Percy Paris talks African Nova Scotian Heritage, Hockey and Cars

Being born and raised in Windsor, NS (arguably the birthplace of hockey), it’s not surprising that the popular sport is a part of Percy Paris’ heritage.

He and his brothers are well known within the hockey community, so much so that Paris often voices his opinion on social media when a controversial moment occurs in any game. People want to hear what he has to say.

But hockey isn’t the only part of Paris’ heritage. He fancies himself a car guy as well.

“I’ve always had a passion for cars,” Paris says. “When I was a kid – it was a lot easier back in the 50s and the 60s to do this – we knew every make of car. We could recognize a ’57 Chevy, Corvettes and Corvairs. It was a shared passion amongst the younger guys.”

 

Ever since Percy sold his blue 1966 Mustang back in university, he has dreamed of owning another. Now he does!
Photo: Percy Paris

 

Paris explains that class and style is what mainly drew him to certain vehicles.

Over the years, he has owned a ’63 Chevrolet 283, a ’64 Ford Thunderbird, a ’74 Mercedes-Benz SL, a ’74 Mercedes-Benz SEL and a 1966 Ford Mustang Convertible, which he bought in university. The latter was easily his favourite.

 

Percy Paris owned a 1966 Mustang convertible, like the one pictured here, back in his university days.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

“It was my pride and joy,” recalls Paris with a smile on his face. “And if you’ve ever known what it’s like to love a car, you know. And I loved that car.”

By the time Paris entered his second year at Saint Mary’s University (where he also kept up his other passion as a player for the Huskies), the financial reality of owning a car – let alone a muscle car – was becoming apparent. Paris reluctantly sold the Mustang and was broken-hearted.

“I’ve always said that at some point again in my life, I’m going to have another ’66 Mustang convertible,” he says.

 

Percy Paris’ ‘new’ 1966 Mustang
Photo: Percy Paris

 

However, back in university days, it wasn’t lost on Paris that he was a young Black man driving a Mustang convertible – a car that immediately brought attention, especially in its striking blue colour with matching blue and white leather bucket seats.

He knew it would get people talking, but not in a good way.

“I think there would have been some jealousy there. But I don’t think it would be fair for me to say race wasn’t a motivating factor as well. I was stopped a fair amount of times by police, especially if I was driving from Windsor to the city. The police would ask whose car I was driving… so I think I started to get known around Halifax by the police.”

Paris later grew up to become a provincial politician and eventually became the Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs. His position and passion for his community helped Paris give a much-needed voice to African Nova Scotian communities across the province.

 

The Honourable Percy Paris, pictured here during his time serving as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia. Among his many ministerial positions, he also served as Minister of African Nova Scotia Affairs from June 2009 until May 2013.
Photo: Nova Scotia Legislature

 

In fact, he was instrumental in getting Viola Desmond the first and, so far, only free pardon ever given in Canadian history. It also helped to get her visage on the internationally renowned Canadian 10-dollar bill.

 

Viola Desmond, a Black businesswoman who was jailed, convicted and fined for refusing to leave a whites-only area of a movie theatre in 1946, is an inspiration for the pursuit of racial equality. She is featured on the Canadian 10-dollar bill, a rare vertical banknote that won the international award for ‘Best Banknote of the Year’.
Photo: Bank of Canada

 

On newer Mustangs, Paris isn’t so sure. When I asked what he thinks of the recently introduced electric Mustang, the Mach-E, a four-door hatchback, “That’s not a muscle car!” Paris quips.

 

Percy Paris’ 1966 Mustang makes the car show rounds.
Photo: Percy Paris

 

Of course, today’s iteration of Mustang can still be had with the traditional internal combustion engine, but Paris finds the new Mustangs now cater to people who simply drive fast and want to get to where they are going before anyone else.

For Paris, a leisurely drive with the top down and the occasional send off with a heavy right foot, is really all he wants these days.

 

Percy loves to putter along in his vintage Mustang, squeezing the throttle occasionally for a quick thrill.
Photo: Percy Paris

 

Now, he can do so the way he always remembered; in a ’66 Mustang Convertible. After loads of searching, trying to find and rekindle that love he had in his university days, he finally found the right ’66 Mustang and brought it home from Oshawa two years ago.

This one is red, not the fancy blue he had before, but otherwise everything about the car is perfect to him. Of course, he babies it, as if his own DNA pumps through it, which means she is currently tucked away in his garage for winter.

 

Percy’s ‘new’ 1966 Mustang is babied throughout the summer and winter.
Photo: Percy Paris

 

Listening to Paris reminisce about his old Mustang, it’s obvious it was a special car. It’s no wonder that cars became a part of his heritage, in addition to hockey, of course.

 

Percy Paris loves his 1966 Mustang convertible as if his own DNA runs through it.
Photo: Percy Paris

 

Black Nova Scotians have contributed to the fabric of our province in many ways you may not be aware of. So, during this month, African Heritage Month, celebrating African Nova Scotian heritage, culture, and the spirit to overcome, do yourself a favour and seek out people like Percy. And listen.

 

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