© Jonathan Riley
Susan Langford, Brooke and Julius Locklayer, and Germaine Cromwell and Bill Clements are proud of their Weymouth Falls heritage and are trying to bring more people home for the Weymouth Falls community reunion.
A new generation of organizers are looking to revitalize the Weymouth Falls community reunion.
With reunion numbers dwindling and people coming home less and less, the new younger organizers in the mostly Black community have come up with a whole new slate of promotion methods including talent shows and achievement awards in Ontario and of course, Facebook.
“Our generation is lost,” said Germaine Cromwell who now lives in Alberta but stepped in two years ago when the community elders gave up organizing the weekend-long reunion. “We’re out of touch with our past and where we come from.
“Once the elders and I’m talking grandmothers usually, once they pass on, the children and grandchildren don’t come back – so we’re facing some huge gaps and we’re trying to close the gaps.”
In effort to make sure more people remember Weymouth Falls and Nova Scotian Black culture in general, Cromwell and his cousins put together a brochure called “Proud to be a Nova Scotian”.
The eight-page booklet describes the culture, history and geography of the province in general and Black history and culture in particular.
It of course mentions Weymouth Falls’ most famous person, Sam Langford, a world-class boxer.
“That’s Uncle Sam Langford,” says Cromwell. “A lot of people from here have gone on to do some great things and we kind of use the reunion to highlight that, to let people know what people from here have accomplished.”
On his way home from out west this summer, Cromwell stopped in London Ontario where many descendants of Weymouth Falls, including his cousin Susan Langford, are living.
They put on a talent show there, like they normally do at the reunion, they held an achievement awards and they handed out the brochure and talked to the young people about the little village in Nova Scotia.
Langford, home this year for the first time, says it’s hard for a lot of people with jobs and busy lives to get home for the reunion.
“We thought, why not put on something up there, and get them talking a little,” she said. “Some of them might decide to come home and but we all need to be close. We’re family and family needs to be close.”
Julius Locklayer came home this year from Tennessee for the second time. He came for the first reunion 17 years ago and says it changed his life.
“It gave me an identity,” he said. “I know where I’m from, I found my people. It feels like home here with these people.”
Locklayer and Cromwell call themselves Black Natives because they know they’re descended from a mix of aboriginal, Acadian and Black bloodlines.
“People are always looking at me out west and asking where I’m from,” said Cromwell. “I tell them I’m from Nova Scotia and some of them don’t know that we even have Black people in Nova Scotia and they ask, okay but where are your parents from?
“And I say Nova Scotia, and they say, your parents’ parents? They don’t get it, they want me to say Africa or the Caribbean but I have native blood in me, we’re from here.”
Locklayer met his great grandmother on his first trip and this trip, he took his daughter on a hike to the grave of his great great grandmother.
Brooke Locklayer’s favourite thing about Nova Scotia, besides all the warm caring family she never knew about, is all the seafood – the clams and scallops and haddock, she says.
Cromwell says the coastal food is a big part of the reunion and it was a big part of growing up there, although he didn’t really appreciate it at the time.
He says it wasn’t easy growing up in Weymouth Falls.
“We were brought up old old school,” he said. “When my grandmother said something you did it—we were disciplined to the max.
“When I was old enough to lift up a piece of wood, I was working,” he said. “When you’re a teenager you rebel against that, but I learned to appreciate it; the work ethic, the discipline have helped me get through things in my life.”
Cromwell thinks it’s time for more people who benefitted from the close family and community up bringing to come back and help rebuild things in the community.
“First we want to build up the reunion but then we want to fix things up around here, the community centre, our churches, they are in dire straits,” he said. “Those of us who are doing okay, it’s time for us to chip in a little and give back.”
The reunion takes place in Weymouth Falls and Weymouth this coming weekend.