The Weekly News sat down with Sgt. Craig Smith, Diversity Policing Analyst with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Halifax to discuss his latest book ‘The Journey Continues: An Atlantic Canadian Black Experience' and the importance of African Heritage Month.
"I grew up in this community," Smith said at the Halifax North Memorial Public Library. "I started coming to this library in Grade 4 to do my homework, I left this library as an employee in 1996 to join the RCMP. One of the things I talked about when I left here was being able to see somebody come back some day and look my name up in the card catalog, and I know that dates me since we don't have card catalogs anymore."
Smith said he became very interested in African Nova Scotian history while he worked at the library and shortly after leaving, he wanted to compile information into a book that could be used to teach young people about the subject.
"I started a slide presentation here back in 1991 that highlighted black firsts and it took me until 1999 to create the first book I wrote, which was called ‘Journey,'" he said. "It had 78 different black firsts in it and I think that kind of wetted me appetite."
Smith continued to write about African Canadian history, including ‘You Had Better Be White By Six A.M.' and ‘Ultimate African Heritage Quiz Book.'
"The most recent book, ‘The Journey Continues,' which came out in January, took about 10 years to write," Smith said, noting it began solely as a look at Nova Scotia black history, but expanded to encompass all of the Maritime Provinces.
"The impetus for that book was The North Branch Library, after the many years that I worked here, which was 12 in total," Smith said.
"There's an African American Almanac, with all of the facts and figures you could ever want to know. My desire at some point is to create something like that for all of Canada. You can grab one book that talks about all experiences, whether it be black folks on the prairies or the first settlers in British Columbia in 1856, any of those things. All of those would be included in one volume. I'm a long ways from that, but at least I've got a head start with the Atlantic Canada stuff."
Smith said he was excited to be giving a talk about his book for African Heritage Month.
"This building here in particular is kind of like my first love. When I was asked to come speak, there wasn't even a hesitation," he said. "It allows me to connect with people. I like to talk, I like to interact, to share information and learn along the way. And hosting a talk here at the library allows me to do those things."
Why African Heritage Month is important:
Sgt. Craig Smith - "I think African Heritage Month is important in a lot of ways because it's the one time for sure that you know there's going to be some recognition, whether it's in the schools or the community. The unfortunate reality is that it's a double-edged sword, because that means people will say ‘we'll do it in February' and then not for the rest of the year. But at least we know there is that one month that will acknowledge African people's accomplishments."