Fighting for Africville

By Gary Steed, a drummer and member of the Nova Scotia Mass Choir. Gary was born and raised in Africville until the eviction of 1978. He talks about the traumatic experience here.

My name is Gary Steed. I was born in Africville, Nova Scotia, a beautiful town a few kilometers from downtown Halifax, right along the Halifax Harbour.

It was great growing up in Africville. I didn’t want for anything. I grew up in a very good family. Everything I needed to have a successful life was provided for me. I went to school and did everything normal kids did, except that we, as children had more space in Africville to do what we wanted.

I was brought up in a religious setting so I spent a lot of time in church with my folks when I was growing up. The church was a big part of my life. My family knew what was right and what was wrong. My folks were activists so they did a lot in the community. We were brought up in a family setting and were taught to love each other and take care of our neighbour and go to school with our friends, walk home together. That’s what Africville was all about for me. That’s just me.

Music first entered my life during a Christmas concert at Cityview Baptist Church. In the Africville church I was given the song “The Drummer Boy” to perform and ever since that moment I’ve wanted to make music. My family was very supportive of my music, so I kept pursuing music all through my life.

When I was around 9 years old I went home one day for lunch, like I did many other days, except this time when I arrived my home had been ripped down. My folks stood outside the rubble, crying. It had been bulldozed right in front of us. It was just terrible. It was a really bad experience for me.

Right after the big expropriation happened I remember moving to Gottingen Street from Africville. It was very different there. Very different. Since then I have moved around a lot. I lived in Toronto, Montreal and other big cities. I’ve been away for many, many, many years now but I recently moved back to the Gottingen Street area. It’s like some things you just can’t get away from. I eventually came to love my old neighbourhood. Gottingen Street is an artsy neighbourhood. It’s very multicultural. People are very friendly, from all walks of life, it’s just my kind of neighbourhood.