Written by David Woods
The play is set in 1963, in Africville – a Black village in the Halifax’s northend on the rim of the Bedford Basin. Africville residents are informed by the City of Halifax that their land is to be expropriated and that they have a year to negotiate the sale of their properties and relocate. The expropriation is problematic. Many Africville residents live on properties passed on without title from generation to generation, others are ‘squatters’ who never had any legal title for land on which they lived. Many Africvillers are also illiterate and are having difficulty navigating the paperwork and bureaucracy required to deal with the City’s expropriation order. To speed up property settlements, the City managers appoint George Pilgrim- a Black employee in their Social Services Department as ‘Coordinator of Africville Relocation Affairs’ and sets him up in an office in Africville (a refurbished expropriated home). But Pilgrim is a flawed man consumed with his status as a civil servant and contemptuous of Africville residents. He proves ineffectual in the role of Relocation Coordinator and is the subject of numerous complaints from Africville residents to the City managers. To save face, Pilgrim hires Craig Carvery, a popular Africville resident as his ‘front man’ and gives him a fancy title ‘Assistant Relocations Officer’. Craig is ‘literate’ and Pilgrim sees him as someone who can better communicate to the people of the village. Craig in turn sees Pilgrim as modern and educated Black man and someone he can emulate. Both men have a penchant for using ‘big words’, but whereas Craig’s grandiloquence is a playful attempt at trying to better to express himself, Pilgrim’s grandiloquence masks his deviousness and contempt for Africvillers.
After witnessing Pilgrim conduct a number of ‘under-handed deals’ by offering differing amounts to residents and playing off families against each other, Craig begins to question his role as Pilgrim’s assistant. Events come to a head when Pilgrim allows the Halifax Fire Department to burn expropriated Africville houses as part of the training of new recruits and an Africville resident is accidentally burned to death because of this. After this incident, Craig rebels against Pilgrim and his city bosses and is fired. He is replaced by another Africville ‘front person’ at the relocation office and the expropriation continues full throttle.
Call for actors for script development workshop
Dramaturgy and script development workshop
(Hiring 6 actors for roles for 5 day period)
Play production planned for Voices 2024-2025 Season Dates TBA
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