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Updated: Feb 6, 2021

Black History Month a.k.a #MelaninMonth has kick started around the globe as of

Feb 1, 2021! Although it is notable that black excellence should be honoured and acknowledged year round, we will utilize the month of February to place extra emphasis on the accomplishments of our community.

Viola Irene Desmond (July 6, 1914 – February 7, 1965)

Viola Desmond was a gifted and talented black woman who helped to pioneer the establishment of black owned beauty businesses an beauty products in Nova Scotia, Canada. Born in Nova Scotia to a large family, Viola was no stranger to being a leader.

With a desire to be a beautician, Viola set out to eagerly learn the trade, but facing a "no-learn" law for blacks in Nova Scotia caused her to travel & learn abroad. Upon her arrival back to Canada, Viola opened up shop, giving opportunities to other young black women and giving her community the relief it needed where self-care was concerned.

A Turn of Events

While on her way to Sydney, Nova Scotia to attend to business Viola's car broke down causing her to bring it to the mechanic shop in a place called New Glasgow. Because of the duration of time it would take to fix the vehicle, she opted to pass some of that time watching a movie at the local theatre. At the time, there were no direct segregation laws in Nova Scotia, however there was a prejudice that lingered heavily.

At the movie theatre, there were no signs that read "white only", and so Viola asked for the tickets to the section she wanted, paid, & took her seat. Before the movie could commence, Viola found herself being told to either change her seat, or leave. Upon reading the ticket purchased earlier, she came to find out she was sold a ticket for a section she didn't request to sit in. After a heavy exchange of words, Viola was physically removed from the establishment (causing injury), jailed, & fined. Viola was formally charged for attempting to defraud the government of 1 cent, the difference in outstanding taxes between the cost of the movie theatre tickets. That's the balcony ticket that she received vs. the floor ticket that she requested and was never advised that she was not receiving & not actually being charged for. While in jail, she was never informed of her legal rights.

After this unfortunate altercation, Viola decided to fight her charge in court. There was never any discussion of any segregation laws, however the racial tension was quite obvious and seemed to be the deciding factor in her losing her case. Tax evasion was the charge, but a charge of tax evasion by only 1 cent is arguably ridiculous. Throughout her ordeal she was supported immensely by the community & the NSAACP, & Carrie Best among others.

Not long after the dismissal of Viola's case, she decided to close down her establishment and travel to the U.S where she attended business school. In 1965 due to gastrointestinal issues, she passed away.

In 2010, Mayann Francis, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, granted Viola Desmond a posthumous free pardon, making her the first black woman and the first person in Canada to ever be granted such posthumously. In 2012, she was commemorated on a stamp issued by Canada post. Following that, in 2018, she was honoured with an appearance on the $10 Canadian banknote.

We admire and honour the hard work of Mrs. Viola Desmond. She made an impossible road become possible for black women who were pursuing entrepreneurship particularly in the beauty industry. The trials that she endured made it possible for businesses like Axum Oils to have a fighting chance to thrive and be successful. Thank you Viola, for your persistence, your effort, & your resilience. We honour you!

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