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Africville descendants question validity of proposed settlement

Africville Genealogy Society doesn’t represent them, say dissidents.

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Photo Credit: Riley Smith

Africville descendants met last weekend because they disagree with the way leaders of the Africville Genealogy Society went about accepting the settlement package from the city of Halifax. Denise Allen, an organizer of the meeting, says it was held to teach the people about their rights, to gather information for their lawyers and “to challenge” whether “the Africville Genealogy Society had the authority to act.” Allen says the dissidents’ lawyers are going to write to the AGS and suggest the society “hold a real vote” with proper notice and “let the people decide.” If the society doesn’t agree, she says, “we’ll have to go to court.”

Ann Wilson Brown, who was at the information session the Society held before the settlement package was announced, says she only found out about the correct time and location hours before. “The people were misinformed because they thought they were going to just hear information, not make an official vote on anything.” Brown says the package wasn’t yet introduced or explained when people were asked to raise their hands on whether having a package was a good idea. “The majority did not raise their hands,” says Brown, and many who did just thought they were agreeing to proceed on exploring settlement options. “It’s re-victimization—victims being victimized all over again and in some cases by their own people.”

Craig Vemb, who helped organize last weekend’s meeting, says “the community is mostly upset because this is 40 years in the making and after waiting 40 years” people deserve to understand the package properly. He questions, “how is that $3.5 million going to be spent” and, for example, “how much will go to lawyers fees?”

Allen says she hopes “the people of Africville determine their own fate. I’m not going to let a settlement be shoved down my throat, and I’m not going to stand by and watch it be shoved down anyone else’s throat.” If the people decide they want the settlement, Allen says, “I’ll live with it,” but she says everyone she has spoken to, besides the people on the board, don’t want the settlement offered.