Skip to main content

Former orphanage for Black children reopens as Black business incubator, community hub

A century-old building where African Nova Scotian children faced horrific institutional abuse has been reimagined to serve the community while also providing a place for healing.

The former Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children opened its doors in 1921.

Over the next several decades, youth were subjected to abuse, isolation and malnourishment. Referred to as a "cold" and "disconnected" facility, a restorative justice inquiry concluded the Home lacked planned activities and programming, leaving children with nowhere to turn for help.

After more than 50 years, the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children closed its doors in 1979.


According to the Restorative Justice Inquiry, former residents recalled waiting in long lines of up to 50 children before “being placed in a bathtub with dirty, discoloured water.” Others told stories of sharing toothbrushes with as many as a dozen other children, “with hand soap being used as toothpaste.”

Some residents reported their birthdays were never celebrated or even acknowledged in the Home. Many others have no memories of celebrating holidays like Christmas.

Even more concerning were the inquiry’s findings of residents being deprived of food and shelter as a form of punishment.

“Forms of discipline included being sent to bed hungry and being locked outside with inadequate clothing,” the Inquiry’s 2019 report reads. “Moreover, it was reported to us that food was withheld by some staff unless the resident would comply with sexual acts.”

The inquiry also laid out how food was used as a tool to manipulate and exploit residents.

“For example, several female former residents shared how a male staff member asked them to meet in a stairwell and would provide them with cookies in exchange for sexual acts,” the report continues, noting that others were locked in closets, dark rooms, and root cellars as a form of punishment --- for a period spanning from an hour to an entire day.


The facility’s new name – Kinney Place - honours James Alexander Ross Kinney, a founder of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children and its first superintendent. The property owners, Akoma Family Centre Inc. and Akoma Holdings Inc., noted in a Sunday press release they hope “the community sees [Kinney Place] as a place of both historic significance and a place for healing, a phoenix rising from the ashes.”

According to Kathleen Mitchell, president of the board of Akoma, Kinney Place “will be an incubator for Black businesses,” while also enhancing services to the African Nova Scotian community.

The revitalized building will include the office for the MLA for Preston, currently Angela Simmonds. Kinney Place has also become home to the non-profit organization 902 Man Up, which helps empower young Black men, as well as any other groups or individuals at risk of being marginalized or facing social or academic exclusion.

Along with a new patio, the first floor of the building features Opus Café & Catering, with a hair salon and spa upstairs.

A studio space is also available for rentals by community members for art classes, workshops, and other meeting spaces. A gathering space, called The Opus Café, has also been created for seniors, providing a safe place to chat over coffee, use the internet or play a game of cards.

"Strong communities are critical as social connections afford a sense of belonging which in turn mitigates psychological impacts on one's health. It is important for The Opus Cafe to play a part in this process as a community member and someone who has seen the need for social connectedness amongst all surrounding communities,” said manager Deb Vaillancourt in a press release. “We ultimately want to give people a supportive and safe space to help them cope with difficult challenges, band together to solve problems, and celebrate life’s lighter moments.”

For Karina Gould, the federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the reimagining of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children represents long-term social and economic progress in supporting the country’s Black communities.

“By working together, we are able to foster healing and bring about necessary changes to address racism and discrimination so that future generations of African Nova Scotians are able to live in a community that is more inclusive and equitable,” Gould said in a release. “The injustices experienced by people of African descent must never happen again.” Top Stories

Stay Connected