Celebrating African Heritage Month

Jan 31, 2024

People of African descent have made Nova Scotia their home for more than 400 years. Despite centuries of prejudice, discrimination and exclusion, the Black community and its leaders continue to champion equity, and inclusion for people of African descent and others in countless ways. They do so to thrive, in pursuit of fairness, equality, and respect for inherent human dignity.

As we celebrate African Heritage Month we are invited to do so in the spirit of this year’s theme: “Our Smiles, Our Joy, Our Resilience as African Nova Scotians.” What better way to do this than to reflect on the contributions of people of African descent to our communities and the province.

It is people of African descent who are responsible for the creation of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act, and the Commission that administers it. It was Black leaders who fought for a system through which their peers – and future generations – could access justice and accountability for acts of discrimination and outright anti-Black racism.

Black leaders champion equity across Nova Scotia in meaningful ways that brought lasting change to the lives of generations. From Viola Desmond’s act of resistance in a theatre in New Glasgow, to the work of lawyers Gus Wedderburn and Donald Oliver, journalist Carrie Best, or pioneering nurse and educator Dr. Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk.

The United Nations Decade for People of African Descent catalyzed significant reflection and action in Nova Scotia. Now in its last year, the Human Rights Commission is committed to continue these ongoing efforts by honouring people of African descent through our work.

I encourage you to take advantage of the many opportunities throughout February to engage with, and celebrate the history, culture, and resilience of people of African descent.

Cheryl Knockwood is the Chair of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. She is a lawyer, identifies as two-spirit, and currently works for the Membertou First Nation as its governance coordinator. She has taught Aboriginal and Treaty Rights at Cape Breton University.