We are thrilled to celebrate Black History Month this February with our neighbours at the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute. We had the pleasure of chatting with Kevin at the DBDLI, and learning all about their organization and the incredible initiatives they are driving!
Tell us about your organization!
The DBDLI is an Africentric institute that creates educational change for learners of African ancestry to empower them to reach their full potential. We aim to improve educational experiences, opportunities and outcomes for Nova Scotian learners of African ancestry.
Can you teach us about Delmore “Buddy” Daye? Why is your organization named after him?
Delmore “Buddy” Daye was a champion boxer and was a prominent member of Halifax’s African Nova Scotian community. He was involved in the formation of the city’s Neighbourhood Centre of which he became the Program Director for Youth.
A firm believer that violence gets you nowhere, he negotiated with scores of bitter and frustrated young African Nova Scotian leaders and followers to seek solutions to their very real employment and living problems. In 1971, he was appointed Manager of Province House and on January 1, 1990 Buddy became the first African Nova Scotian to hold the post of Sergeant-at-Arms. Outside of his responsibilities, he was a Director of the Black United Front, a member of the Halifax Athletic Commission, a member of the Mental Health Association, and a member of the Company of Young Canadians. After his death in 1995, Halifax renamed Gerrish Street between Gottingen and Maynard Streets, to Buddy Daye Street.
Mr. Daye embodies the true spirit of Ubuntu. He used his activism, positivity and gusto to make social change, not only for African Nova Scotian communities but for all Nova Scotians. That is a big reason why he is our namesake.
What’s your role at DBDLI?
I am the Community Engagement & Public Relations Coordinator. My role includes working directly with African Nova Scotian communities to enhance knowledge and skills, as well as stakeholder relations, program planning, media relations and general communication activities. I work collaboratively with the youth and research departments to promote learner success and African Nova Scotian community capacity development.
What does a day at DBLI typically look like?
Before the pandemic you would see lots of in person team collaboration, creative ideas, new possibilities and tons and tons of fun. We are a small but mighty team of around 12 staff and we are close knit, almost like a family. While we still encompass all of that, we have been working through a hybrid system of working some time at the office and some time at home. The spirit of Ubuntu is present in everything we do, so we were determined to continue to move forward during the pandemic. Our own research has shown that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected our African Nova Scotian communities, so it is vital that we continue to highlight these sorts of inequities, influence policy change and support our communities.
What are some resources that can help African Nova Scotian learners who are facing educational equity issues?
Get in touch with us! We have plenty of resources available for all ages, whether it be The ABC’s of Viola Desmond (which was made by elementary school children for elementary school children, and we are celebrating its fifth year of being released) to Q is for Quarantine (written by Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard) to our African Black History Textbook and many more. All are available to purchase through our website.
We also encourage volunteers to come experience “a day in the life” (hopefully more than just a day) at DBDLI to see how we work, what tangible things are being done and how they can use learned skills in their day-to-day lives.
Our research department continues to work alongside universities to highlight inequities and that can and will be used to influence policy change.
But if there is a learner out there who feels the system is not supporting them or is not designed for them, reach out to us. We can help. A lot of our staff have experienced inequities within the educational system and within society as a whole, so it is important for African Nova Scotians to know that they are not alone, and change and hope is key to get through it all. Again, embodying the spirit of Ubuntu is how everyone (not just African Nova Scotians) can make a real change in how we see and treat each other.
Can you tell us more about the initiatives your team is leading?
As mentioned, our talented research department continues to gather data and information that we hope will guide good policy change, but we also are very much engaged in community initiatives. For instance, last year we held our first Afrocentric conference (a two-day virtual event), we have created the Viola Desmond Community Talks docuseries (stay tuned for series number 2 coming this year) the Ancestral Roots Summit (trademarked), our annual African Nova Scotian History Challenges, Emancipation Day celebrations and much more.
What can we do better as Nova Scotians?
I think most Nova Scotians want to be supportive allies to our community but don’t know how or are too afraid to ask questions for fear of unintentionally saying something offensive. As long as the intent is positive and the desire to be a better ally is there, then that’s a great start.
But to truly do your part, the best thing to do is to actively listen and to not instinctively go on the defensive. Our wonderful CEO (and mentor to us all) Sylvia Parris-Drummond wrote a poignant op-ed on not just active listening, but insisting upon it. She said it best when she wrote:
“In thinking about all of those conversations and presentations from a year ago, I have to ask, will this year’s theme be building from last year’s theme, or are we entering into February 2022 as if it is our first opportunity to learn through listening? Somehow the burden for change is still, disproportionality, placed on the shoulders of my community. It is unjust that those who came before, and those who have held on and preserved their family’s history and continue to do the work of their ancestors, are expected to raise their voices yet again.”
People of African descent have been in Nova Scotia since the 1600’s yet today, in 2022, it often feels as if there has been minimal positive change to achieve true equality for all. We are still living in a society where systemic racism continues to permeate and touch every part of our society. With so many Nova Scotians raising their hands saying “yes, this is wrong, I will be a good ally”, why does it seem like very little has changed? This is why insisting on active listening is crucial.
How can we support the DBDLI?
You can help by taking part in a lot of our activities and initiatives. We always have something on the go and have volunteers of different kinds of backgrounds. This will help to understand what it’s like working within the mindset of Ubuntu, and hold on to that mindset within your day-to-day life. You can also purchase our resources and share the knowledge that you gain from them broadly. Of course, donations go a long way too.
Take a moment to reflect on where you fit within the “movement that must see structural and systemic change” (Sylvia’s words). Once you truly have come to understand that, the next step is action.
What did you do beyond sharing a simple post on social media? Do you read a headline about racial inequity and continue to scroll past it, or do you take the time to actually read it? What have you done beyond merely saying “we can and need to do better”?
One of my favourite quotes is from Barack Obama who once said: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”