Former Black orphanage converted to community hub

Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children has been renamed Kinney Place, after its 1st superintendent

Cassidy Chisholm · CBC News · Oct 23, 2022

Cheyenne Jones is the assistant property manager of Akoma Holdings Inc., which owns the former site of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children. (Colleen Jones/CBC)

The building that once housed the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children in Dartmouth, N.S., is becoming a hub for the Black community.

The home that opened in 1921 was for many years the only orphanage in the province that would accept Black children.

It was initially seen as a significant achievement by Nova Scotia’s Black community. But former residents started to come forward after it closed in the 1980s to say they suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse over several decades.

That prompted class-action lawsuits, a formal apology in 2014 from then premier Stephen McNeil, and an eventual settlement worth $34 million.

More than 1,000 children lived in the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children from 1921 to the 1980s. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia Home For Colored Children then became the Akoma Family Centre, a registered charity that provides care for children with developmental and behavioural needs, while the old building on Wilfred Jackson Way sat vacant.

Still owned by Akoma Holdings Inc., the building has now been refurbished and is being renamed Kinney Place, after its first superintendent, James Alexander Ross Kinney, who was an advocate for educational institutions for Black children.

“The goal of Kinney Place is to be an incubator for Black business and an intergenerational hub for the community,” Cheyenne Jones told CBC Radio’s Information Morning Nova Scotia on Friday.

Jones, who is the assistant property manager at Akoma, said the grand opening of the building is taking place on Sunday. 

Kinney Place already has a few tenants, including a café and catering business, an anti-Black violence organization and a Black hair salon. (Colleen Jones/CBC)

It already has a few tenants, including a café and catering business, an anti-Black violence organization and a Black hair salon. It also holds a seniors’ lounge, a studio space and the constituency office of MLA Angela Simmonds.

Jones said the building also comes with 130 hectares of land that will be used to “offer economic opportunities for African Nova Scotians in our community and the greater community.”

The redevelopment of the site had been previously blocked due to zoning bylaws in the Halifax Regional Municipality, but council approved the rezoning of the site in the spring of 2021 after discussions with Akoma.

“All it took was for the people in positions of authority and power to understand the negative impact of decisions they had made years ago on the African Nova Scotian community,” Irvine Carvery, the co-chair of the African Nova Scotian Road to Economic Prosperity Summit, said Friday.

“A simple change.”

Information Morning – NS7:23Former Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children has a new name and a new purposeThe former Nova Scotia Home of Colored Children orphanage in Preston Township has a long, checkered history. It has sat vacant for decades, but is now being restored and renamed. Hear about the grand opening of Kinney Place.

One of those opportunities is Akoma’s plan to build eight affordable homes for the Black Nova Scotian community by 2023, funded by the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative.

“We’re very aware that this is the community’s land and so what we’ve done is we’ve actually gone out and we held community sessions and we’ve talked to people, asking them, ‘What are you looking for? What do you want?'” she said.

“Like, what was the last time someone went to our community and asked us what we’re looking for, when they had the ability to give it to us? So because we have this land, we want to be able to do what the people want.”

She said during those meetings, people highlighted the need for seniors housing, so Akoma Holding is now working on opening a 96-bed, long-term senior facility.

She said they’re also looking into a community cemetery, a Black vendors’ market and a sports stadium.

The grand opening of Kinney Place is open to the public, and will include an opening ceremony, tours of the renewed building and a free dinner.

Jones said the ceremony will recognize the home’s past, and the trauma it may have caused.

“This is an area that’s extremely sensitive for us and we’re very aware of the history and it’ll be recognized through the healing artwork that will be displayed during the opening ceremony,” she said.

This painting, which will be a permanent fixture in the entryway of Kinney Place, was created by local Black artist Tonya Sam’Gwan Paris. (CBC)

She said the artwork was created by local Black artist Tonya Sam’Gwan Paris, and it represents “the voices of anyone that had a negative or traumatic experience with the home in a way of moving forward through pain and through trauma.”

She said it will be a permanent fixture in the entrance of the home where people will be able to reflect.

Jones said a poem written by Natasha Thomas, a youth in the community, will also be read to pay tribute to those who may have experienced trauma at the Home for Colored Children.

Source: CBC News

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