I broke away from these to also note that last weekend was the annual weekend for the remembrance of those in the services of the US military who were killed on duty over the years. This being originally only one day and called Decoration Day, and how it had evolved and is now called the Memorial Weekend. It leads up to Monday, also known as Memorial Day.
The history of the earlier event has been covered in this space several times over the past nine years.
I now would now like to go back to the Viola Desmond story and the ever increasing acknowledgments coming from her actions before and after the horrible New Glasgow movie house incident of discrimination of 1946. (For the new reader, see the past several blogs on this icon of black history.)
In fact it is even older that the oldest newspaper in Canada. That being the Halifax Gazette, now called the Royal Gazette. It didn't start till a month later.
Today the system is run by the Halifax Transit Authority. Above is no doubt one of its latest vessels. And as you can see, it has been named in honour of Viola Desmond. Its unveiling was in July 2016.
About 6 months later it was announced nationally that Viola Desmond's name had been selected, and she would become the first woman to stand alone, and of colour and a non Royal figure to appear on our Canadian $10 bill.
About 6 months later, in late June of 2017 news told Canadians from coast to coast to coast that the late Viola Desmond had yet another creditation to add to her ever growing list of accomplishments. She was inducted into the most prestigious Canadian Walk of Fame in Toronto.
This, not for profit, national organization inspires all Canadians by shinning a light on each individual's extraordinary achievements and successes. On becoming a member, Desmond joined some 270 other Canadians being recognized in a permanent walkway in Toronto that stretches several blocks. The year 2018 saw this group's enjoying their 20th anniversary of recognizing their fellow Canadians.
2018 saw many other events commemorating the Desmond story. On 12 Jan this black rights pioneer was named by Canada as being a National Historic Person.
Above we see Merna unveiling an image of Viola and below we see a picture of Merna and our former Governor General on her fist official visit to Victoria back on 21 March 2018. On that occasion The Right Honorable Julie Payette presented Merna with the prestigious Meritorious Service Medal, as shown above.
Three months later, and back at Halifax, the plaque and the two ten dollar bills were either mounted at the Halifax Ferry Terminal or right on the ferry named in honour of Desmond.
And in June of 2018 A Toronto community renamed a park in her name.
The same day the folks in New Glasgow NS unveiled a new street sign in the town. It was on the corner where the movie house once stood and from which the police arrested Desmond back in 1946.
Sister Wanda has oft told the story that she picked the title of the new street name... as seen above. She said that Viola' s standing up for her own rights as a citizen of Canada could be described best as her doing things her OWN WAY and thus the name... Viola's Way.
Four months would pass and then the actual new ten dollar bills noted above, were put into circulation across Canada.
About 3 month later, in Feb. of 2019 the Canada Mint released 8,000 mint collector coins made of 99.9% pure silver and marked as $20 coins and bearing, not the usual year of circulation, but her years of birth and passing. Here is that coin...
On the release of the coin, The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted that Desmond was..."a courageous fighter against racism. " He also noted that it was... "a fantastic choice."
The year 2019 also saw a Montreal street named in Viola's honour.
In April of this year an Ontario school board announced that with the hopeful opening of a new school possibly in September, it will be named in remembrance of Viola Desmond.
Several years ago, while in public school an English class assignment was for the students to pick a person of colour who contributed significantly to the country as a whole. She chose Viola.
In her studying of the events of 1946 and the ultimate fine she was upset and came to the position quickly that one should not have to pay a fine for a crime they did not commit. She noted that Desmond had received a posthumous Pardon already, and with it clear statements that a crime was not committed. Varishini then decided to write to the Premiere of NS and ask that the $26 spent on the fine be given back to the Desmond family.
She was no doubt quite surprised to hear that during the last week of NS Premiere Stephen McNeil's reign in office, he agreed to return the $26, but it today's dollars, due to inflation. The amount of $358.29 was also increased to a full amount of $1,000, and same was turned over to Viola's sister Wanda. It was then sent to the Cape Breton University as a one time scholarship for a student of that University.
The Premier would later state that... "Viola was a trailblazer whose story continues to affect the lives of many people." He added that... "We must continue to acknowledge and recognize the incredible people of African decent, like Viola, who have made significant contributions to our society."
The Honourable Tony Ince, then serving as the African Nova Scotia Affairs Minister would also go on record regarding the Desmond story, and the rebate of funds to the family after the Pardon was issued.
He stated that..."Young people across our country are shinning examples of those who refuse to settle for the status quo. It is through them that positive transformation is taking place so that we as a country can connect more deeply with each other through equality, inclusiveness and empathy.
The minister added that Varishini's request is a symbol of the bright future before us.
Many groups and individuals at the national, provincial, regional and municipal levels and politicians at all levels have had their say about the Viola Desmond story. Without them, much of her work would have gone unnoticed in our minds and in our history books for future generations to read, learn from and be inspired to continue to advance the causes of all walks of life in Canada.
Sadly all of these positive traits have been thrown out the window regarding another case. One which you have read about in the past in this space. And one in which at least one of the above politicians had committed in the past to keep nurturing.
But as I see it Zilch has been done in the form of follow up. And this story is as important as Viola Desmond's.
I will again bring it back to the fore in my next blog.
Hope to see you then... two weeks from now.