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Our Volunteer Board

The volunteer board provides the governance structure to lead and direct the Black Loyalist Heritage Society in its planning and operations of the Birchtown Historical Site. The Board of Directors are comprised of individuals who have an interest in the Society’s objectives, actively celebrate the survival and determination of our ancestors and believe in the promotion for universal recognition of the ancestry of the Black Loyalists as a nascent Canadian heritage community, having been among the earliest original settlers of Canada.

Officers and directors are elected annually from the membership. The active directors are:

PRESIDENT, CHARLES SMITH, YARMOUTH
Charles (Chuck) is a descendant of Black Loyalists, has a strong interest in the history of the Black Loyalists. Chuck was an employment officer with Service Canada for 31 years and has extensive experience in supervisory and managerial skills.

He was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Service to the Yarmouth Community in 2011 and Chuck was inducted into the Yarmouth Sports Hall of Fame as a member of Provincial Intermediate B Basketball Champions in 2009. He was the recipient of Basketball Nova Scotia’s Frank Baldwin Award in 2006; inducted into the Yarmouth Sports Heritage Hall of Fame as a Builder/Basketball in 2000; awarded the Community Sport Heroes Award in 1998; awarded the 3M Coaches Award in 1994 for recognition of outstanding contribution to the sport community; named the Sport Volunteer of the Year for Yarmouth Town and County Recreation in 1993; and Chuck received the Governor General of Canada Award in 1992 for recognition of significant contribution to compatriot and to Canada.

Chuck is a board member of the Yarmouth Town and County Sports Heritage Association, the Black Employment Partnership Committee, and the Greenville Community Youth Association. Chuck is the Assistant Coach of the Yarmouth High School Boys Basketball Team. He is a greeter for Holy Trinity Church and a coordinator of Youth Community Garden in Yarmouth. In his spare time, Chuck enjoys fly fishing, gardening, genealogy, jogging, hiking, sports, coaching and playing basketball.

Chuck joined the BLHS Board of Directors in 2015.  In 2016 Chuck accepted the nomination of President.

VICE PRESIDENT, DARLENE LAWRENCE, DIGBY
Darlene LawrenceDarlene Lawrence has been employed with the Digby County Family Resource Centre for 18 years as the Executive Director. This position involves the development of funding proposals, business plans, performance frameworks, and supervision of staff, staff evaluation, overseeing of budgets and the overall management of the organisation.She has been involved with various organisations and agencies as a volunteer. Ms. Lawrence was the former Chairperson of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council On the Status of Women, Board Member of the District Health Authority, Chairperson of the Black Employment Partnership Committee, Founding Member of the Women for Economic Equality, Board Member of Digby County Community Futures (an economic development committee), Board Member of Digby-Clare Community Business Development Centre. Her past employment has included: a Counsellor for a transition house for abused women, Instructor for developing and implementing behavioural modification programs for adults with a multitude of diagnosis, Instructor employed by Universite St. Anne to developed and implement a career exploration course for displaced fishery workers.

Presently Ms. Lawrence is Chairperson of the Conway Workshop Association (which provides housing, training, and employment for adults with developmental delays). She is Co-Chairperson of the Accountability Committee (this is a committee comprised of the Digby Black Community and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to address long standing issues between the Black community and the RCMP. This committee was developed as the result of the Dr. Raymond Winbush Report). Ms. Lawrence is currently the Chairperson of the Digby Education Committee (a committee for Black parents, which addresses the educational needs of Black learners). Ms. Lawrence is a member of the Racial and Visible Minority Advisory Provincial Committee to the CEO Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  

Ms. Lawrence joined the Board of Directors of the Black Loyalist Heritage Society in 2011.  Darlene accepted the nomination of Vice President in 2016. 

