I'm ashamed to say, since I was born and spent most of my life in Halifax, that I knew barely anything about Africville and its history, until I read "The Hermit of Africville" by Jon Tattrie. I had no idea that this land has been legally owned by the Maroons, Black Loyalists and survivors of slavery for centuries before the City tore down the village and forced everyone out; that home owners now living on part of the land that was officially Africville at one time, possess false ownership deeds. It makes me feel some contempt for Halifax, a city I had always been proud to call my home.
Tattrie brilliantly tells the story of Carvery and other Africvillians in a straight forward manner because there is so much to say. The way he encapsulates the happy, sad and horrific events, through emotion and plot line, suggests that Tattrie possesses a genuine talent for listening and retelling.
Eddie Carvery is indeed an individual. After his mother told him his mission on this Earth was to be the ultimate demonstrator against the wrong inflicted on Africville, Carvery is the one individual who chooses to spend almost his entire life protesting on site. Other activists, such as the Africville Geneological Society, have also performed important actions, but Carvery's perhaps most expresses the importance of the land itself and best taps into the sounds and sights of Africville memories.
Throughout the book, Tattrie channels Carvery's sentiments that fluctuate between feeling like a failure to steadfast determination. To me, a man who has atoned for some chilling sins while providing a direct voice from Africville, and refusing to leave a place, even when he may feel isolated, persecuted and tested by all of the elements, is a true hero.
Tattrie describes life in Africville before the bulldozers came in and wiped out the homes. It is a place where children all harmoniously played together, no one went without shelter or food, and neighbours could stop by and visit without an invitation. Spiritual harmonies coming from the church, impromptu music sessions with locals and jazz greats, swims in Tibby's Pond and beautiful natural scapes all seem to characterize this village from afore.
It makes me think: If Africville still existed today, what an encouraging role model it would be to the surrounding communities. I imagine visiting, being welcomed with the huge hug of a community and never wanting to leave.