the celebration marking the 150 anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, a stage production called Tales from the Old Stock: Stories and Songs of P.E.I Black History was performed at the 2014 Celebration Zone. It chronicled some of the missing pieces of Island history through skits and storytelling, as reported in the Guardian at the time.

Historian Bruce Ziff maintains that the first “abolitionist statute” in the Empire was Prince Edward Island’s 1781 act regulating slavery. The only statute in the post-revolutionary, second British Empire to regulate slaves explicitly. A detailed academic analysis of slavery on Prince Edward Island in the article Slave Life and Slave Law in Colonial Prince Edward Island, 1769-1825 by Harvey Amani Whitfield provides some compelling information, along with detailed footnotes and a bibliography. A list of known slave names or identities exists in the appendix of the article.
The 1781 act regulating slavery was abolished in 1825 by an act of the Legislature. By that time there were no slaves remaining on the island.
Those of us who care that the history of Prince Edward Island is represented honestly and inclusively look forward to the time when the Government is willing to commit resources sufficient to bring awareness of the meaning and importance of Black History Month, and black history generally to everyone on the Island.

Big changes coming to Stanley Bridge Centre building this summer

By Jim Brown
By this summer visitors returning to the popular Stanley Bridge Centre, home of successful farmers markets, history circles and concerts, will see some big changes.

For one thing, the port-a-potty at the back of the building will be gone and a leaky roof fixed.
As much as $35,000 will be spent making necessary improvements, which should make it easier for food vendors to set up.
“We’re going to do a renovation that will expand our entrance, give us washrooms, give us a kitchen, and completely do the roof (including the steeple),” said Don Reid, a member of the Stanley Bridge Memorial Society’s board of directors.
The work includes a ramp to improve access for people with disabilities.
Mr Reid hopes to have the project started sometime in mid to late March and finished in time for the busy tourist season.
“Right now I have two, possibly three vendors who are interested in renting the centre from us.”
The board has even bigger plans for the future, which would require more than $400,000 to completely renovate the building, including putting in a new foundation.