Each year, the second-year Radio, Television and Journalism students create a project looking at communities that are often underrepresented or misrepresented by the mainstream media.
In 2015, Emma Halpern from the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society approached our journalism instructor, Erin Moore, to ask if she could pitch our class four story ideas connected to access to justice issues. Emma reached out because of her organization’s own initiative called #talkjustice. The goal is to engage various people in the community, including media, to further discussions around justice.
The deal was that our class would vote on the story idea they liked the most, then we’d do our best to tell that story and maintain editorial control over all aspects of it. The Barristers’ Society agreed
Emma came to class joined by LaMeia Reddick and Jane Willwerth. Together they pitched four important story ideas, but almost immediately, our class connected to the issue of land title in the historic Black community of North Preston, Nova Scotia.
They showed us a 2014 report called “This Land is Our Land” written by Dalhousie Law student Angela Simmonds and explained that people there were paying taxes on land their ancestors settled hundreds of years ago but they were not given clear title to that land. They could not sell their land. They could not legally pass down their land to their children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. We couldn’t believe this was happening in 2015.
And so our project, “Untitled” was born. Incredible things happened during our two-year journey. It took us places that we would not have gone otherwise. It challenged us. We met and interviewed wonderful people. We combed archives and read documents hand-written by North Preston residents almost 200 years ago. We tried to get interviews with provincial government officials.
We learned, dissected, and dug into North Preston’s past and present, and asked people about their hopes for the future. Along the way, we learned a lot about ourselves, our province and a community that is still waiting for justice.
Not diminishing the importance of land title to the economic and social stability of residents of North Preston and other historic African Nova Scotian communities, we would like to recognize that all land in Nova Scotia is unceded Mi’kmaq territory.
Nova Scotia Community College Radio, Television and Journalism (RTJ) students
Class of 2016
Alyssa Lewis Graham
Class of 2017