Dwayne Provo bundles lived experience in a deputy position at African Nova Scotian Affairs

The first action item on Dwayne Provo’s agenda is to network with African descent communities across Nova Scotia and ensure they are all heard.

The new Deputy Deputy Minister of the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs is prepared for this task through his many years of engagement in the community.

“(I will do it) as I have always done for the last 20 years, to make sure that … we are outside and there and actually listening to these voices,” he said in an interview in front of the office building.

Provo said he was approached about the new role about a week ago and was appointed yesterday. The decision comes under criticism after the white Pat Dunn was appointed Minister for African Nova Scotian Affairs. Justin Huston, who is also white, has been named deputy.

Be part of the solution

The lack of black representation in the first two positions in the office, as well as the dismissal of two black women from positions of power, caused concern in the African Nova Scotian community.

The women were Kesa Munroe-Anderson, removed from her role as Assistant Secretary of State for Communities, Culture and Heritage, and Dr. OmiSoore Dryden, who was fired from the Nova Scotia Health board of directors after Prime Minister Tim Houston dissolved the board in September.

A coalition of community groups called the Black Family Meeting met with Houston and Dunn last week to convey the thoughts of Nova Scotians of African descent about the changes. Over 200 people shared their opinions through an online coalition event.

While Provo did not attend the event due to his work with the government, he said he had conversations with people in the community about the problem.

Provo said he hoped his appointment would be part of the solution.

“It was good that some voices got together and were able to offer a certain platform for some of their concerns,” he said.

The Black Family Meeting made no comment on the new position, but said they will have a meeting on Thursday evening to deliberate with the community.

Giving community a voice

Provo plans to keep the conversation alive to address the lack of representation in all areas including justice, healthcare and education.

“It’s extremely important … always … to have a lived perspective,” Provo said.

“To be able to do this and then address these concerns directly to (Minister Dunn) will definitely be of benefit to our community in my opinion.”

Provo was born in North Preston and grew up between the parish and East Preston.

In 2006 and 2009 he ran unsuccessfully for the Progressive Conservatives in the Preston constituency. That year, the Liberal Angela Simmonds took over the seat.

“One of the reasons I ran is because I still feel like it’s important that our community has a voice,” he said on Wednesday.

Prior to assuming the new role, Provo was the Executive Director of the Nova Scotia Black Educators Association. He also worked with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, where he advised regional education centers on issues affecting black students.

“I am a staunch advocate for the advancement of African Nova Scotians, especially in education. So I’ve fought locally and I’ve been to every one of our churches and I’ve set programs, but I know it’s necessary to have a voice at a higher level. ”

Nebal Snan is a reporter for local journalism initiatives, a position funded by the federal government.

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