Frederick Ward – on Africville

ZP_Young boy with, in the background, Ralph Jones' house boarded up for demolition_Africville, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada_1965_photo by Bob Brooks

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.


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

Dawson College.


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)