Posts tagged "people of color"

fracturedrefuge:

Bringin’ this back.

Not only because Halloween is coming up, but because the lovely golden-zephyr was gracious to make one about Romani “costumes”!

Remember, as this-is-not-native reminds us, there are endless cute, sexy, funny, even offensive costumes that don’t perpetuate racist stereotypes. There is really no excuse.

For the Brown Canada Project. 

Brown Canada: Komagata Maru Plays Volunteer Posting
(Part Time – Until end of June) 

Start & End Dates : May- end of June 2012

Brown Canada, lead by CASSA, is a community-led history project to encourage South Asian communities to create and document their histories in Canada creatively, through writing, video, interviews, art, theatre or other means. Our collective entry point for this project is through the Komagata Maru incident of 1914, when a ship of South Asian people was denied entry into Canada due to restrictive immigration policy known as the continuous journey regulation. Through this project, we are creating an interactive website, offering educational and creative workshops, producing a short video as well as seeking to tour a short theatre piece to raise awareness of the incident and spark community dialogue within Ontario.

The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) is currently recruiting a team of volunteers to help out with the final Komagata Maru Play that will be held on June 27.

We are looking for a team of volunteers to be responsible for assisting in media relations, community outreach, stage hands, costume design . These positions will work closely and report to the project coordinator.

Responsibilities:

  • Community outreach to spreak word about the event
  • Stagehands & lighting 
  • Help out with set designs, makeup, and  costumes

Qualifications:

  • Volunteers of all ages are welcome
  • Relevant interest in theatre or experience
  • Interest in educating others about South Asian/PoC history is always a bonus!  
If you do not have experience working with community members, community organizations and agencies, and or theatre, but are interested in working on the play, feel free to send in your resume.
 
We are hoping to have a volunteer meeting as soon as possible, so please email Deena  at deena@cassa.on.ca before June 15th if you are interested in working with CASSA on this project.
 

CASSA is committed to employment equity & encourages applicants from equity seeking groups.

Follow our facebook fanpage , brown canada tumblr, and website for more information. http://browncanada.ca/


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Brown Canada & CASSA

Position Type: Arts / Crafts, Community Outreach, Event Helpers, Performing

Duration: Short term (Less than 6 months)

Location(s): Toronto

Great For: Youth (ages 13-18), Youth (over 18), Groups, 40 hour high school program, Physically Challenged, English as a Second Language, Virtual (can be done remotely), Wheelchair Accessible

Richard Fung is a video artist and cultural critic, and an associate professor in the Faculty of Art at OCAD University (formerly Ontario College of Art and Design). He was a co-founder of Gay Asians Toronto in 1980 and his first documentary, Orientations: Lesbian and Gay Asians (1984), explores the intersection of race, gender and sexuality. The Way To My Father’s Village (1988), a consideration of Richard’s diasporic relationship to China from his childhood home in Trinidad and Tobago, was the first of several forays into autoethnography.

At the core of Richard’s work is an analysis of power and space. Out of The Blue (1990), recounts a young black man’s experience of false arrest, and the video installation Jehad in Motion (2007) is a double portrait of Palestinian social justice activist Jehad Aliweiwi and the two cities he calls home: Toronto and Hebron. Richard’s latest documentary is Dal Puri Diaspora (2012), which retraces the long journey and transformation of the popular  Caribbean roti back to Trinidad ,and from there to the Bhojpuri zone of eastern north India.

Richard has long worked against systemic racism in the arts. He was a member of the first Racial Equality Committee at the Canada Council for the Arts and he is the co-author with Monika Kin Gagnon of 13: Conversations of Art and Cultural Race Politics (2002). Among other awards, Richard is the recipient of the Toronto Arts Award for media art, and the Bell Canada Award for outstanding achievement in video art.

 (via Richard Fung)

Rodney Diverlus is a Haitian activist, community organizer, dancer, and actor. Rodney is currently serving his second term as the Vice-President Equity for the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU), and was just recently elected as President. In his capacity as VP Equity, Rodney represents over 27,000 full-time undergraduate and all graduate students at Ryerson.

