Op-Ed: Missed opportunities

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The stage was set, it was a long drive there and I hoped that finally, I could witness a time for not just black people come together.

Melanie Clark/Submitted

I was hoping that this conversation could open more conversations about privilege and what black women face just to get close to the top. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case when we got there, there were black people everywhere hoping to see Michelle Obama’s speech on important issues not just about her life but what she did to overcome. All I got was secondhand embarrassment.

My hope for going to Michelle Obama was not just to be inspired, but to be one with all the black people in that arena but sadly, we were united in embarrassment. Unfortunately, the moderator and overall, the whole spectacle was white people showing that they care about change, but mostly just flaunting their white privilege.

Nova Scotia has a rich and diverse history when it comes to its Black population. It can be considered the birthplace of black culture and heritage in Canada, proudly hosting the largest Indigenous black community in the country.

Melanie Clark/Submitted

This vibrant community has established itself in 52 historic communities across the province. Some of the most well-known of these communities include Shelburne, Africville, East Preston, Annapolis Royal, Cherry Brook, Halifax, Sydney, Springhill, North Preston, and Beechville, to name just a few. Africville is a close-knit Black community that thrived in the north end of Halifax for more than 120 years and holds a significant place in Nova Scotia’s history. However, the 1960s saw the tragic demolition of Africville, an event that has left its residents tirelessly fighting for justice ever since.

These communities have played a significant role in shaping the cultural mosaic of Nova Scotia and have left an indelible mark on the province’s history, contributing to the rich tapestry of Canadian multiculturalism. For being so multicultural, having all white people up there trying to represent us, felt like it was a step back rather than a step forward.

The recent visit of Michelle Obama, a symbol of hope and progress, presented an opportunity for Nova Scotia to showcase its transformation and commitment to rectifying past injustices. Yet, there is a sense of disappointment that, despite this occasion, the systemic issues and disparities facing Black communities persist. The failure to address these longstanding grievances and provide due recognition and reparations highlights the work that remains to be done in rectifying historical wrongs and ensuring a fair and equitable future for all.

This moment has underscored the journey toward justice and equality in Nova Scotia, emphasizing the importance of continued efforts to bring about lasting change. Even someone on the app X mentioned this unfortunate conclusion:

Twitter (X)/Screenshot

Finally leaving that Scotia Bank Centre, I felt way too many emotions and not some of the ones I wanted to feel. I was happy, but sad, hopeful, yet frustrated, and encouraged but I know that the Maritimes need to realize that we black people are here to stay. You may try to show that you are “for change” but until you show us, we will never be able to move forward. I hope everyone who has heard about this conversation will allow themselves to think about what multicultural or inclusion means to you. Not everyone is lucky to have that. Being a black woman, I feel like I must work twice as hard to be heard. I’m afraid to speak in class because I’m worried about what people are going to think of me. I don’t want to embarrass my race by saying the wrong thing. Please be courageous, say what you want to say even if it falls on deaf ears!

My favorite quote is:

“Speak, even if your voice shakes.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

So yes there were missed opportunities, but what I took from the conversation was don’t be fearful, keep moving forward, and don’t let anyone stop you!

Melanie is mom of two daugters who are her world. She studies Political Science. She's learned a lot throughout her life and went to culinary school before she ended up at UNB. Fun fact about Melanie: she loves squirells!