In the following interview, conducted on July 9, 2000, Clarke recounts foundational events and figures from his childhood and youth, including mentors such as activist Rocky Jones and artist and actor Walter Borden.
I'm thinking of people like Rocky Jones who was very, very influential in the Black community in the '60s and even now, even today, is still influential, but especially back then because he
was very interested in trying to import a Martin Luther King/Malcolm X/Black Panther Party model of social change to the Black community in Nova Scotia.
And of course that didn't go over all that well because the community was still fairly conservative and especially amongst older Black people, but at the same time, the younger Black people were very interested in what Rocky was saying and trying to do.
And so he
did get some initiatives going.
helped to organize what became the Black United Front
of Nova Scotia, which lasted until 1996, so we had a good twenty-eight year run at least, or slightly more than that, as the pre-eminent Black secular organization in the province.
That was basically his
idea, although more conservative elements took it over, which always happens, and they remained in place for the next twenty-eight years or so, until finally provincial funding ended.
was also instrumental in getting the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission
started, which came about in 1970 as well.
That was also Rocky's doing, more or less; an extremely important person in terms of contemporary Black Canadian politics.
got that one going.
He then went to Dalhousie where he took an MA in history and got started the transition year program at Dalhousie.
It was primarily targeting Black and Micmac youth.
And then, what else did he
I mean he
was just involved in everything.
But then when I was older, eighteen or nineteen, I started trying to do my own very limited organizing of Black youth in Nova Scotia, Rocky
, again was one of those people who was very in my corner giving me advice and support and so on.
wanted to get out of the province, he
was from Truro, small Black community in Truro, which is about 100 kilometers from Halifax, and he
had had enough when he
was a young man.
just had enough of racism and the feeling of just being oppressed in the province.
So he got out, joined the Canadian army and then somehow ended up in the US, I am not sure about that part of it.
That's when I really started getting involved with Rocky
In fact it was Rocky who suggested that I go to the University of Waterloo, which was a really bizarre choice, because there I am a kid in Halifax, I graduated in 1978from high school, I was not really certain I wanted to go to university, not really certain at all.
had an old Bob Dylan album which I now own.
I borrowed it and I still have it.
might find out-
might find out.
But you know, he
had like The Funk Brothers, he
had everything from the sixties.
Walter was staying there, and Rocky
and Joan had this huge house on Windsor Street in Halifax and one room was a library.
Because Rocky was working in the program, a program he had helped to start.
took part in it as well.
I think Rocky
got fired, Sylvia quit, Walter got fired, I was there when Walter got fired, I mean I wasn't working for them but I was hanging around, and oh yeah, David Woods got fired-our problem was, we kept wanting, but it was provincially funded, it was federally funded.
But everybody knew, make a phone call from Rocky
and Joan's and you know you are going to be in somebody's file forever.
We got all the people who had been involved in the Central Planning Committee
came out of woodwork again, Rocky
, Sylvia, etc, and we got things going.