As Ryerson’s first ever Vice-President Equity, Rodney has infused equity and anti-racist campaigns and initiative into the campuscommunity.  He is an advocate for a university environment that is inclusive for everyone. As an executive, he has also ensured that the Students’ Union become a space to organize with community coalitions, organizations, and for broader community change, locally, provincially, and nationally.

During his time at Ryerson, Rodney was a part of the organizing both the Ryerson and the Provincial Task Force on Campus Racism hearings. Both reports provide a comprehensive and critical framework to implement institutional anti-racist changes to the campus, in an effort to provide safer and more inclusive spaces for racialised students. He has worked tirelessly to implement the Task Force Recommendations, including lobbying for the creation of an Assistant Vice President Equity for Ryerson University, and reforms to the University’s policies and departments.  Rodney created the first student-run equity training for student leaders, Ryerson’s first disOrientation and Xpressions Against Oppression Week, the Unlearn Racism campaign, and oversees the RSU’s Equity Service Groups, including Students Against Racism, which provides a space for racialized students to organize on issues of racism on campus.

In his work, Rodney emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and for the meaningful participation of students from marginalized communities, in self-organizing. His anti-racist organizing does not exist in a silo, but is incorporated into broader campaigns and initiatives that challenge patriarchy, heterosexism, homo/transphobia, colonialism, ablism, and other forms of oppression, both at a systemic and individual level.

In the broader community, Rodney has organized with the No Bill 94 Coalition, the Not Too Asian Campaign, and the LGBT Youthline. He is currently serving his second term as Queer and Trans Commissioner for the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario.

Rodney is in his 3rd year of a Performance Dance degree at Ryerson, with a focus on choreography. As one of the few racialised dancers in the program, he is continually fighting for representation of people and communities of colour in performance and choreography. His choreographic works have explored colonialism, diasporas, resistance, and occupation. As a choreographer, Rodney hopes to connect the issues he organizes around in the community and performance with the hopes of providing a means for liberation and agency to artists of colour.


 (via Rodney Diverlus)

Farrah Khan. At the age of 16, Farrah Khan picked up a microphone to speak out about sexual assault and has not put it down since. Named by the Toronto Star as one of 2011′s “People to Watch,” she has spent the last sixteen years working diligently to raise awareness of gender-based violence through art creation, counseling and community development. Farrah holds a Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto and supports women who are survivors of violence as a counselor and advocate at the Barbra Schlifer Clinic. The Clinic provides legal representation, professional counselling and multilingual interpretation to 4000 women each year. At the Clinic Farrah is currently is coordinating Outburst, Young Muslim Women Safety Project looking at ways social services agencies and institutions can be more accessible to young Muslim women.

Farrah is an artist who uses prose, video and craft to explore the intersections of migration, faith and community. Deeply disturbed by the 2007 murder of teenager Aqsa Parvez, Farrah recognized that young Muslim women needed safer spaces to connect. She co-founded AQSAzine, a grassroots award-winning art collective. The collective published four issues of an internationally-distributed magazine celebrating Muslim youth writing and art. Her writing has been featured in AQSAzine and Feminism for REAL edited by Jessica Yee. Farrah’s short films have been screened at the Art Gallery of Ontario, as well as at festivals in New York and the UK. Currently she is working on her first graphic novella with illustrator Somya Singh and a play with The Beekeepers Society.

Farrah is an emerging leader in grassroots equity movements and has been presented with numerous awards, including the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, Women Who Inspire Award and Urban Alliance Relations Community Award.

follow @farrah_khan

 (via Farrah Khan)

Vanessa Ling Yu, MHSc, MA is a health promoter, participatory action researcher, communications consultant, and anti-racism / anti-oppression facilitator with more than 15 years of experience working on issues and actions for equity. She has demonstrated interest and commitment to continued internal growth and external learning for food and race justice in local and global contexts through anthropological studies, health promotion programs, and wide-ranging food system initiatives.

Vanessa researches for greater awareness and action on the mish-mash of cultural, ethnic, and racial implications of food in gardens to restaurants to markets. She currently works in Social Equity and Health Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and enjoys volunteering with Food Forward, Growing Food Justice Initiative – Toronto – Local Empowerment Group, and Bathurst Finch Network’s Food Action Team. In 2010, she developed the “invisible food basket” to heighten awareness of white privilege across the food system.

