‘A Phoenix Rising’: Canadian Orphanage for Black Youth Reopens 101 Years Later as Black Business Incubator
After more than 100 years, the former Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children is transforming its agonizing history and creating an Afro-centric community for multiple generations to support one another and thrive.
Incorporated in 1921, the private nonprofit agency has now been renamed Kinney Place to honor the leadership and dedication of its founder and first superintendent, James Alexander Ross Kinney. The renaming is part of a multimillion-dollar restoration effort spearheaded by current property owners, Akoma Family Centre Inc. and Akoma Holdings Inc., in 2016, Global News reported.
The century-old building, which sat vacant since closing its doors in 1978, has been refurbished and reopened as a community gathering place and an incubator for Black businesses. The grand opening took place on Sunday, Oct. 23.
In a press release, the Akoma enterprise said they hope “the community sees [Kinney Place] as a place of both historic significance and a place for healing, a phoenix rising from the ashes.”
A painful history
The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children was formed to meet the needs of disadvantaged Black youth. However, a restorative justice inquiry reported instances of abuse, isolation, and malnourishment.
“Forms of discipline included being sent to bed hungry and being locked outside with inadequate clothing,” the inquiry’s 2019 report revealed.
“Moreover, it was reported to us that food was withheld by some staff unless the resident would comply with sexual acts.”
A new hub rises
Cherry Brook native Deb Vaillancourt-Higgins, is one of the new tenants of Kinney Place, where she will be opening The Opus Café and Catering at the end of November, according to SaltWire Network. The café will offer all-day breakfast and catering, as well as a comfortable space for the community to connect “amongst our own and feel safe in doing that.”
“I feel like it’s an opportunity for us, us a people, us as a township/collective community,” said Vaillancourt-Higgins, per the outlet.
“It allows us to keep our money where it needs to be and that is basically in the community. I believe it creates opportunities for jobs for individuals that would not otherwise have the availability to be employable based on various things, the colour of their skin being one [sic].”