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Black in Halifax: The experience of moving to #HalifaxWhileBlack

Metro talked to three “come from away’s” to learn about how they fared when trying to integrate into Halifax’s Black community.

Sarah Poko, iZrEAL Jones, and Rebecca Alleyne J.D.

Contributed

Sarah Poko, iZrEAL Jones, and Rebecca Alleyne J.D.

Deciding to take the plunge into a new city can be difficult for anyone, but setting roots and finding community is especially challenging for Black people.

Sarah Poko

Age: 24

Birthplace: Benin, Nigeria

Profession: Journalist

I'm from Nigeria, I've lived there on and off most of my life. My parents are diplomats, so I started moving around when I was 2. I moved to Halifax to study, but I had always wanted to visit Canada. Being an African woman entering African Nova Scotian community, I always felt out of place. Entering the community through journalism, I learned a lot and I met many friendly people, but I always felt like an outsider. I've always felt this way in a foreign country, but it's different seeing people that look like you, looking at you like you are different. Most of the time being a “come from away," I’m viewed as a positive, other times I'm looked at like I've grown two heads. Positive in the sense that, I was this exotic person from the Motherland. Negative in the sense that many believe that I'm faking my genuineness, usually my accent. African Nova Scotians don't notice my accent, but they always seem to know that I'm not one of them.

iZrEAL Jones

Age: 38

Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario

Profession: AV Technician

My dad is African Nova Scotian and my mom is from Toronto. I moved to Halifax when I was 10 years old. My family moved here because Toronto was getting more and more dangerous. Skinheads were active in my neighbourhood, and I had been offered drugs. My father decided as a whole that It was time to move back to Halifax. Moving here I was welcomed with open arms by the African Nova Scotian community. I believe this was because I spent most of my summers visiting family here, so I developed an image as the cool cousin from Toronto. My biggest struggle was leaving a multicultural environment and to enter a very segregated two-dimensional community. Halifax is known for its segregation and lack of integrated multiculturalism. Even at a young age, I was very aware of race and ethnicity, and the fact that being in certain areas meant that I would be hanging with either all white or all black kids.

Rebecca Alleyne J.D.

Age: 28

Birthplace: Kentville, Nova Scotia

Profession: Articled Clerk

Being a black woman from away, the hardest part was getting my mind around the specific issues surrounding being black in Halifax. I was born in Kentville, N.S. My family lived there for the first 10 years of my life. From that age until I moved to Halifax, I lived in rural British Columbia, in Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia, and rural New Brunswick. I moved to Halifax in the fall of 2008 to attend Saint Mary’s University. One of the best things about living in Halifax was not being the only black woman in our area. No one stared at me or wanted to touch my hair and there were people who looked similar to me. I think one of the hardest things coming to Halifax was that I was walking into an environment full of people who had a lifetime of history together. Both on the community level and on the individual level. Part of that learning curve was getting an education on the history at play in Halifax.

This story is part of Metro's ongoing Black in Halifax series. Let us know your thoughts on the series, and share your own stories using the hashtag #HalifaxWhileBlack with tweets, Instagram posts and Facebook comments. We may just share it in a future edition.

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