2ND VICE PRESIDENT, ELIZABETH CROMWELL, BIRCHTOWN

eliabeth2-resizedA founding member of the Society, Mrs. Cromwell has witnessed many honours over the years.  In 1998, Volunteer Nova Scotia named her its Multicultural Volunteer of the Year. In 2000, Elizabeth received the National Volunteer Award from Flare Magazine. The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Honourable Hilary M. Weston, presented her with this award. Elizabeth was a member of the Board of Directors of the former Black United Front from 1989 to 1993. She served as a regional representative for Shelburne County on the Board of the Black Cultural Society of NS from 1992 to 1994. She was honoured in 1997 for her service with induction to the Dr. W. P. Oliver Wall of Fame at the Black Cultural Centre. Elizabeth was awarded the Canada 125 Medal and was one of the first to be awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. She received an Honourary Degree from Mount Saint Vincent University on November 2, 2014.   Elizabeth served as President of the Society since its inception until December 2002.  She once again took the seat of President in 2008 and stepped down in 2016.  She accepted the nomination of 2nd Vice President in 2016.

TREASURER, GARET LAWRENCE, HALIFAX
Garet joined the BLHS in 2017 and accepted the nomination of Treasurer.  He is a Senior Accountant at Grant Thornton LLP, where he has been an employee for three years now. Garet passed his CPA designation exam in December 2016. He audits a variety of companies which include Private Sector Industries, Not-for-profits, and Acadia First Nations.

Garet has been wanting to find a way to give back and volunteer within the black community of Nova Scotia and could not think of a better way to get my foot in the door as well as gain some important board experience by joining the BLHS.

Garet brings a solid knowledge base in the accounting field which includes his ability to interpret financial statements, help facilitate any financial decisions the BLHS may face, and he brings forth a youthful perspective for activities and programs.

Garet has also volunteered with the United Way, Movember, and Sport Nova Scotia’s Dragon Boat Festival.

SECRETARY
DIRECTOR, DOLORES ATWOOD, YARMOUTH
Dolores Atwood was born in Ondo State Nigeria in 1969. She studied a bachelor’s in International Relations at Oba Femi Awolowo Federal University (OAU) from 1989 to 1993 and was the Vice President of the International Relations Student Association at OAU. She Immigrated to Canada in 1995. From 1996 to 1998, Dolores was employed with the Government of Thailand as a community development coordinator. While in this position, she played a leading role in obtaining domestic and international funds to assist in the establishment of a childcare and women’s development center in the Province of Phrae. After returning to Canada in 1998, Dolores served as the Nova Scotia representative on the CUSO (Canadian University Services Overseas) Atlantic Council.

Dolores is an active and hard working community leader with a strong commitment to community development. Since coming to Yarmouth in 1999, Dolores has served the community by sitting on the Town & Municipal Joint Heritage and Yarmouth Municipal Planning Advisory Committees. She has served as the President of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Yarmouth and Nova Scotia and is actively involved with the local Women’s networking group. She has served as the Vice President of the Yarmouth Arts Regional Center (Th’ YARC) and has been a volunteer committee member on the South West Nova Immigration Initiatives Committee and has been an active member of the Yarmouth Farmers Market Association. She is also a Board member of the Cancer Society of Canada, Tri-County Housing Authority and Black Employment Resource Centre. She is also an active member and contributor within the local Toast Masters Organization in Yarmouth.

Dolores as an entrepreneurial owned and operated a very successful jewelry retail business while she was studying at University. In this business she developed good relationship s with jewelry wholesalers in Lagos and sold her products up country to fashion trendy students and expatriates.

Dolores is a mother of 3 school age children and has worked as a teacher’s aid at the Port Maitland Elementary School. She has been a Board member of Parents Place and was involved with the Meadow Fields Home and School Association until 2006. In 2004 Dolores’ concerns over the challenges and issues facing local schools prompted her to run for a position on the Tri-County School Board. Dolores ran for a seat on the Yarmouth Municipal Council in 2008. In 2006 Dolores won the Yarmouth Liberal Party nomination and ran for MLA in the June 2006 provincial election.

Dolores believes that Yarmouth’s strength is its people and their resilience and determination to progress. Dolores has proven her commitment and desire to work and serve her community and has shown, time and time again leadership and vision.

Dolores has been a BLHS director since 2009.

