Tears, smiles, relief at ‘glorious’ Africville apology – Metro US

Tears, smiles, relief at ‘glorious’ Africville apology

Mayor Peter Kelly said the words former residents of Africville have no doubt been waiting 50 years to hear: “We apologize.”

In front of a crowd of about 200 at the Gottingen Street YMCA yesterday, Kelly offered a formal apology on behalf of HRM and council for the destruction of the black settlement in Halifax’s north end from the 1960s.

“You lost your houses, your church, all of the places where you gathered with family and friends to mark the milestones of your lives,” Kelly told the crowd from a prepared statement. “For all that, we apologize.”

Brenda Steed-Ross, a former resident of Africville and the founder of the Africville Genealogy Society, was moved to tears during the apology. Others in the crowd smiled through misty eyes, glad to finally hear the words.

“To see the mayor admit to this wrongdoing, it’s glorious,” said Bette Skinner, who was married to an Africville resident. “There’s a lot of emotions going around here today.”

Kelly also announced details of the deal reached between HRM and the society. The municipality will provide $3-million to help rebuild the Seaview United Baptist Church and 2.5 acres of land for the project on the former Africville site.

“Our history cannot be rewritten but, thankfully, the future is a blank page,” Kelly said from his statement. “Starting today, we hold the pen with which we can write a shared tomorrow.”

But not everybody in attendance was happy.

A group at the back of the room chanted “shame” when society president Irvine Carvery took the podium. Sporadic shouts for a public inquiry and individual compensation were heard during Kelly’s speech.

Some former residents have been vocal in their opposition of the deal, claiming the vote to accept it Saturday was illegitimate, and even in conflict with the law.

“I beg to differ,” Carvery told reporters. “I can’t comment on what people are saying … (But) this was a meeting to bring forward the offer from HRM to the people of Africville.”

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