Country of Origin:
Black History/African Heritage, Racism/Discrimination, Human Rights & Social Justice, Identity & Heritage, Multiculturalism & Diversity
"Digging deeper and doing better. An enterprising agent of change with the goal of betterment for all." Lisa is an avid community engager, volunteer, and an ambitious innovator with a futurist mindset. She draws upon her extensive and varied voluntary and industry experience to envision goals, develop action plans, and achieve success. A proven champion in project navigation - Lisa and her company, GPS Coordinating - researches, organizes, facilitates seamlessly and effectively to add value and enhancement in the following subject matter areas: Circular Economy, Environmental Integration, Abatement/Adaptation, STEM/STEAM Initiative, Canadian Heritage, Art/Craft and Cultural Industry.
Throughout her life, Lisa has wrestled with her ancestral history and its outward-facing existence which was in disconnect with an inner turmoil. Disliking this narrative, with its many gaps and unexplained twists, Lisa sought to write her own family account. With the help of a close friend, they embarked on a forensic family history that revealed its Canadian beginnings in the early 1700s.
Africville was one stop along the way of this ancestral journey of slavery, the railroad, settlement, racism, human rights violation, displacement, community and cultural loss - all circumstances defined by a family's indefatigable strength and will to survive in the face of assiduous adversity. The future chapters of this story will perhaps be written with revised perspective framed by a refreshing contemporary Canadian culture of truth, reciprocity, and reconciliation.
Granddaddy was a black porter for CN Rail in Halifax, NS after the war. He worked hard for very little and when the chance arrived, he packed up my Nanny, mother, and aunt, moving the family in succession to the "hubs" of Truro, Montreal, and finally Toronto. Mom and Auntie were subjected to ridicule and hostility as French-speaking black teenagers, quickly dropping their bilingualism and did their best to assimilate. I was the unexpected arrival of a teenage mom and although that was challenging for all involved, Grandaddy adored me.
As an adult, I came to appreciate his toil and sacrifice more and more as he shared stories from the rails, the road, and his path in life. I've enjoyed retracing this family lineage back six generations (known, to date) in Canada and often chuckle when folks ask me "Where are you from?". I share with them this history..., a black history..., my history. They usually then marvel at my fair, blond, and blue-eyed children. "Yes, they are mine. Yes, they are fair. Yes, isn't that interesting."
Ironic, I think, as I stare at photos of black porters and know that the composition is clearly staged. You see, a black porter was never permitted to look a white person directly in the eyes, never mind, allowed to handle their children. This history is all of our Canadian histories.
The wedding of Millie and Benny Jones, June 18, 1939. A day of celebration! A posh affair when a son of the local deacon marries at the Seaview Baptist Church in Africville! Millie was Grandaddy’s younger sister and Africville was a community of mostly black loyalists and slaves that escaped to Canada from the war of 1812.
This tight-knit, beautiful seaside community lay just on the outskirts of Halifax proper along the railway tracks. Settled in the early 1800’s, Africville was never formally recognized as part of the City, and as such, they were denied water, sewage, proper roads, street lamps, and electricity. They continued to pay taxes, and the community itself funded the local school (Granddaddy and all his ten siblings could read and write). In 1853, the City of Halifax built a prison, and later a slaughterhouse, infectious disease hospital, and even placed the city dump on the site.
Granddaddy perhaps had an inkling of what was to come for the residents of Africville. City officials had long eyed the area for development and rumblings of relocation began. Despite their hardship and strife, residents of Africville unanimously voted to stay in their homes and fought to keep their community alive. Branded “a slum”, the City of Halifax unanimously decided to destroy the entire community, which they succeeded in doing by January 2nd, 1970.
Mildred Leota Whalen Jones, heartbroken by the razing of her home, her parents’ home, and the Seaview Baptist Church, credits her father for continuing to teach her to value everything in life; herself, others, all things provided, education, and her home. She passed peacefully on June 17th, 2006.