DIRECTOR, ELIZABETH BOWER, SHELBURNE
Elizabeth, now semi-retired, has held various positions throughout her career including assistant branch manager of Royal Bank; assisting with the operations of the Shelburne Barrel Factory; office administrative experiences; economic development within the county including waterfront development, restoration of heritage buildings and tourism coordination; and managed and operated Coastal Peoples Learning Network – a company that provided educational experiences in several locations along the South Shore of NS. She currently serves as a Councillor for the Town of Shelburne and has served on the board of directors of the South Shore Tourism Association and Discover Shelburne County Tourism Association.  She joined the BLHS Board of Directors in 2010 and served as the BLHS Board Secretary from 2012 to 2016. Elizabeth took a one year leave and re-joined the Board of Directors in 2017.
DIRECTOR, GILBERT DAYE, HALIFAX
  Gilbert served as a director from 2013-2015 and rejoined the board in 2016.
DIRECTOR, BARB FALK, BIRCHTOWN
barb-falk.pngBarb Falk has been involved with the Black Loyalist Heritage Society since 1995. She began as a volunteer assisting the office administration in various ways of running an office efficiently, greeting & dealing with the public, and the use of various office machines.  In 1996, she was hired as the business manager, working with the secretary, assisting with typing, filing, copying, note taking, etc.  From 2002-2004 Barb was the assistant Registrar, helping with the Black Loyalist Registry data entry, assisted with oral presentations, attended meetings, etc.  After retirement, Barb is still active as a member of the Finance, Executive & Fund-raising Committees.  Barb is past Vice President (2007-2008), past board Treasurer / Secretary (2009-2011) and served as Vice President 2012 to 2016.  Barb also participated in the BLHS historical re-enactments as she portrayed the beloved griot.  She certainly has acting talent!Barb likes to quilt, act, do aerobics, cook and garden. She is a member of the Well Women’s Planning Committee.  She is Treasurer and Director of the Birchtown Community Centre.  Barb is on the Social Committee at her church in Jordan Falls and was a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 63.  Barb previously served as an Executive member & Treasurer of CERJ & PERJ.  Barb was Treasurer and Chairperson for the Shelburne County Christmas Parade.

Her and her husband Hank actively do catering jobs for the Birchtown Community Centre.

Barb helped start the Shelburne County Community Christmas Dinner which went into its 6th year this past Christmas and it was a success with close to 200 attending.

Barb is a wife, mother of three and grandmother of five. Barb and her husband Hank reside in Birchtown.

DIRECTOR, GRAHAM NICKERSON, TAYMOUTH, NB
Graham has a multifaceted background in enterprise business, commercial and academic research. He received an Electronic Engineering Technician degree at Radio College Canada in Toronto and worked for Haliburton Geophysical Services. This was Graham’s first introduction to cutting edge technology and the start of an adventure that would involve interacting with many cultures all over the world. Though travel and the daring-do of marine exploration geophysics was very exciting, much of this work lacked context, so Graham decided to attend Saint Mary’s University, where he achieved an honours degree for Science in Geology and Geography. Having received a scholarship, he moved on to the University of New Brunswick and studied Geology and Geodesy Geomatics Engineering, receiving a double degree in Engineering in Science: Focusing on the then new tools in computer mapping.Attaining some level of professional competence Graham then went on to sit on the planning committee for the Terang-Serasun project for British Petroleum (BP) in Jakarta, Indonesia. This team produced the first paperless survey report and was a runner up for BP’s medal for innovative project of the year. During this time, he started working with Interactive Visualization Systems, perhaps the leading 3D visualization software package at this time. This was a very exciting time in Graham’s life as he worked with many scientific movers and shakers as well as other very technically proficient people. Graham’s input was very much about transitioning new technology into the market in a way that made it commercially viable. He once pitched a product like Google Earth, before there was a Google Earth. This is a cautionary tale of living in silos – the greatest geospatial product on the planet produced not by a leading geospatial company, but a search engine company.

