The folks at McConnell Library can certainly throw a party!
Those who were lucky enough to be there on February 12 know that the staff programmed a terrific evening in honour of Viola Desmond Day and Black Heritage Month. Graham Reynolds, head of the Viola Desmond Chair in Social Justice Research, started the evening by reminding us that the provincial Viola Desmond Day would be for one day only—February 16, 2015—and calling on each of us to continue to celebrate Viola Desmond Day on our own, in schools especially, year after year. We don’t need another day off; we need a teaching day on the subject of Racial Equality and Social Justice.
Author Wanda Robson mesmerized the audience with intimate stories of Viola’s accomplishments as a sister, teacher, entrepreneur, and woman of courage. Then Eddie Parris and the Inspirational Singers took over, singing songs about Viola Desmond, topping off the evening by including Wanda in the choir for a vigorous performance of “Amen”.
Halifax was not so lucky. The cold and choppy ice-covered streets forced the Provincial Government to call off Viola Desmond Day ceremonies at the North End Library. That means Viola Desmond was denied a proper celebration on her one official day — the only day, according to the Heritage Day plan, she will ever get. February 16, 2016, has already been designated as Joseph Howe Day—in the middle of Black History Month!
For me, there will always be a Viola Desmond Day, and we can maintain it on our own. I suggest we pick a day and make it hers—and make it a learning day in honour of Viola and all those who have fought for Social Justice. There is so much to discuss about Viola Desmond—as a person, as a woman, as a brave black entrepreneur who made a significant difference in her chosen field.
Each year, let us take on ourselves the responsibility of reminding one another what happened in the Roseland Theatre in 1946, when Viola Desmond refused to give up her seat—sparking the movement that in 1954 resulted in an end to legal segregation in Nova Scotia schools—a story that continues to be important in the fight for racial equality today.
Just pick a day.