On the morning of Tuesday, April 24, 2018, politicians, press, and arts organizers gathered at City Hall to welcome Halifax’s new poet laureate, Dr. Afua Cooper, a widely published author and the current James Robinson Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University.
It was “a bittersweet day,” noted Elizabeth Taylor, Manager of Culture & Events for the Halifax Regional Municipality, as the crowd was gathered not just to welcome Dr. Cooper, but also to say good-bye to outgoing Poet Laureate Rebecca Thomas, who had served in the role from 2016-2018.
After opening remarks from Taylor, Mayor Mike Savage greeted the crowd with a few words of his own. Poetry, he reflected, is intended “not necessarily to please, but to take a stand,” a principle exemplified by previous HRM Poet Laureates such as Rebecca Thomas and El Jones.
The ceremony proceeded with words from Dr. Cooper, who thanked her family, as well as the members of the local Jamaican community, for their support. Dr. Cooper also referenced her grandmother’s influence on her life and career. Her grandmother, she shared, was not so interested in telling her grandchildren folktales, but in public history, “the factual things”, and was the inspiration for her career as a historian.
Before closing her remarks with a recitation of her poem “Negro Cemeteries,” Dr. Cooper also thanked her African ancestors. “They were not meant to survive,” she reflected, referencing the history of the slave trade in the Americas, “but here I am."
The ceremony closed with a reading from Rebecca Thomas, who shared her poem “Footnotes,” which she said shared the hope “for all the things I care about.”
The Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia is happy to share that later that day, Dr. Cooper stopped by our offices to renew her membership with the WFNS.