Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

The ties that bind: African Heritage Month 2020 launched in Antigonish during ceremony at StFX

January 23rd, 2020
StFX student Sebastian Charles leads the crowd in the song Lift Every Voice

From the stirring rhythmic beats of the African drumming procession that opened the ceremony to the closing prayer that encouraged all to hear in their hearts the powerful words expressed, the launch of African Heritage Month 2020 in Antigonish not only shone a spotlight on the culture and contributions of African Nova Scotians to society, it recognized the strength that comes with unity. 

A large crowd of StFX students, faculty and staff, community members, and local school students filled the MacKay Room, Bloomfield Centre, on the StFX campus on Jan. 23, 2020 to unite and celebrate that February is African Heritage Month. The theme for the month is “The Ties that Bind: Faith, Family, and Community.” 

“Together, we gather to honour and celebrate the many contributions that African Nova Scotians past and present have made to our society,” said Kelsey Jones, StFX Coordinator, African Descent Student Affairs, and co-emcee of the ceremony with Lorraine Reddick, Student Support Worker, Strait Centre for Education. 

“African Heritage Month marks a time of reflection, awareness, and most importantly, education,” she says. 

African Heritage Month is a great opportunity to learn about the contributions, history and culture of African Nova Scotians, Ms. Reddick says. It is equally important that this knowledge be integrated into learning throughout the year, she noted.

Ms. Jones says we must recognize the contributions of those who came before us and who laid the foundation, and we must honour their legacy and continue to fight for justice and equality.

During her remarks, she challenged non-African Nova Scotians to ask themselves, ‘what am I doing to help dismantle the white supremacy society we live in?’ 

“We need you in solidarity, and we need action,” she said. “We need to work together for a better tomorrow. I, for one, am excited to see what the future holds.” 


The theme of “The Ties that Bind,” reminds us that we can facilitate a greater bond of all cultures in Nova Scotia, said Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher, who noted both the importance of inclusion and of paying tribute to the rich history and many contributions of African Nova Scotians. Mayor Boucher noted how pleased she is to see how this ceremony has grown over the years and to see the ever-growing crowd in attendance each year. 

Antigonish County Warden Owen McCarron noted he looks forward to this ceremony every year for the wonderful feeling of energy, community and culture in the room. “We need to work harder to spread that feeling of today, and to celebrate all the cultures that make our community,” he said. 

In remarks that received several rounds of applause, StFX President Dr. Kevin Wamsley noted that all around the world today we’re dealing with a plague of white nationalism. “We have to deal with that head on,” he said.

“We do that through education and understanding.”

There is hope, too, he said. For inspiration, one need only to look at StFX at the students, faculty, and staff of African descent who are here and who are succeeding. For all non-Black people, he challenged them not to let other people do the work for them. “You need to know the history of African Nova Scotians, and you need to stand up and be heard.” 

The way forward is not about fighting, it is all about building bridges, he said. 

In his remarks, Antigonish MLA and Minister of Health and Wellness and Minister of Gaelic Affairs, the Hon. Randy Delorey, also reiterated African Heritage Month isn’t about one month, it is about changing ourselves to incorporate it into our everyday life. 

Father Stanley MacDonald, who offered a blessing during the ceremony, encouraged everyone to be sure to take in the powerful words shared. “It needs to be heard in our hearts,” he said. “Think about it. Let it go deep.” 

Also bringing remarks were Janice Gough, Strait Regional Centre for Education, and Natasha Gray, African Nova Scotia Affairs. Remarks were also read from Central Nova MP Sean Fraser, who was unable to be in attendance. 

Rev. Richard Adesola helped open the ceremony with a prayer while Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School student Keira MacDuff sang O Canada and StFX student Sebastien Charles led the crowd in Lift Every Voice. 

Dr. John High Gillis Regional High School student Marcel Desmond brought in the African Heritage Month flag for a symbolic flag raising. The flag will fly in Alumni Plaza at StFX and also in the Town of Antigonish. A flag raising ceremony will be held at Town Hall on Feb. 3 at 11 a.m. 

The launch also included a libation ceremony, led by Ms. Reddick, to honour ancestors; the unveiling of the African Heritage Mount 2020 poster; presentations from Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School students; and lunch catered by Jamaica Lee Style Cuisine and Sodexo. 

The event is a partnership of StFX, the Town of Antigonish, the County of Antigonish, African Nova Scotian Affairs, Black Educators Association of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Gaming Support 4 Culture, and Strait Regional Centre for Education. 

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