Story and Song for Viola Desmond
Black History MonthFeb 9, 2021 - By Zivana Pavic
They did not let her in, because of the colour of her skin! As the story goes, Viola Desmond, a quiet and successful black business woman in Glasgow, Nova Scotia, went to the local cinema theatre on a nice day in 1946. When she asked to buy the ticket, the clerk replied: “We do not sell tickets to those like you!” Surprised and indignant, Viola summoned her courage, walked into an all-white movie theatre and sat in an empty seat. This caused a major stir, and shortly thereafter a policeman appeared, taking Viola to jail.
In the courtroom thereafter, a white judge found Viola guilty – she had not paid the 1 cent ticket! With this, the court turned a blind eye to the inequality of access, to racism and to intolerance which ran deep in that community and elsewhere.
Following this incident, Viola’s thriving hair salon business and her marriage fell apart. The injustice deeply imprinted on her soul and drove Viola out of the city in Nov 1946. In the years that followed, Viola Desmond became a passionate activist in the fight against prejudice and racism. She has helped inspire a civil rights movement in Canada. As a posthumous gesture, Viola is featured on the award-winning, Canadian ten dollar bill.
Let’s pay homage to Viola Desmond and to all Black people in Canada who made and are still making invaluable contributions to our society.
Let us learn the heartfelt lyrics and melody of the Song for Viola. HCCA thanks Chris White, the author of the lyrics and the song, for sharing this video and music with us. The video was filmed at a hair salon in Westboro by Thunder Bay videographer, Chad Kirvan. Click here and sing along!