Viola was a black business woman who faced considerable obstacles in pursuing her chosen career as a beautician. One that concentrated on servicing her black community in the Greater Halifax area.
Seeking professional training and accreditation, local refusals to accept her as such, she took same in Montreal and New York and then opened up shop back in Halifax. Business grew so much that her specialty products were being sought across the province and beyond.
In an attempt to make deliveries to the Cape Breton area, a car breakdown saw her her stuck in New Glasgow for the night. The rest was History. Or should I saw HERSTORY.
Taking in a show saw her sitting in the white section of a theatre. In short, she was hauled off to jail, spent the night, given no legal advice or counsel, hauled into court and fined. Forced to pay the fine, she then returned to her business interests.
She would later locate to Montreal and then New York and passed away very early in life. Her remains were returned to Halifax where she rests to this day.
But since death, her story as an entrepreneur and one choosing to not accept the status quo of racism, have been kept alive by those who felt her injustice needed to be dealt with. They were right!
He declared that..."Viola reminds us of the importance of learning about Black experiences and recognizing and addressing injustices." He went on to say that there is..."still more to be done and the government remains committed to this work."
Similar thoughts have been expressed by at least two Nova Scotia Premiers and several of their cabinet members, officials in new Glasgow, and elsewhere, including from the Lt Governor General of NS.
The interpretation of the Latin motto shown as this blog's title is that... deeds speak louder than words.
Indeed they do. True to the motto, recognizing and commemorating the milestone advocacy of Viola Desmond reached a milestone with the introduction of the Canadian Stamp issued in her honour back in 2012. (It's description shown in a past blog.)
The year 2010 also saw the Lt. Governor granting a Free Pardon to the late Viola Desmond posthumously. This being the first time ever in Canada that a pardon, let alone a FREE pardon was awarded posthumously in the country.
Six years later the transit folks in the Greater Halifax area named a ferry in honour of Desmond. The year 2017 saw Viola being commemorated with the acceptance into the Canadian Walk of Fame at Toronto.
During 2018, after a several year effort by a Victoria woman and so many others, Desmond's image was selected to be put on the Canadian $10 bill. This being the first time ever that a Black and a non Royal female appeared alone on this bill. She appears standing up, so the bill need to be turned on edge to appreciate her standing up for her rights.
That year also saw a Toronto park named in her honour. In the town of New Glasgow Nova Scotia where Viola's arrest was made back in 1946, 2018 saw a significant change.
A street was named in her honour, and the name being changed being suggested by her younger sister. The name.... Viola's Way ... clearly showed that Viola did things HER WAY.
In 2019 a Montreal street was named for Viola, and St Mary's University in Halifax adopted a bursary program for a few students. The amount of each was, most interestingly set at $1,946. This representing the year of the advocate's arrest.
Not to be outdone, the Canadian Mint jumped in with the unveiling of a sterling silver $20 coin in her honour in 2019. With the image, it bore the dates...not of circulation, but her birth and death... a most rare event.
And in February of this year, at the suggestion of an Ontario student, the government, having already paid the fine years earlier, now reimbursed the Desmond family for the original fine so many years earlier. The amount was adjusted for inflation and an amount of $1000 was given to the family who in turn gave it to the University of Cape Breton NS for a one time scholarship to be awarded to a deserving student.
Clearly all of this shows that deeds rather than verbiage, are all important.
Viola's story and the incredible actions to keep her efforts alive in these deeds, has been an incredible service to the Black community, and indeed all of Canada over these years.
On Sunday next I shall then give a story were there has been almost a 100% failure to recognize another Black for services performed at risk of life.
The event has been oft noted in this space but as of yet actions rather the words, seem completely absent for decades.
But more on that of Sunday,
Please join me then,