Frederick Ward – on AfricvillePosted: September 25, 2011
Dialogue # 3: Old Man (to the Squatter)
– Listen here, son. Did you think this were gonna work ?
Were you fool enough to think this were gonna work ?
They ain’t gonna let us put nothing up like that and
leave it. They don’t intend to let us git it back. You
ain’t a place. Africville is us. When we go to git a
job, what they ask us ? Where we from … and if we say
we from Africville, we are Africville ! And we don’t git
no job. It ain’t no place, son. It were their purpose to
git rid of us and you believed they done it – could do it !
You think they destroyed something. They ain’t. They
took away the place. But it come’d round, though. Now that
culture come’d round. They don’t just go out there and
find anybody to talk about Africville, they run find us,
show us off – them that’ll still talk, cause we Africville.
NOT – NO – SHACK – ON – NO – KNOLL.
That ain’t the purpose …fer
whilst your edifice is forgone destroyed, its splinters
will cry out: We still here ! Think on it, son. You effort
will infix hope in the heart of every peoples. Yet,
let’s see this thing clearer. If our folk see you in the
suit, we may git the idea we can wear it. The suit might
fall apart, but, son, it be of no notice. We need the
example. Now go back …and put you dwelling up again.
Frederick Ward has been described as “the most
undeservedly unsung poet in all of English-Canadian
literature” (Arc Poetry Magazine).
Born in 1937 in Kansas City, Missouri, the Black-American Ward
came to Canada in 1970 – just passing through Halifax – and
ended up staying. There he me met Black Nova Scotians recently
turfed out of their old community – Africville – which was
bulldozed by the city to make way for a dumpsite. Their stories
became the basis of his 1974 novel, Riverlisp: Black Memories.
The poem above is from Ward’s 1983 poetry collection,
The Curing Berry.
Ward now lives in Montreal where he is a theatre teacher at
Photograph: Young boy with, in the background, Ralph Jones’ house boarded up for demolition
(Africville, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada – photo by Bob Brooks – year: 1965)