Statement made on 28 February 2012 by Senator Terry Mercer
Hon. Terry M. Mercer:
Honourable senators, February is Black History Month, the time of year when we explore the history and contributions that African Canadians have made to Canada and to our society.
In Nova Scotia, we celebrate this as African Heritage Month.
Each year, the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia recognizes someone who has made exceptional contributions to the community. The Reverend Dr. W.P. Oliver Wall of Honour is in memory of Reverend Dr. William Oliver, who has been described as "Nova Scotia's passionate defender of equality." The name should sound familiar; you may not know it, but Senator Oliver is Dr. William Oliver's half-brother.
This past February 11, the Reverend Dr. W. P. Oliver Wall of Honour was awarded to one Graham Downey. A long-time friend and colleague, Graham was the first Black city alderman in the history of Halifax, a position he was elected to for over 25 years. He also served as deputy mayor.
Indeed, his grandson, Jerome Downey, even ran for Halifax Regional Municipal Council in 2008, the youngest candidate in that election at 23.
You can see that politics and community service run deep in the Downey family. A staunch defender of his community, municipal leadership is not the only thing Graham is known for. He and his brother Billy owned the famous Arrow's Club in Halifax.
Billy was the recipient of the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award from the African Nova Scotian Music Association. Music and culture also run deep in this family.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Arrow's Club was the place to be. It was the place where Black Haligonians could gather to celebrate their culture in a city where, as in so many others, segregation still existed to a certain extent. Honourable senators, the Arrow's Club hosted such acts as Teddy Pendergrass, Ben E. King, and Ike and Tina Turner, but also local musicians such as Gordon and Harold Johnston, and Linda Carvery. I have spent a few hours in the Arrow's Club over the years with many of my friends in the African Nova Scotian community, and the Downeys made the place happen. They created a whole atmosphere of entrepreneurship in the entertainment business for people in their community.
Honourable senators, please join me in congratulating Graham Downey for the honour that he has received from the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia. We also add our gratitude to Graham for his outstanding contribution to the African-Canadian community, the City of Halifax, and all Nova Scotians. Our sincere congratulations.