It may not have been the anniversary celebration many envisioned, but the 2020 New Glasgow Black Gala Virtual Homecoming was a success.
With the homecoming event — the sixth of its kind and to celebrate 30 years — cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Faith States Linton still wanted to bring the community together.
“Racial tensions were flared with the death of George Floyd, and I knew our community was really hurting,” said States Linton, who moved away from New Glasgow in 1992 at the age of 24. She currently lives in Toronto.
“And I was missing home more than ever. I thought, ‘surely we could get something together.’”
States Linton contacted a member of the homecoming committee, and soon thereafter created a Facebook page. She invited her friends and family members from the black community, who in turn sent out more invitations.
“The response has been amazing, especially because you never know how well an idea will do,” she said, adding the private group had more than 350 members.
Throughout the week of Aug. 7-14, which was to be the in-person homecoming in New Glasgow, the group featured themes daily, sharing historical information on many in the community, including military members, athletes, writers, and musicians, as well as the role Second Baptist Church has played in the community since 1903.
“I really felt a deep sense of community,” said States Linton, who was at least one community member who found family members she didn’t know she was related to. “It was so amazing to hear and to read the different communications.”
Through the group, those who couldn’t attend could watch a live broadcast of the Town of New Glasgow raise the pan African flag as part of homecoming proclamation.
“It felt inclusive, and I really felt like I belonged,” said the group creator.
Crystal States, chairperson of the New Glasgow Black Gala Homecoming committee, said the virtual homecoming was a positive thing to have during the pandemic, although she admits she missed seeing everyone in person.
“It provided some really good connections, and it was timely, too, where everyone was in COVID mode. To have the virtual event, it was a nice addition to homecoming itself,” said States. “(Homecoming) allows us to pay homage to our elders who paved the way. As people pass on and homesteads are sold, many have no reason to come home. This gave people that reason to come home, to connect with their relatives, their childhood friends, and to make other connections in the community.”
For States, one of the best parts of the virtual event was seeing the pictures people continually posted.
“We could never have captured that many photos in that short period of time, or even over five years,” she said. “For the visual person, you can really see the connections between the generations.”
But the biggest takeaway for States was the role the church had in the community’s life.
“Every church struggles. Whether the church is in Nova Scotia or out in B.C., churches are struggling. The virtual event was almost a good history lesson for the youth, so they could see what we’ve had here. The church has been the focal point in the community. Everything came out of that church — groups, gatherings.”
She said it gave people an idea of what’s been done in the past with much less than people have today.
“It caused people to reflect and it took us down memory lane.”
While homecoming has come and gone, States Linton says the group will remain active on Facebook until they have a chance to meet in person again, which is planned for next summer.
“We shared a lot of tears, laughs, and stories,” said States Linton. “The page is still so busy, it’s still so wonderful.”
Throughout the years, the homecoming would see between 2,000 and 3,000 people attend overall. There are meet and greets, community dances, gala banquets, sports tournaments, kids activities, and more. The church hosts a special service, and a memorial service is held to log the names of community members who passed since the most recent homecoming.
“It was always exhausting, but we all loved it,” said States Linton. “Without the homecoming committee, we wouldn’t have a place to come home to.”
The virtual event gave her a chance to talk to more people than she would in person. She made a point to reach out to someone online if she had yet to do so.
“We all had time to discuss things,” she said. “It seemed so much more personal. With the stories people were telling, the pictures they were sharing. I still miss everyone and can’t wait to see everyone again.”
Many of the comments on the group, says States, are from people who wished they had been able to make it home, or missed being home.
“I think with COVID and having this virtual event, I think next year we will see far more people coming home,” States said. “People are sitting back, reflecting on the past and how vulnerable we are as people. This was a chance to stop and reset life, and I think we will see a lot more at homecoming next year, which would be amazing.”