(via Vanessa Ling Yu)

White privilege is one issue that must be confronted as a precondition to releasing the energy required to successfully challenge institutional racism.  It is the collection of benefits based on belonging to a group perceived to be white, when the same or similar benefits are denied to members of other groups. It is the benefit of access to resources and social rewards and the power to shape the norms and values of society that white people receive, unconsciously or consciously, by virtue of their skin color.

Whiteness and White Privilege

Just as there are racial identities of colour in Canada, there is also a white racial identity. To Canadians of European descent whiteness  is akin to normalness; yet, as Frankenberg points out, it is unacknowledged and unknown to most white people. Euro-Canadians do not define themselves as white - they merely construct themselves as NOT being people of colour. This invisibility  of whiteness is historically, socially, politically and culturally produced and linked to relations of domination. This domination manifests itself in the form of white privilege. These privileges are invisible  to most Euro-Canadians; yet, they exist. They are built into Canadian society. It is a protective pillow of resources and/or benefits of the doubt that repels gossip and voyeurism and instead demands dignity.

Examples of White Privilege

• Author Frankenberg mentioned examples of white people moving to the opposite side of the street when two, tall, black men approach on a sidewalk. These people do not move aside when approaching other white people because the are assumed to begood  or normal.  She also indicates that she received shoddy or poor service when she went into cafes in her town with friends of colour.

• Powell talked about expectations of failure for people of colour in US universities. A university sent out two different letters to new students. A letter to white students stated that they were the best and brightest, that the university was delighted in offering admission, and that they would be honoured to train the students for the leadership roles they would take in the community and country. A letter to black students stated how wonderful the university was and how fortunate the students were to have a chance to attend. The letter also outlined that many remedial and support programs were in place to help them when they ran into difficulty at this world-class university.

(Under) normal circumstances, white students get the “white” letter and never know that the second letter exists, while black students are absolutely clear that theirs is a race-coded letter. Black and white students meet at the same college in the same classes but with fundamentally different messages about their right and ability to be there. 

• A similar effect as the one above exists in Canada with inner-city schools. Inner-city, in this author’s experience, is really just a race-coded word for Indian/First Nations where there is an assumption of failure and lower standards, translating into lower achievement.

• Powell also found that white students know the rules of the game and are better achievers just as members of white society know the rules of the game. This is one of the advantages of being white - they learn the rules as they grow up and succeed in life. Those who are not white, never get a chance to learn the rules and they are generally not successful.

White students who were overwhelmed and unable to finish the paper asked for an extension. Several of them took an extra 24 hours and turned in A papers, receiving an A-. Black students also reported lack of time as a major difficulty in completing the paper; however, none of them considered asking for an extension, which as one black woman said, 1) would put me (the teacher) in an awkward situation and 2)would feel like “asking for welfare”. 

• Personal stories related to this author by persons of colour tell of scrutinization by police on the streets, discrimination in renting apartments (and the assumption of a partying lifestyle), and university professors being followed around by security in department stores. This lack of trust or expectation of wrong doing is not accorded the average white person.

One way that white privilege is maintained is through the construction of stereotypes of people of colour. Generally these stereotypes are different from ideas of a normal  Canadian and depict negative images. Examples of this include those of Natives as alcoholics and lazy; of Chinese as treacherous; etc. The overall effect is to infer that whiteness is goodness.

Much of their (white) identity production swirls around the creation and maintenance of the dark “other” against which their own whiteness and goodness is necessarily understood. The social construction of this goodness, then, provides moral justification for privileged standpoints. 

People of Colour are expected to conform to the values of whiteness  yet this is impossible because it is based on race. As long as whiteness  goes unacknowledged, anyone of colour will have difficulty in conforming.

Blacks and other people “of colour” are viewed as recent newcomers, or worse, “foreigners” who have no claim to Canadian heritage except through the generosity of Canadian immigration officials, who “allow” a certain quota of us to enter each year. 

Even if a person’s family has been in Canada or the US for a number of generations, a person of colour will never be as good  as a white person, and will never be allowed access to the privileges that accompany colour in our society.

To most residents (in the US), African Americans and Mexican Americans were simply the latest (and not too welcome) newcomers in a series of immigrant groups and would have to engage in the same process of self-help, assimilation, and perseverance that previous groups had experienced.