Graham started his own company, Highland Geo Solutions, and soon hired his wife to keep him in line! Graham’s efforts here did not just focus on commercial survey and mapping but also on education and research. Highland Geo Solutions has provided internship opportunities and technology as part of marine archaeological surveys in the Mediterranean with RPM Nautical Foundation. Highland Geo Solutions is committed to being an equal opportunity employer and in furthering opportunities for females in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics). From this, the Seafloor Exploration Training Course was born: A cooperative training course merging commercial tools with academic research to train students how to use marine survey technology.

Recently, Graham has been using his experience in business and technology to assist in some not for profit work. He has recently joined boards for local minor hockey and the new sport of floorball. The quick success of floorball in his area in New Brunswick led Floorball Canada to invite Graham to join their board as Co-Director of Marketing. Despite these accomplishments, when Graham is not in some faraway place mapping the seabed he enjoys living with his wife and sons in a rural setting, spending time growing his garden, collecting eggs from his chickens, playing floorball with friends or reading one of his favorite history publications.

Graham joined the Board of Directors in 2015.

DIRECTOR, DARLENE LAMEY, WINDSOR
Darlene joined the Board of Directors in 2017. Darlene is an accomplished lawyer, educator and community volunteer. Working as associate Legal Counsel at Waterbury Newton in Kentville NS. Her practice areas include; personal injury, civil litigation, family and child protection, law. In 2015, Darlene served as Claim Adjudicator on behalf of the Bruneau Group, conducting Inquisitor evaluations through a Restorative Justice process to determine liability and damages in Individual Claims in settlement of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court Class Action against the Province of Nova Scotia & the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children. The mother of 4 and grandmother of 7, as an experienced lawyer, a trained advocate, an educator, and a certified human service counselor, Darlene is committed to civility, equity, access to justice, lifelong learning and professional mentorship. She contributes through civic service in her earnest efforts to give back as she continues the journey forward.

For more than a decade, as legal Counsel with the Department of Justice Canada, Darlene provided litigation and advisory services to federal government departments, including Corrections Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the RCMP, Parks Canada and National Defence. Notably Darlene served as counsel, represented Canada before the adjudicator of the Residential School Tribunal, the Employment Insurance Umpire and in the Tax Court of Canada. Darlene served as second counsel on the Davis Class Action and as lead counsel before the Supreme Courts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, the Federal Court of Canada; and the Court of Federal Appeal.

She has provided advisory and facilitation services on policy issue throughout her career; including, Province of New Brunswick- Roundtable on Social Policy Renewal in 1998; Member of the Advisory Committee on Visible Minorities reporting to Treasury Board & the Advisory Council for Aboriginal Peoples reporting to the Minister of Justice Canada, regionally and nationally from 2002 to 2010. Darlene served as the elected Regional Representative for the Association of Justice Counsel, representing her colleagues for two consecutive terms and subsequently appointed as a member of the national negotiation and adjudication team for the AJC. Darlene is signatory to the first labour contract between the AJC and Treasury Board. Darlene is active in Adult education using her training in Life Long Learning and Education to advise and develop educational curricula, develop and deliver adult education and board governance training, policy analysis and drafting. Darlene consulted and drafted the governance documents for the Africentric Learning Institute & the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute.

Darlene has been a practicing Member of the Nova Scotia Barristers Society (NSBS) since 2003; she is a Member of the Canadian Barristers Association (CBA), and the Kings County Barristers Society (KCBS), Darlene is a Member of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL)- Nova Scotia Branch; and the Canadian Bar Association.

