Weekend Video

Weekend video: Deeply Rooted. A black family’s history as 7th-generation Canadians

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This wonderful documentary traces the more than 200-year the Downey family has been in Nova Scotia.

To say its members left their mark on the province is an understatement.

There was George Alexander Downey who fought in both world wars, serving in the No. 2 Construction Battalion, an all-black battalion, during WW1.

There were the fighting Downeys, boxing champs Robert John Downey Sr., Canadian amateur lightweight boxing champion in 1960, and David Downey Sr., Canada’s longest reigning middleweight boxing champion.  

I myself remember the excitement in Halifax when yet another Downey, Sugar Ray, won bronze at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Then there was Graham Downey, first African Nova Scotian alderman and deputy mayor of Halifax. He served on Council for 27 years.

And Billy Downey, co-owner,with Graham Downey, of the Arrow’s Club on Agricola, and later on Brunswick Street. Ike and Tina Turner performed there, as did Miriam Makeba, who brought her husband Stokely Carmichael along.

The family’s contributions become even more impressive when you realize that the family accomplished all this while racism was rampant in the province.

“Everything that happened in the States happened in good old Nova Scotia. There wasn’t a sign on the bathroom door for coloreds only, but it was understood.”

Robert Downey Jr. (but not the actor)

This documentary is a loving and heartfelt tribute to the deep Nova Scotia roots of her family, by filmmaker Cazhhmere. It was made for the CBC’s shortDOCS series. Read more here.

Check it out.