Songwriter helps Islanders remember black history

Scott Parsons says learning about black history on Prince Edward Island could help Islanders understand more about their own history.

The singer/songwriter has told the tale of black Islanders through his music for decades. He says Islanders need to realize that black people have been part of Prince Edward Island culture since the 1700s.

 “The loyalists came to the Island with slaves in the 1780s,” he said. “Because of the intermarriages that took place, a lot of families on PEI have black ancestry that many may not even be aware of.”

Gradually, however, the legacy of black Islanders is becoming known, and this important part of our history is growing visible in memory and celebration.

Parsons is now president of the Black Cultural Society which is organizing -- for a second year – education, films, song, dance, and storytelling all month to celebrate Black History Month. He named his band and his first CD “Jupiter Wise” after an original black Islander whose story was as original as his name.

Wise was a slave living on Prince Edward Island when he was sentenced to death by hanging in 1786 for an assault. He was spared by local clergy and sent to the West Indies for seven years instead. We don't know how his story ends, however. Wise, and another prisoner escaped from a Nova Scotia prison before their deportation and their ultimate fate is unknown.

Black History Month is about remembering the past, but also celebrating black Islanders that have since immigrated and had children born on the Island.

“There is a whole new generation of black Islanders in our province. We need to remember and celebrate our history.  It’s in everyone’s interest to understand our cultural history. 

Canada is an interesting country and a great place to live and we are all part of one big picture.”

Parsons himself moved to the Island with his family from Halifax when he was eight years old. He went from a crowded city school to a one-room schoolhouse with nine grades under one roof. Even though Scott was always in a minority of people of color on Prince Edward Island, he says didn’t experience much racism.

“I believe in the inherent goodness of Islanders.”

Parsons is keeping busy this month with various activities to recognize Black History Month. On Sunday, Feb 12 Island Media Arts Cooperative will be showing the trailer to the film The King vs Jupiter Wise, written by Ryan Gallant and directed by Parsons. City Cinema at 2:00. Admission by donation. 

On February 18th at 2 p.m. Scott Parsons will be at the Confederation Centre Public Library singing songs of the old stock: songs of PEI's Black History.

Librarian Beth Clinton stands next to a display for Black History Month

Beth Clinton, Prince Edward Island’s regional librarian for the central region, says the Confederation Centre Public Library’s programming for Black History Month will interest people of all ages.

“We represent all members of the public and as a cultural institution we celebrate milestones like this,” she explained.

Special Storytime: The Patchwork Path
Tuesday, February 21st at 1:30 pm and Wednesday, February 22nd at 11:00 am. In partnership with the Black Cultural Society of Prince Edward Island, families are invited to the Confederation Centre Children's Library to learn about Black History Month and hear the story The Patchwork Path. After the story we'll make our own freedom patches! All welcome.

Learn more about Black History Month activities in your community on the PEI Public Library Service Facebook page
Learn more about the Black Cultural Society of Prince Edward Island on their Facebook page or contact them:  blackculturesocietype@gmail.com or 902-388-7517.

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