Darlene is Member of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Mental Health Association- Kings County Branch (CMHA-Kings) & serves a member and chair of 3, CMHA-Kings regional subcommittees on funding, employment and affordable housing services; 2014-present; Member of the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies, PA, affiliated with Temple University, African American Studies Program 2009- present.  Darlene has a long history of public and professional service including service as: MemberUncommon Law-Access to Justice Committee- Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society 2015; Chair of the Windsor African Education Committee (WAEC) 2007-2013 Director of Brain Power-the Windsor Black Educators Association (BEA)- Africentric Summer Camp Project, 2013/2014. Chair, Valley African Nova Scotian Development Agency (VANSDA) 2013-2014, Member of the National Advisory Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, 2001-2013; Member and Regional Chair of the Advisory Council on Visible Minorities, 2001-2010; Chair, International Women’s Day Government of Canada Programing 2008; National Program Chair, Department of Justice- Atlantic Region 2009; Elected: President of the Dalhousie Black Law Student’s Association (DBLSA)-2 terms 2000- 2002, Secretary of the DBLSA 1999, Elected Atlantic Regional Representative, Association of Justice Counsel; 2002-2010; 2 consecutive 4 year terms. Appointed Regional Account Executive- Government of Canada National Charitable Workplace Campaign- 2008; Member of the National Negotiation Team and Labour Management Committee, Association of Justice Counsel, 2003-2007.  Darlene is the Recipient of: the Award for Excellence in Leadership– 2006, Department of Justice Canada; and the National Bronze Award–2008, Government of Canada Charitable Workplace Campaign, Department of Justice Canada.

Darlene attended: Dalhousie University – Bachelors of Laws (LL.B), 2002, Mount Saint Vincent University – Master of Arts & Education, (MeAD), focus on Lifelong Learning- Africentirc Policy Analysis, thesis stage 2009 –present; and the New Brunswick Community College- Saint John Campus, Certified Human Service Counselor (HSC); 1989, focus on Behavioural Modification and Developmental Psychology & Family Services. Darlene has participated in ongoing Continue Legal education & Advance Trial Practice; including Child Protection, Mutual Gains Negotiations, Trauma Informed Practice, Trained Facilitator, Crisis Intervention, Africentric Lens and critical race analysis, Confrontation Management, Creating a Harassment Free Workplace, Mental Health Literacy & Crisis Intervention (list not exhaustive).

DIRECTOR, CORRINE SPARKS, HALIFAX

Corrine Sparks (Connie) was appointed to the Nova Scotia Family Court in 1987 becoming the first African Nova Scotian to be appointed to the Bench; and the first African Canadian female to serve on the judiciary in Canada.  Judge Sparks was born in Halifax which is where she also received her post-secondary education from Mount Saint Vincent and Dalhousie Universities graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Economics) and LL. B. respectively.

Another educational goal was achieved in 2001 when Judge Sparks successfully completed her LL. M. from Dalhousie Law School.  Her graduate studies culminated with a thesis which explored the topic of reparations, and its relation to the relocation of Africville – an African Nova Scotian community which, regretfully, was demolished in 1969, in the city of Halifax, in the name of urban renewal.

Raised in one of several racially segregated communities, in the Province of  Nova Scotia, her early public school education was the result of attendance at a segregated grade school.

Prior to her appointment to the Bench, Judge Sparks was self-employed in a small law firm for several years, where she practiced law in a variety of areas ranging from real estate law to family law.  During this time, she served on numerous volunteer boards ranging from the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

She presently presides in Truro, Shubenacadie, Windsor and Kentville Family Courts where she adjudicates family law matters involving custody, child protection, access, and child and spousal support. Throughout her career, she has actively fostered and facilitated judicial education, and has both developed educational programs as well as lectured, primarily, in the area of social context judicial education. For several years, as part of the new judges training program offered by the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges, she has lectured in the area of gender and racial discrimination and the courts. Internationally, Judge Sparks has been honored to work with the Commonwealth Judicial Education Center; generally, in the promotion of judicial education throughout the commonwealth  and more specifically as a lecturer from time to time.

Highlights of her judicial career include:

  •  Appointment as a member of the Canadian Bar Associations Gender Equality Task Force where, in addition to other duties, she completed a study on Women of Colour in the legal profession.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (C.A.B.L.)
  • The Distinguished Service Award from the Black Law Students Association of Canada.
  • The Frances Lillian Fish Award from the National Association of Women and the Law at its inaugural ceremony. It is an award which honours women who have excelled in the legal profession, and who have succeeded in breaking down barriers for other females.
  • The Congress of Black Women Award for outstanding contributions to women and the law.
  • The Elizabeth Fry Society ARebel with a  Cause@ Award.
  • The prestigious Harry Jerome Award for Professional Excellence.
  • The African Canadian Achievement Award for excellence in law.
  • The Canadian Bar Associations Touchstone Award for leadership in the area of equality and diversity in the legal profession.
  • Establishment at Dalhousies Schulich School of Law of the annual Corrine E. Sparks Award to assist law students who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to community service.
  • Other honors such as the W. P. Oliver Black Wall of Fame Award from the Nova Scotia Black Cultural Center, as well as an honorary Board appointment to the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children – originally a black orphanage founded over 100 years ago.

