reBOOT Canada alumni Brian Provo connects fellow law students to the largest & oldest black community in Canada – and the many challenges that residents continue to experience there today.
In mid-February during Black History Month, Brian Provo, a reBOOT Canada alumni (2018-2019) who headed our Indigenous Youth Toolkit program, and fourth year law student at the University of Windsor, welcomed over 100 law students to his community in Nova Scotia: North Preston.
Provo organized a bus tour of North Preston for the law students, that included participation from the Mayor, and local residents to share the history, the current challenges and plans for the future. The small, tight knit community traces its origins back to the immigration of former African American slaves during the 18th and 19th centuries, and although land titles have challenged North Preston, and the people of the community, they push on under the town’s motto “We’ve come this far by faith.”
When Brian found out that the Black Law Students Association of Canada was hosting their annual conference in Halifax, Brian saw this as an opportunity to educate some of the students on the history, and current community challenges that North Preston is facing. reBOOT Canada was very proud to be there in spirit as a sponsor of the event and it gave us a chance to check in with Brian, reflect on his time at reBOOT Canada and his work with the Indigenous Youth Toolkit Program, and how this initiative with the Black Law Students Association came together.
- Brian, you have a very impressive resume which includes a few community focused roles including your role at reBOOT Canada. Tell us more about your time at reBOOT, and the Indigenous Youth Toolkit program.
I am thankful for my time at reBOOT Canada in so many ways. Franc and Lars hired me right after the summer that I graduated, with little managerial experience. However, they gave me the opportunity to become a leader with a focus on mentoring youth and giving back to my community. I had the opportunity to operate and manage the Youth toolkit, which was a role where I mentored Indigenous youth, while showing them the ins and outs of our business. reBOOT Canada was the first job for many of our youth, so it was a learning experience for us all!
- During your time at reBOOT Canada, what community challenges related to technology did you recognize existed in Indigenous communities?
I realized that the technological field is highly underrepresented in the Indigenous community. Many rural Indigenous communities lack the basics we take for granted in the city, such as good cell phone reception, reliable Wi-Fi, and internet.
- You saw an opportunity to share North Preston and its rich cultural history with the Black Law Association of Canada. Tell us more about this initiative, and what response you got from those that participated?
This was an opportunity that I was truly proud to be a part of. This bus tour was the first time we had a group of law students this size visit our community. We had two busloads with nearly 100 students in attendance. Many had no idea that Canada had historic black communities that had been around before Canada officially became a country. Many students were saddened by the legal issues my communities have faced for generations, such as land owners paying tax on land without a clear deed to their land. Students were also surprised with how welcomed they were into the community by its members. Most of all, they left feeling that they needed to do something now and tell people about this beautiful and historic community they visited.
- What is the biggest challenge that the North Preston community is facing right now?
The challenge is two-fold. The first is creating jobs in the community to entice youth to stay and fight for their community. There are, at present, zero official businesses in the community due to zoning and other historic reasons. The second issue is finding a way to preserve our land. As mentioned, we are Canada’s largest and oldest black-owned community. After COVID-19, many elders in the community passed away, and younger people have been moving into the cities to find work, leaving homes unattended. When taxes are not paid on the homes, they go to the tax sale and are sold to outsiders who have no appreciation of the community except for the land it sits on.
- You mentioned in your interview with Global News, that for many of the law students visiting North Preston, this was their first time hearing about these issues that exist in the community. How can we as Canadians do better in terms of educating ourselves, and others on the challenges that many communities are facing across the country?
You can do us a favour by educating those around you on any day of the year, not just during Black history month. We must stop turning to the United States for black history and appreciate and discover the rich history we have on our own soil. We need to have more conversations about issues these communities have been dealing with for over 250 years on their own. And we have to take action when the time calls for it to elect politicians who acknowledge these issues and sincerely want to make a change because the days of hiding Canada’s Black history are past. Therefore, we must preserve and acknowledge these historic communities before they become nothing more than history.
- How can initiatives such as Indigenous Youth Toolkit program, and tours like the one you facilitated in North Preston help connect communities?
I would love to see a mentoring/ business program for kids integrated into my community somehow. There is definitely a need for this sort of work out there. Keeping kids busy keeps them off the streets and out of trouble.
- How have these experiences, working with reBOOT Canada and your other community initiatives set you up for success for the future?
I have been fortunate and have lived a good life so far. So now I’m at the point where I’m not worried about myself. My future is in a good place. It’s the youth coming up that I worry about and also have hope for. I want them to see what I have done at such a young age and hope that this sort of work can inspire them to get up and work in their communities.
- What is next for you as you continue to pursue your career in Law?
After graduating in June, I will be articling at Toronto’s Ministry of Attorney Generals’ Crown law criminal office. I also have a business called Linkzup Travel Tours Inc that plans vacations, getaways and nights out for tourists. I started this business in my spare time after finishing my shift at reBOOT Canada. I have recently incorporated and expanded it internationally into the Dominican Republic this year. Regarding my community work, I don’t see an end. That sort of work is lifelong. I have a few things on the move regarding historical legal issues in my community that we hope to clean up. Lastly is family and friends. I don’t have to say too much about that. Where would I be without people like Franc, Lars and reBOOT Canada, who gave the young kid fresh out of undergrad a shot?
As communities from coast to coast face community challenges, whether related to technology or other systematic barriers it is integral for us to do our part to show support. Through initiatives like the Indigenous Youth Toolkit, and the initiative that Brian executed in North Preston, we can make long lasting change in communities across the country, granting youth, and all members of the community the access to technology, land and other resources to help them succeed and prosper. Connecting to the community can unlock invaluable opportunities, and bring the community together in a way that allows them to move forward. A big thank you to Brian for sharing his story with us, we are grateful to have been a part of this incredible initiative. If you are looking for more information on our programs, please connect with us.