Team Bios

Creative Team | Website | Writers & Performers


Valerie Mason-John

Producer, Creative Director , Writer, Researcher

Valerie Mason-John descends from slaves on both sides of her family. She is proud to call herself a Creole from Freetown – Sierra Leone. Now an African Canadian, she straddles the historical connections of Freetown and Nova Scotia, and is working on piecing together much of this history not known in the rest of the world. Her biological father was a McCarthy, and may well descend from the McCarthy ship builders in Shelburne.

She was awarded an honorary doctorate of letters for her lifetime achievements by the University of East London, and has a Masters in Creative Writing, Education and the Arts. Her first novel, Borrowed Body, republished as the Banana Kid, won the Mind Book of the Year award, and she has written several plays and five other non-fiction books.

Author of eight books, she is the co-editor of the Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry which has just won two literary awards for best Poetry book and best Education book. And this book has been incorporated onto the NS school curriculum.

Afua Cooper

Producer, Creative Director, Writer, Researcher , Historical Consultant

Afua Cooper is the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University. She has been researching African Canadian historical studies for over 25 years. Her consistent work in the area makes her one of the leading Canadian and international researchers in the field. Areas of expertise include Black women’s history, slavery, abolition and freedom, law, culture, community building, and political consciousness. Afua has also made extensive contributions to the field of Black studies by working with such public history institutions as libraries, archives, and museums in curating Black history-themed exhibits. In 2007, Dr. Cooper was the chief knowledge officer and coordinator for and of the Province of Ontario’s Bicentenary commemoration of the 1807 Act to Abolish the British Transatlantic Slave Trade.

In addition to developing and teaching courses at Dalhousie, and spearheading a Black studies program at that institution, she has also taught at Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, York University, and Simon Fraser University. She was also a fellow at Brown University. Her book The Hanging of Angelique: The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal is a signal publication on slavery in Canada and the Black Atlantic.

Afua Cooper has also contributed to Canadian artistic practice and culture in her work as a celebrated dub poet.

John Hennigar-Shuh

Executive Producer

John Hennigar-Shuh is President of the Canadian Maritime Heritage Foundation, a charitable foundation focused on raising funds to support the work of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (MMA) in Halifax, including the long-standing efforts of the MMA to connect with its community in all its rich diversity, by demonstrating through its programs and activities that the maritime heritage of our city, province, and country, doesn’t just belong to “old white guys with beards,” but to all the people who together make us our community. As a young man, John founded New Options, a school for kids who had dropped out of school, in the racially diverse North End of Halifax. He taught briefly in the Education Department at Dalhousie and after that worked for thirty-five years in various roles at the Nova Scotia Museum, ending as Manager of Development and Partnerships at the Maritime Museum. Recently, John coordinated successful capital campaigns for the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre in Birchtown, Nova Scotia, and for a new Learning Centre at Ross Farm Museum, in New Ross, Nova Scotia. Both projects are well on their way to being built.

Dawn Harwood-Jones

Associate Producer

Dawn Harwood-Jones is Executive producer at Pink Dog Productions and Studio Three who had twenty years of experience as a CBC producer before she struck out on her own. She has been described as a brilliant producer, a wonderful mentor, and a well-spring of creative wisdom.  She is a Filmmaker, Musician, Artist, Manager, and Videographer, with an abiding interest in the rich diversity of the community in which she lives and a commitment to mirroring this richness back to those whose heritage it is.

Sobaz Benjamin

Director of Camera

Sobaz Benjamin is a Halifax based filmmaker and educator. He is Founder and Program Director, of iMOVe (In My Own Voice) and has worked for over 17 years using social media as educational and engagement tools, building relationships and shaping the identities of program participants in the contexts of community and social development .

Robert Guertin


A member of the Canadian Television Production industry since 1973, Robert has been involved in various capacities as Director, Director of Photography, Photographer, Videographer, Cinematographer, ( Topside, Aerial & Underwater), and non linear Editor with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, National Geographic Society, National Film Board of Canada, Discovery Channel Canada, Discovery US, Discovery UK, History Channel to name a few, and many private sector film and video productions.