Judge Sparks is the eldest of nine offspring born to parents, Helen and Spencer Sparks, whose heritage dates back to the arrival of the Black Loyalists and Black Refugees, as early settlers in the Province of Nova Scotia, in 1783. Her hobbies include gardening, music, reading and traveling.

Corrine has been a BLHS director since 2009.

DIRECTOR, RUSTUM SOUTHWELL, HALIFAX
 Rustum joined the Board of Directors in 2013.
DIRECTOR, RALPH THOMAS, SAINT JOHN, NB
Ralph joined the Board of Directors in 2017. Ralph was born and raised in Saint John, New Brunswick. He is married to Judith Meinert-Thomas of Saint John, New Brunswick, and he has two sons, Jeffrey and Michael.

Ralph Thomas is a well-known amateur and professional boxer who has been inducted into several Sports “Hall of Fame”. Ralph spent the better part of 33 years promoting and developing the sport at the amateur level, both in Saint John and throughout the Province. Ralph was the New Brunswick Amateur Association’s first President, and served 20 years at the helm of the organization. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association for 28 years. In 1976 Mr. Thomas received the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association’s Builder Award in recognition of his contributions at a National level.

Mr. Thomas has been recognized for his qualities as a leader, adviser, negotiator, mentor, role model and motivator. He is known for his positive attitude, quiet strength, speaking with passion and conviction, leading by example. Ralph is a founding member of the New Brunswick Black History Society and served as a Board Member for various non-profit organizations including the Kings Landing Historical Settlement. Mr. Thomas is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, the YMCA Peace Medal and the Toastmasters Communications and Leadership Award.

Since 1997, Mr. Thomas has been president of PRUDE Inc. (Pride and Race, Unity and Dignity through Education), an advocacy and service group for Black, Ethnic and Newcomer communities in Saint John. He has led PRUDE to expand their mandate by including visible multicultural minorities and newcomers, and to mitigate the barriers faced by women from these communities. He championed an awareness program to challenge Racial and Ethic stereotypes among youth, and developed partnerships with the Anglophone School District and Multicultural groups. Mr. Thomas was honored in 2012 as a recipient of the New Brunswick Human Rights Award.

DIRECTOR, GLORIA WESLEY, HALIFAX
Gloria was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. She is a graduate of Nova Scotia Teachers College and St. Francis Xavier University. She retired from teaching to become fully engaged in her passion for writing. As an African Nova Scotian writer, she visits schools across Canada to read from her books and give presentations about the Black Loyalists.

Her first book of poetry, To My Someday Child was published in 1975. Another poetry collection entitled, Woman, Sing, was published in 2002, followed by Burlap and Lace in 2007. Published in 2011, her first young adult fiction novel, Chasing Freedom, is a window into the life of a Black Loyalist family who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1783. Chasing Freedom was nominated for the Anne Connor Brimer Book Award for Atlantic Canadian Children’s Literature. The sequel or companion novel, If This Is Freedom, followed in 2013.  Her latest, Abigail’s Wish, is the first children’s picture book to be set in historic Birchtown.

Wesley’s poetry appears in three Canadian anthologies: Canada in Us Now (Harold Head, 1976), Other Voices: Writings by Blacks in Canada (Lorris Elliott, 1985) and Fire on the Water (George Elliott Clarke, 1992). Gloria Wesley holds the distinction of being the first published Black Nova Scotian poet (by Resolution of the Nova Scotia Legislature, 5 April 2007).

Gloria joined the BLHS Board of Directors in 2016.

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