To: Bill Mills, Mayor of the Town of Truro, Nova Scotia
Fr: Lynn Jones
Date: Friday, August 30, 2019
Please add me to the list of African Nova Scotians who are constantly being racially profiled in this province for no valid reason and while you’re at it, give your constituents in Truro and your Town police a lesson in white privilege , anti Black racism and the history of the founding people of our province and Truro.
Gentrification has its own particular problems and the community in which I grew up in Truro, as did my parents before me and their parents before them – have lived on Ford/Cross street in Truro since the early 1700’s. Many were forced to live where they did because of the racism in the Town of Truro which rejected Blacks living elsewhere. Ford Street has historically been known as one of the three Black Communities in Truro referred to as The Marsh, The Island , and The Hill. While a spattering of other ethnic groups did live there, it was still known as the Black Community and was addressed as such. Truro’s previous and first Black town councillor, Raymond Tynes, was successful in having the town erect plaques in each of the three areas acknowledging these three African Nova Scotian communities and the people so their presence would not be forgotten. Over time, the area has become officially gentrified and all the horrors of gentrification have come with this change.
For many reasons, the majority of the many Black families who inhabited “The Marsh” for generations, are gone. Most reasons are directly related to economics or lack thereof. Flooding, directly connected to Environmental Racism, became more prevalent with industrialization, lack of financial resources to fix up old homes and build new homes and other socio-economic conditions were cause for out-migration. Many who owned their homes and properties, received little funds for their sale and they often became renters as opposed to owners when they left.
The Town of Truro did nothing to assist Black people to remain in their community and offered no incentives to rebuild their homes. New development bringing money and people with financial resources the Historical Black and poor community did not have, began to gain control and most Black residents could no longer afford to live here and pay the high associated rental costs.
A very few Black families remain on Ford Street and they watch others move into this once proud African Nova Scotian community where they are now a small minority with little hope to find the refuge and peace that once was. Soon they will all be gone.
We who were the original inhabitants are now “the others” in a community that has become gentrified. Additionally, we are seen as invoking fear for those who are the newcomers as they see us as not belonging.
Last night in the early evening well before dark, three Black community elders, myself included, left my home on Cross Street and travelled by car a few feet around the corner headed up Ford Street when we excitingly spotted deer grazing. We stopped the car in the lane we traveled in our community since time immemorial where a new apartment building is being constructed (there was no activity as it was after 5pm) and spent time watching the activities of the deer while my elder sister took pictures of them from inside the car. There is one house in the lane inhabited by non Blacks but several houses in the neighbourhood.
As we were about leaving, a police car drove up and wanted to know what we were doing. I asked why? He said someone had reported suspicious people in the area taking pictures.
I proceeded to give your town police a history lesson about the founding of this Black Community and its inhabitants and was outraged that because we were Black in our own community we were now suspicious and to be feared. I suggested he give whoever placed the call the same history lesson I gave him. The audacity!!! How White Privilege rears its ugly head when you least expect it. He attempted to assure us that our colour was not mentioned on the call so was not an issue yet I fail to understand why we were being stopped and questioned in the first place for being in a legal area taking pictures, mere feet from my house and why it should raise anybody’s suspicion except because we were Black and should not be there.
Moreover, just because ‘our colour’ was not mentioned on the call, does not mean that the call was not motivated by race consciously or unconsciously. A car with white people had driven up the lane earlier and no police stopped them. The police officer even stated he had been given the colour and make of my car by the caller. Others in my car explained we were watching deer but I did not as I felt it was no one’s business, nor did I give my name when asked by police as there were no grounds for the inquiry. No crime had been committed and the officer offered no grounds for him to question us. The police officer did not persist.
Once again, I was reminded that in this society, African People will always be viewed as the outsider, never given the same rights and privileges as white folks who may have just stepped foot into a given space.
Mr Mayor, you’re right, I am angry that the town I grew up in, as did my parents before me and those before them, has created the conditions for Black people to be viewed as outsiders and not being accorded the respect of belonging. I’m angry that the Town of Truro has done so little to advance the situation of Black People here. It Is a holy disgrace that all should be ashamed of. I’m angry that my community is gone and no one did anything to save it. I’m angry that the new normal is for police to stop and question Black People wherever and whenever they step foot into areas white people determine are out of bounds for Blacks. I’m angry that our history of survival is not documented nor taught in schools. I’m angry that overt and systemic racism and discrimination continues and is not eradicated. I’m angry that no monuments have been erected of our Black citizens, past and present and no buildings or infrastructure has been established to acknowledge our culture and norms. The list goes on.
Mr Mayor, I well remember in a public forum where you announced you were a friend of mine. Well, I’m now drawing on that “friendship” to request you do something to lift up the situation for Black people in our town. Affordable housing is required now. Programs that address poverty and health including mental health are required now. Unemployment is at an all time high. Programs for single parents and seniors are required. A place to meet and hold events in a Black community Center – a place of our own. The list goes on.
For right now, I am requesting the following:
- That you hold the police accountable for their harmful response to us “watching deer while Black”?
- A copy of the police policy on street checks/carding.
- A breakdown of the number of checks of Black people in Truro by police (including traffic stops, street checks and the recording of observational information)
- An accounting of all services and programs that are specifically designed to address the needs and concerns of African Nova Scotians in Truro
- If no such services and program exist, I request an action plan with timelines to put in place the requisite services. The development of that Action Plan should respond to the 2017 Report by the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent which provides recommendations that are specific to Black Canadians, including African Nova Scotians. (I have attached a copy in case you don’t already have one. I would suggest that you share it with all town officials). African Nova Scotians should of course be involved in the development of the plan.
I would appreciate a reply to this letter within fifteen (15) days. I did not receive a reply from you to the letter that I wrote raising concerns about the redneck play at the Marigold Cultural Center although I see that the play has been thankfully cancelled.
It is so unfortunate in this day and age, that we have to continue to take the time out of our normal lives to demand the minimum level of dignity that should be afforded to all.
I will continue to remain in the struggle,
Dr Lynn Jones
Truro and Halifax, Nova Scotia
With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.
Subscribe to the Nova Scotia Advocate weekly digest and never miss an article again. It’s free!