Guyleigh Johnson Reviews a Book That Debunks Old Stereotypes
“These communities nurtured midwives, politicians, lawyers, artists, doctors, educators, firefighters, police and correctional officers, administrators, crafts people, clergy, entrepreneurs, writers, world class boxers and hockey players, and a senator.” That was a powerful paragraph for me to read in the first couple of pages.
Our whole lives we navigated through educational systems where we were only told that Black people were slaves, or that slavery in Canada never existed. Which results in self-hate for us, and this notion that Canada served as a saviour for Black people. And it creates a lie around our experience in this country.
It also made me think of the importance of diversity and inclusion in media, and how narrative and perspective matter and for so long have shaped the very stereotypes/stigmas Black people in this province face daily. For all of the times that Preston was mentioned in the media, which conveyed only negative messages, this book to me served as a reset in authentic material that reflected the generation of ancestors we come from. They were resilient, courageous, hardworking, creative and determined to pave a way.
While reading this book, all I could imagine was how I would’ve felt receiving this as a history book in school. Rich in knowledge, educational material, heritage and pride, I smiled while learning so many new things that I could not wait to share with others.
I believe all Canadians could gain something from reading this book. Just we were only told one perspective about our experience, those same stereotypes/stigmas deceived the view of so many other people. They too internalized those beliefs about us, which have shaped the way we all interact.
For Canadians who read this material, it can provide a sense of understanding, cultural competence to a degree, and empathy. Showcasing the significance of African Nova Scotians and our contributions to this province, and why we deserve to be seen and heard.
This book was a reminder of the importance of collective work, community-led initiatives where our voice is centered, and that we have so many untold stories and experiences that need to be shared with the next generation, to continue building legacy.
As I read this book, I felt like I was on a journey through time, a tour where I could envision where we are from, and the possibilities of where we can go.
Guyleigh Johnson is a poet/spoken-word artist from North-end Dartmouth. She is the author of Afraid of the Dark and Expect the Unexpected: Stories from the North End.