Other literature illustrates this privilege and the lack of incentive for whiteness to be cast aside. Roediger examines the struggle for acceptance into the privileged white race by the Irish from a historical, political, economic and psychological perspective. The Irish immigrant was once negatively stereotyped as the “Irish nigger”  during the flood of immigration during the mid-1800’s. The “success of the Irish in being recognized as white resulted largely from the political power of the Irish … voters. The imperative to define themselves as white came but from the particular ‘public and psychological wages’ whiteness offered”. These wages included preference in hiring over other groups, admission to public venues on equal footing with upper classes, admission to white schools, etc.

They were given public deference … because they were white. They were admitted freely, with all classes of white people, to public functions (and) public parks. … The police were drawn from their ranks and the courts, dependent on their votes, treated them with leniency. … Their votes selected public officials and while this had small effect upon the economic situation, it had great effect upon their personal treatment. … White schoolhouses were the best in the community, and conspicuously placed, and cost anywhere from twice to ten times colored schools. 

The Irish and African-Americans “lived side by side in the teeming slums of American cities of the 1830’s”. Yet, there was little incentive for the Irish to question their class position and dependency on wage labour. The “pleasures of whiteness could function as a ‘wage’ for white workers. That is, status and privileges conferred by race could be used to make up for alienating and exploitative class relationships. … White workers could, and did, define and accept their class positions by fashioning identities as ‘not slaves’ and as ‘not blacks’ ”.

Creation of ‘Whiteness’ in Canada

To fully understand the creation of whiteness  in Canada, one needs to look at its historical formation. The study of whiteness  is derived from the study of colonization. Edward Said described the relationship that British colonizers had with the people of the Middle East during early colonization. At that time, this area was referred to as the Orient and Said described this relationship as Orientalism. The Oriental or other  was an image or stereotype created by the British. The other  was basically everything that the West was not - s/he was dark, savage, bestial, lowbrow, etc. (Roediger, 1991). In some ways, British culture was able to define itself by positioning itself as opposite to the other. For example, British culture was civilized because its citizens did not live in grass huts. British culture was technologically advanced as compared to the spears of the other. From this othering , colonizing countries like Britain, France, Germany, etc. were able to see themselves as civilized, advanced and dynamic when compared to the stable and primitive others . The fact that no single Oriental identity even existed was not taken into consideration (i.e. India and Egypt are very different cultures but categorized as Orientals in early colonizialism). This othering  process also provided justification for colonizing as the colonizer could claim that they were civilizing a primitive culture.

This process of othering  was carried to North America and was used in the colonization of Native Americans and in the enslavement of African Americans. “Indians”  were seen as a homogeneous group of savages despite the fact that individual groups varied extensively and had well developed social systems. “Niggers”  were also portrayed as savage, uncivilized and with low intelligence. By creating this identity, expansion into North America was justified.

Stereotypes have an important function in the maintenance of racism. Between 1500 and 1800 A.D., the stereotype of Indians as savages served to justify the dispossession of Indian lands. The dispossession and its legacy have created a powerful-powerless relationship between white and Native peoples. In order to maintain this power structure, new stereotypes of Native peoples have been created, as the need has arisen. (Larocque, 1989, p.74)

Besides providing a justification for dispossessing lands of colonized people, the creation of a stable other  has helped to maintain this relationship of inequity. In Canada, the stereotype of a traditional Indian  conjures up images of mocassins, beads, canoes, etc. It is as if these groups of people have been untouched by western civilization during the last two hundred years. This stable identity has been perpetuated by the othering  process involved in traditional anthropology since its inception.

(Traditional anthropology) depicted the colonized as members of a harmonious, internally homogeneous, unchanging culture. When so described, the culture appeared to “need” progress, or economic and moral uplifting. In addition, the “timeless traditional culture” served as a self-congratulatory reference point against which Western civilization could measure its own progressive historical evolution. The civilizing journey was conceived more as a rise than a fall, a process more of elevation than degradation (a long, arduous journey upward, culminating in “us”). … It portrayed a “culture” sufficiently frozen to be an object of “scientific” knowledge. This genre of social description made itself, and the culture so described, into an artifact worthy of being housed in the collection of a major museum. (Rosalda, 1989, p.31)

Inherent in the construction of these static stereotypes is the assumption that whiteness  is goodness. Other races need to conform to the norm of whiteness . There is no room in Canadian society for the other  unless they are in their purist form (i.e. unless the Indian remains primitive and stays on the reserve where s/he belongs). Otherwise, they should be assimilated into Canadian culture . By creating and maintaining static stereotypes, public attention to cries of structural inequity by marginalized groups can be deflected. For example, people of Native descent are no longer real Indians - if they were, they would not be having these problems because they would be living their traditional lives.

