Yarmouth sisters create T-shirt to celebrate notable African-Nova Scotians – Nova Scotia

Twin sisters from Nova Scotia have created a T-shirt to celebrate the lives of notable black Nova Scotians who helped break down racial barriers.

The black shirt with bold white letters pays homage to notable heroes like civil rights activists Viola Desmond and Dr. Carrie Best, Victoria Cross recipient William Hall and two of Nova Scotia’s earliest black settlers – the Jamaican Maroons and the Black Loyalists.

The T-shirt features the names of African-Nova Scotians who fought racism and segregation. (Melissa Fells-Adams)

Vanessa Fells and Melissa Fells-Adams, both advocacy workers from Yarmouth, came up with the idea for the T-shirt at a meeting in March with a school principal.  

Work-to-rule job action by teachers meant black students didn’t get to celebrate African Heritage Month in February and the meeting was held to discuss what could be done. 

Fells, who was wearing a T-shirt celebrating African-American history, suggested creating a similar piece of clothing honouring African-Nova Scotian achievements.  

“We wanted to create something that gave a sense of pride — not only within our community, but especially to our youth,” Fells, an outreach worker at the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown, said Monday in an interview.

Her sister, Melissa, works as a support worker for black students within the Tri-County Regional School Board.

Challenge like Viola Desmond

The T-shirt has messages like “Challenge Like Viola Desmond,” “Fight Like Sam Langford” and “Inspire Like our Ancestors.”

Viola Desmond was fined and jailed for one night in 1946 for sitting in the whites-only section of the Roseland movie theatre in New Glasgow.

A portrait of Viola Desmond, circa 1940. (Communications Nova Scotia/Bank of Canada/Flickr)

Her fight against racist policies helped eliminate racial segregation in Nova Scotia. A Halifax Transit ferry is named after Desmond and she will be featured on Canada’s $10 bill next year.  

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