"Have You Ever Been to North Preston?"

A few weeks ago I attended a somewhat swanky breakfast at Pier 21 put on by the fine folks at the YMCA in Halifax-Dartmouth to honor local community leaders.  Shortly before the formal portion of the event started a man plunked himself into the chair beside me.  It was impossible not to notice that this guy in his mid to late 60s had the energy of a puppy off his leash.  (And, in the morning sun, it was clear that he was wearing a very colorful sweater for which he should had saved the receipt.) 

Soon enough I introduced myself.  He did the same.  It was another lesson for me about ‘not judging books by their covers’.  Who knew that John Lindsay, Jr., the man responsible for putting his father’s name on the new Y and tossing a suitcase full of cash at what will become Halifax’s next landmark building, could pass for your folksy uncle?  

After the breakfast had wrapped up, John and I bumped into each other at the coat-rack. I mentioned how much the Y had impacted me as a kid and noted that UP Basketball was a sort of extension of some of the work that had gone on there.  I added that UP was headed to North Preston in a few weeks and asked if John had ever been there. 

“No,” came the reply of one of Halifax’s most successful commercial real estate builders, before quickly adding, “No one has ever asked me.”

So there you have it, I thought: one of our city’s most generous and wealthy white businessmen has never visited one of our province’s most vibrant yet impoverished (and, there’s shamefully no coincidence here, predominantly black) communities.  It’s not that John wouldn’t go, he’s just never been asked. I told him that I am not from NP but that I have friends who are, and, if he was interested, I was sure we could secure an invitation.

As it happens, I went to NP in early December with UP for a small, spirited game of pick-up ball. 

John, as far as a I know, still hasn’t been there.

It’s a shame.  Just think of what a man like John Lindsay, Jr., teamed with a few others from different communities and backgrounds could do to grow North Preston.  They could build some new houses around the lake.  They could open a gas station/grocery store.  They could bring a coffeeshop to the NP Community Centre.  The list of possibilities is as long as it is exciting.  (And if anyone needs proof that ‘build it and they will come’ applies to NP, just look at what young Shaq Smith is doing with his new $300K outdoor basketball court.)

The bottom line is that we’d all be better for walking through North Preston once in a while. And we’d all be better if that fine community got a little bit of the love and respect that other Halifax neighborhoods take for granted. 

So here’s my small effort to walk that process forward. It comes in the form of a simple but long-overdue question:  “Hey, John Lindsay, Jr., wanna’ take drive out to North Preston someday?”