Robert has been responsible for the topside, aerial, and underwater videography on “Oceans of Mystery”, “Sea Hunter”, Marine Machines, for the Discovery Channel/History Channel. One of Robert’s projects includes a 13 one hour documentary series entitled “Finding The Fallen”, the story of fallen and forgotten soldiers of World War I.

Robert has traveled extensively to countries and territories worldwide. This includes Canada, the Arctic, USA, Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Australia, China, Vietnam and is willing and able to undertake projects anywhere in the world.

Robert is fully bilingual in French and English.

Everett Stone


Everett Stone grew up with a passion for nature, people and technology, so, videography seemed to be the natural choice. He’s lived in a National Park to film species at risk, shot his own film in the segregated neighbourhoods of Northern Ireland, and has had close encounters with crocodiles in Costa Rica. With an impressive variety of experience and technical skills, he uses cameras, lighting, sound and post correction to uncover the details hidden from our day to day lives, or to translate the vision of the producer, artist and/or client into quality images. Away from the camera, Everett is an accomplished electronic music producer performing as “Dartmouthian”, runs the label “Kollektiv” and is a key organizer of Future Forest Festival.

Antoine Abawajy

Editor and Actor

Antoine Abawajy (Symonds) is a hip hop videographer and editor. For several years he worked for and Pink Dog Productions interviewing, editing and working with youth on an African Nova Scotian video history project called Empowerful. His acting career started with a pilot for a show being developed by Ryan Gannon (also of Pink Dog Productions). Africville is his second on camera role.



John Wedderburn

Project Manager

John Wedderburn is a Partner at CM Communications and a consultant for the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute. Built on the fundamentals of collaboration and respect, CM Communications offers strategic communications, and public/media/community relations services to both public and private sector clients.

Sina Raeisi

Web Master & Web Design

Sina Raeisi is a Technical Consultant at SinaSys Inc. He is a candidate for Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Dalhousie University, with concentration on capacity planning and emphasis on business and user interaction.

Based in Canada, SinaSys Inc. started its activities in building commercial and personal websites. Today SinaSys has a broader portfolio of services available to its global customers, ranging from professional web solutions to advanced automation and network systems in order to deliver innovative IT Solutions.

Aaron Johnson

Website consultant

Aaron Johnson is a programmer and web developer living in Halifax, NS. Black Halifax is his third project with Pink Dog Productions. Aaron started coding out of a need to build things and, to support community projects like Black Halifax.



George Elliot Clarke

Writer and Performer

George Elliott Clarke is the inaugural E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. His many honours include the Portia White Prize for Artistic Achievement (1988), Governor-General’s Award for Poetry (2001), the National Magazine Gold Medal for Poetry (2001), the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award (2004), and the prestigious Trudeau Fellow Prize (2005).

Sylvia Hamilton

Writer and Performer

Sylvia D. Hamilton is a Nova Scotian filmmaker and writer who is known for her award-winning documentary films as well as her publications, public presentations, and extensive volunteer work with artistic, social, and cultural organizations at the local and national levels. Her films include Black Mother Black Daughter, Speak It! From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia, and Portia White: Think On Me, a documentary about the legendary Canadian contralto Portia White, and The Little Black School House, an exploration of Canada’s segregated schools. Sylvia has been widely recognized for her work. Her awards include a Gemini, The Portia White Prize, the CBC Television Pioneer Award, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, among others.

El Jones

Writer and Performer

EL Jones is a spoken word activist and teacher who is Halifax’s Poet Laureate. Her poetry is particularly committed to political causes and social justice and she has worked extensively with organizations around Halifax performing and presenting on issues of social change.  She is dedicated to using poetry in prison outreach and youth engagement, and volunteers twice a week at Centerline Studio on the corner of Uniacke and Gottingen. She currently teaches in the African Canadian Transition Program at NSCC and in the Women’s Studies program at Acadia. El believes that poetry can empower the powerless and give voice to the voiceless.

Jacob Sampson

Writer and Performer

Jacob Sampson is an actor from the Annapolis Valley N.S. He studied acting at Acadia University, has taken part in a variety of productions such as One Light Theatre’s Prismatic Festival and has spent two seasons with Shakespeare by the Sea.

