UPPER BIG TRACADIE – The voices of the elders not only inform us about the past but can guide future endeavours and help us understand our history. This was the take-away message at the remembrance event held at the Tracadie Community Centre in Upper Big Tracadie on Saturday, February 23.
More than 50 celebrants came together to watch the premiere of Tara Reddick's documentary The History of Tracadie which showcased interviews with 10 elders from the communities of Upper Big Tracadie, Rear Monastery and Lincolnville. Several of the interview subjects in the film were present for the screening – Sheila Pelly, Donald Elms, and Deacon Alonzo Reddick—while others, unfortunately, have passed on since the interviews were conducted.
Watching the documentary brought both tears and laughter to the audience, particularly when those who are no longer with us brightened the screen. The community of Lincolnville recently lost Wilfred Desmond. To once again see him on the screen, with that twinkle in his eye, brought a smile to many even when he was relating the difficulties he faced when attending a white school in his youth. “I had three strikes against me,” Desmond said in the documentary with his trademark humour. “I was Black, Protestant and Liberal...All I had to do was fight...I liked that.”
Deacon Alonzo Reddick, who was at the premiere, said of his childhood, “We made our own fun; we didn't have anything.”
Katherine Gerro, well-known in the community for her contributions to the church choir, said of her singing, “It feels like I'm lifted; like I'm flying...It's a sensation only God knows.”
Deacon Everett Desmond, who passed away in 2013 after a life of service to his community and church, said in the documentary, “I'd like them to remember me as a person who would help in any situation.”
Tara Reddick, who recently gained accolades with her play The West Woods, was on hand to introduce her documentary. She spoke of the importance of preserving oral history before it was too late. The documentary features Reddick's grandmother Dorothy Daye who passed away at the age of 92 in 2015.
Along with the film, winners of the Drumming Tree contest for 2019 (Sabrina Skinner and Catherine Hartling) were announced and recited their winning entries along with readings by winners of the contest from 2018; Mary Desmond and Sabrina Skinner. The Drumming Tree is a contest where participants write poems or stories about the African Nova Scotian experience.
Following the screening of the documentary Tera Dorrington, the first female African Nova Scotian school administrator in the Strait Region, addressed those in attendance as the guest speaker. She spoke of her desire to see African Nova Scotian history integrated into the core curriculum versus a stand-alone course and her epiphany that “history is also perspective.”
The event was emceed by Scotia MacEachern, a local middle school student and Mary Desmond, president of the Upper Big Tracadie Seniors Action Club. Closing remarks were delivered by community member James Desmond, chair of the Upper Big Tracadie / Lincolnville Education Committee.