September 26, 2018

Africville

Written by Shauntay Grant
Illustrated by Eva Campbell
Groundwood Books
978-1-77306-043-9
32 pp.
Ages 4-7
September 2010

Though Africville, a Nova Scotia community founded by former slaves and Black Loyalists in the 1800s, is sadly a legacy of racial discrimination and abandonment, Shauntay Grant chooses to tell the story of community and all the goodness one child sees in Africville.

Africville's story begins with a young girl looking at the community as an observer, seeing its location
at the end of the ocean
 where waves come to rest
 and hug the harbor stones
to its structures
and the houses lay out like a rainbow
From Africville by Shauntay Grant, illus. by Eva Campbell
and the activity of children at play and at home, relaxing and busy. There is fishing and football, rafting, skipping and fishing, food, family and church. This is the Africville of home.
From Africville by Shauntay Grant, illus. by Eva Campbell
Take me to where the pavement ends
and family begins
Though Shauntay Grant shares the girl's observations of Africville as if the child is of that place and time, it only becomes evident at the very end that the girl is visiting the current historic site, looking at the community from a contemporary setting, envisioning the children and families as their lives may have been lived and Africville may have been.

From Africville by Shauntay Grant, illus. by Eva Campbell
But, while Africville is a piece of history of which countless books have been written, including several of youngCanLit, Shauntay Grant's book is not a journalist piece about the community's evolution and tragedies. She has written a joyful account of a neighbourhood of people. The colour in their lives comes from where they are, what they do, and how they feel. There is a respect for the past and for the present, and anticipation for the future.
where memories turn to dreams,
and dreams turn to hope,
and hope never ends.
Shauntay Grant is a poet who brings that sweetness of time and place to her free verse, transporting all readers to the humanity of Africville. Likewise, BC painter Eva Campbell uses vivid colours of acrylic on canvas to bring out Africville's joys and its sense of kinship even with those who would be unrelated. In Africville, everyone belongs.

The legacy that is Africville will spark deep discussions of history and racism but Shauntay Grant and Eva Campbell's Africville will take those discussion sideways to celebrate the Africville that was home and life to so many for over a century.

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