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Angela Bowden: Tim Houston’s attack on the Black community

Pat Dunn, the new minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Photo Communications NS

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – My phone pings and pings and pings, the sound of Black Nova Scotia outraged by this war on Black communities declared by our not so new government. Here we go, AGAIN! 

In a time when anti-Black racism is flourishing and wreaking havoc and trauma in our province what does our newly elected leadership do? They throw the match and light the fire while we watch all of the hard work and efforts of our citizens, activists, experts and leadership go up in smoke!

The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, as Audre Lorde reminds us, but this leadership blatantly couldn’t care less about the conditions our Black citizens have endured for decades. It’s been evident for a long time but Houston’s recent appointment of Pat Dunn as minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs and calling him the best choice is all the evidence anyone requires to see the disingenuous ways this government acts when it comes to the concerns and rights of African Nova Scotians. 

Tim, the “people” didn’t speak, as you claimed on the news last night and clearly by people you must mean white people because we the Black Folk of Nova Scotia  have been SCREAMING, organizing, protesting, writing letters etc. to be heard  and yet here we are with still no one listening! We are exhausted but resilient and we will not be silenced or moved. Our numbers  in rural Nova Scotia may not be able to appoint people who care about Black issues  into office, but our numbers collectively will speak. 

Houston also assures us that the party will listen; except you’re not listening, Tim, and this is the entire white privileged problem with Europeans in positions of power in this province. They say the right things and do the exact opposite; their words are empty. But when called out on the malarkey they flip the script and make African Nova Scotians the bad guys for calling out the systemic racism that is currently going through a re- roll out: we take two steps forward and three steps back. We have acknowledged anti-Black racism and systemic racism in Nova Scotia but play with words and diversity window dressing while we dodge meaningful dialogue, block progress and dismantle change instead of dismantling these oppressive and harm producing systems. My African Nova Scotians are categorized as ungrateful, emotional and impatient by those disconnected from the issue and the harm. They have missed the entire point of African Nova Scotian Affairs keyword African Nova Scotian.

When it comes to African Nova Scotians those  people have spoken too,  but who is listening? Certainly not Tim. Actions speak louder than words Tim. Your desire to respect the voices of the people appears to apply to the white voices only. Tim has already failed the African Nova Scotian community and has managed to reproduce the harm he says he’s committed to stopping; Tim also believes a European man can lead a portfolio that specializes in ANS experiences and needs. All the hammers and wrenches in the world cannot help Tim the tool man Houston fix this problem; he better call in the experts, oh wait, he dismissed them. 

Dr. Kesa Munroe-Anderson was another among the “departures” as Deputy Minister of Communities, Culture & Heritage, which includes African Nova Scotian Affairs, and her presence was completely removed from the Public Service. Dr. Munroe is a community, culture and policy giant whose experience, skill and competency in race relations is a rare gem. What a loss to this province overall! This removal of brilliant Black women from conversations they just joined must stop.

To add insult and raw salt to our injuries , the complete Nova Scotia health board was dissolved, including Dr. OmiSoore Dryden, the first Black person ever to be appointed to the board. Dr. Dryden’s appointment was the first glimmer of hope we had for this board and in light of the anti-blackness that is killing Black folks in healthcare, how dare they! In 1996 my son died of Myocarditis secondary to systemic racism in the healthcare system, no one cared or was talking about it  and here we are 25 years later with no changes, advancement and worse clawing back any steps we have made to address anti-Blackness in healthcare in the face of the escalating mistreatment of Black people in healthcare- patients and staff!

These attacks on the Black community are blatant. This is a travesty. 

The implications of these decisions are obvious and this government is well aware of the negative and traumatic consequences this will continue to visit on African Nova Scotians and they just don’t care. Black folk are not experiencing knee jerk reactions nor emotional responses; they are resisting a power dynamic that has oppressed and caused harm for centuries. White men are granted privileges to speak for others yet are at an epistemic disadvantage when it comes to African Nova Scotian experiences; therefore they should never be tasked with diversity initiatives as it is impossible for them to understand such standpoints as African Nova Scotian Affairs nor can they identify their own biases that adversely impact that role. In fact nothing should ever be decided without the expertise and involvement of the ones affected by the decisions- African Nova Scotians. Nothing about us without us. 

Black Lives have never mattered to Nova Scotia and these recent decisions in the face of all of this knowledge and evidence of historical genocide, anti-Black violence, slavery, racism  and ongoing trauma proves that it never will. Here we are in 2021 confidently doling out systemic racism with a premier smile. The entire house is a rerun of the Trump regime. 

Houston’s decisions make about  as much sense as firing all Nova Scotia’s surgeons and replacing them with LPNs to do the best they can to identify specialized medical problems and perform procedures they have no knowledge of and lack the skill and competence to do. The same way we would not hire a nurse to replace a heart valve is the same way we should be looking at the recent appointments and decisions. THEY ARE NOT QUALIFIED for the task! Sure the LPNs are wonderful competent nurses in the capacity in which they specialize but they will cause injury repeatedly if they are set up in the O.R. with a scalpel and granted  full permission to cut open patients with what they think they know. 

I also want to stress the amount of injury, mental, physical  and emotional labour these callous decisions cause the Black communities when they replicate historical harms and behaviour and throw us around like a hot potato nobody wants or cares about. Our communities are outraged, aching and once again interrupted by the trauma our leadership so casually throws our way! Shame on you Nova Scotia! Shame on you!

How can you help?

Sign this petition:

Email: premier@novascotia.ca

Flood the telephone lines of the African Nova Scotian Affairs

(902) 424-5555

And join us in protest on your social media platforms and in person, stay tuned. 

It’s time that the people spoke and were heard.

#notmygovernment #blacklivesmatterinnovascotia

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6 Comments

  1. Please keep the BLACK issue relevant..day by day..the Conservative party dosen’t respect BLACK OR BROWN PEOPLE. THEY BENEFIT ..FROM KEEPING RACISM IN THEIR PRACTICE.

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  2. This is despicable. You should be ashamed of yourself Tim Houston but you are so far removed from reality and blatantly unaware! I fear for the future of this province in the hands of the Conservatives!

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  3. Tim Houston got a majority from voters in the summer election 2021. Who in Nova Scotia gave them a majority? The Conservatives – federally and provincially do not concern themselves with indigenous and black/brown issues – that is not their purpose for becoming a politician. “It’s not on my radar” – this was Harper’s response to the TRC’s Interim Report in 2015. The general attitude among the white folks then and now is shown in Tim’s appointed (white, male, older) ministers. Do you think Tim might be a little unconscious? Usually “white people” who say they are not racist are unconscious of their own assumptions about race because the problem does not affect them. How does one awaken a nation?

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