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Progress and passion take shape in the form of the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute on the corner of Creighton and Cornwallis Streets. A hub of research, publications, and community engagement, the crisp building stands strong in a historic location. Beyond the significant namesake of the two cross streets, the namesake of the institute itself, Delmore “Buddy” Daye, spent some of his youth in the area.

“This is a contemporary and historic location because of all the intergenerational conversation around this area,” says CEO Sylvia Parris, “we have people everyday coming in to share their stories about Mr Daye and their experiences in the North End.”

Sylvia, who lives in the North End herself, says she hears many stories about growing up here and the things that are not here anymore. That’s why she believes it’s important to be engaged with the community in present day; engagement aligned with both the institute’s mandate and what Buddy Daye himself would have enjoyed.

Although Buddy Daye was first known as a champion boxer, he was also a prominent member of Halifax’s African Nova Scotian community and became the first African Nova Scotian to hold the post of Sergeant-at-Arms in 1990.

The institute takes after his spirit of inclusion and action.

“Mr Daye’s advice in Province House and elsewhere was to not just make reports, but ensure it will lead to something,” explains CEO Sylvia Parris, “that’s how you get people from the community on board for change: include them from the beginning.”

Sylvia operates the institute much the same way, ensuring educational opportunities for Canadians of African ancestry are best they can be, and making

a point to engage the community in this effort.

One of the community engagements the institute is proud of lately is “The ABCs of Viola Desmond”, a book written and illustrated by a grade 2/3 class at William King Elementary School now used in the public school system to teach reading. Published in partnership with the Department of Education, the idea came from the open submissions of the 2016 annual African Nova Scotia History Challenges.

“That’s why I’m always asking the question ‘who do we know?’, because partnerships develop organically, and we always want to be involving the community while we’re serving the community,” says Sylvia.

She adds that “after the Black Learners Advisory Committee was established between schools, the focus now is to conduct research, develop programs and provide services on behalf of our African Nova Scotian learners of all ages,” she says, “we hope to create educational change and give communities of African ancestry genuine opportunities to reach their full potential.”

The work of the DBDLI is primarily research, policy analysis, community engagement, professional and youth development, community education, resources, publishing and knowledge sharing.

Sylvia says her vision for the institute is to be a place where the community can come in and have access to a library with excellent Afrocentric research publicly available.

“Figuring out how dreams match dollars is always a challenge,” she laughs, “but that’s how we got the new location on Cornwallis Street. We want the physical space to feel inclusive.”

To Sylvia, inclusive spaces are important, that’s why she says one of her favourite places in the North End is the North End library, for all the great things that happen there.

Great things are soon to be happening at the DBDLI’s new location just down the street where they will move next year.

For more information, the institute has its Report to Community on June 21st.

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