Quanda Johnson

Writer and Performer

Quanda Johnson is a Director, Writer, Editor, and Performing Artist. Quanda is a Philadelphia native who has performed on and off Broadway, and in regional theatre, national, and international tours. A Fulbright independent researcher awarded the Fulbright Community Leadership Program grant; she is affiliated with Dalhousie Theater and Music, as well as NSCAD Media Arts. Her Fulbright research project, Beyond the Veil of the Sorrow Songs is a multimedia theatrical “event” concert and  the culmination of her exploration of the Underground Railroad as it relates to Atlantic Canada and Quebec.  She created/produced original works, Lyrical Langston: His Muse for Music and My Lord What a Morning!: The Life of Marian Anderson in Her Own Words.  She has an MFA in Acting from the New School University (NYC) and a Master of Music degree from the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College.  Nominated for an AUDELCO Award (Best Actress) for her portrayal of Marian Anderson, she appeared in Broadway’s Tony award-winning Ragtime; three seasons with New York City Opera, and off Broadway’s Mandela in which she played Winnie Mandela.  All of her work is dedicated to the memory of the first artist in her life, her mother, Vernetta.

David Woods

Writer, Historical Consultant, Actor Casting

David Woods is a visual artist, actor, poet, playwright, director, and storyteller. David has served as program director for the Black United Front and the Black Cultural Centre and is a founder of the Cultural Awareness Youth Group of Nova Scotia, Voices Black Theatre Ensemble, and the Preston Cultural Festival. Woods organized the first Black History activities for the Halifax Public Library, back in 1984, and served as the province’s coordinator until 1992.

Nathan Simmons


Nathan  has been a member of Voices run by David Woods for two years, and received his first big acting experience at Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s university Africa Night. He trained in  drama at Auburn high school, and has been accepted at Dalhousie’s Fountain School for performing arts where he is now training in theatre acting. Nathan say’s he has been blessed to have had the opportunity to play a Maroon, and help uncover an important historical fact.

Lindell Smith


Lindell Smith from the North End of Halifax is committed to working within his community and has dedicated himself to uplifting it. During High School he was awarded the Lieutenant Governor Award. He also worked as a Youth Ambassador for the Crime Prevention project “Youth Opposing Gangs”. In 2014 Lindell was chosen as one of five Youth Rising Stars for Nova Scotia and also the first recipient of the The Abby Bryant (humanitarian) award of excellence. This is given to a young person who is recognized for outstanding community service and has contributed greatly to their community. Lindell was also awarded The Black Business Initiative’s Industry Development Award at the African-Nova Scotian Music Association Awards in 2014

Trevor Silver


Trevor J. Silver is a 24 year old from North Preston, Nova Scotia. Dixon is the family name on his father’s side and it is believed that somewhere along his family tree there is a connection to George Dixon. He is currently a student at Dalhousie University and is in pursuit of a career in Law. Through working as a taxi driver for several years he was able to gather enough experience to start his own luxury chauffeur business called, Silver Indulgence Limousine Service. Along with running his own business he currently works as a receptionist at Dalhousie’s Black Student Advisory Centre (BSAC). Trevor is in the process of applying to Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law for September 2015. You can contact him at or (902) 452-8732.

Jayla Lynn James


Jayla James is a seventeen year old dancer who currently trains at Dartmouth Dance Academy and attends grade twelve at Auburn Drive High School. She has has been trained in many styles such as contemporary, jazz, hip-hop, ballet, modern, musical theatre and wishes to continue studying more styles. Jayla began dancing at the early age of four and fell in love with it instantly, she continued training and began dancing competitively at age 10. She has been competing across Canada and has traveled to Paris, France where she trained and danced with famous choreographers who have worked with such artists as Beyoncé and Madonna. She has recently took part in Oprehus in the Underworld, an opera in the Halifax Opera Festival, as a dancer. She began working with Voices in 2013 as a dancer and continues to work with them as not only a dancer but as well as an actress. She wishes to continue training as a dancer for many years to come and hopes to attend Ryerson Universities Dance Program in the fall.

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