There seems to be a need to deny that racism exists. … An area of growing concern to me is the very common practice of blaming Native peoples for their socioeconomic conditions. Blaming “forgets” that racism has also been institutionalized in government policies of assimilation, paternalism, and the historical and continuing confiscation of Native lands and resources. These policies have had a devastating impact on Native peoples but the fallout has been explained away as stemming from “cultural differences.” In turn “cultural differences” are reduced to stereotypes such as “Indians can’t or won’t adjust” to city life. In other words, Indian “culture”, rather than colonization or racism, is blamed for whatever has happened to Native peoples. (Laroque, 1989, p.74)

With the rise of Quebec nationalism in the 1960’s, the federal government’s response was to “increase and centralize its power. This entailed supplanting supposedly British institutions within Canada with indigenous Canadian equivalents” (Legare, 1995, p.348). Concurrent to this were the demands by other groups to have their contributions to the development of Canada recognized.

(Other) sections of the country began to imitate Quebec nationalists and articulate their own claims based on ethnic background and regional interests. They contended that, as immigrants from other (i.e., non-British and also non-French) nations, they too had contributed to the developing nation. They argued that their contributions were being ignored in the two founding nations debate, and they demanded equal recognition with French and English Canadians. (Legare, 1995, p.349)

Following the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturialism, the government of Canada officially recognized the multicultural nature of Canada within a bilingual framework. This strategy was an attempt to reconcile the division in Canada between French, Aboriginal, and immigrant assertions of rights; and, to define a Canadian identity in the face of an invasion of US culture.

 is no coincidence that ethnicity and multiculturalism were officially discovered at a time when Canada faced internal and external threats to its nationhood. From the start, it was ‘intended to ground Canadian nationhood in an identity that could be differentiated from threatening Others both within and without.’ Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau believed that multiculturalism could serve as ‘the glue of nationalism’, a glue that could bind a uniquely defined nation, governed by a strong federal government. As a solution to internal divisions, official recognition of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework could counterbalance the contesting regional loyalties that endangered the unity of the nation. At the same time, by accepting all ethnically defined claims as equally valid, it could effectively neutralize nationalist claims to special status or rights, re-establishing and strengthening national unity.

Multiculturalism (MC) views Canadians as having British values, customs, etc. while still allowing for immigrants to celebrate their past cultures in a formalized way. These celebrations take place on special occasions and showcase historic traits such as food, clothing, music, material objects and language. However, this display is very much like the cultures found in museums or on a bookcase. They are taken out on special occasions but afterwards they are put back and everyone returns to normal  or British customs. The overall effect of MC is to neutralize nationalist claims of special groups by making everyone the same or equal in present-day, British Canada or French Quebec. Those groups that do not accept this have to make a claim of distinctiveness or special status. However, this is impossible because under MC everyone is distinct and equal.

Although MC sounds very egalitarian and defines Canadian culture by its tolerance for the other cultures that make it up, it is still racist. MC reaffirms Aboriginal and immigrant groups as the other of traditional colonial discourses. By refusing to accept folklorization of their cultures and demanding to express their own cultural identities, these groups are excluded from citizenship in the eyes of many Canadians. They are “redefined as “special” (the problematic Canadian) or even unfair to those citizens who “chose” to give up their old ethnic selves and embrace loyalty to the Canadian nation”. Whiteness  is the norm to which they are expected to conform as expressed by a quote from the Winnipeg Free Press: “By what right do Aboriginal people (and immigrants) receive services and demand rights when they are unwilling to contribute to (i.e., be of) the nation?”.

MC only recognizes diversity superficially. The underlying assumption to most Euro-Canadians is that Canada is still white . Stereotypes play an important role in perpetuating this view. The construction of the other  through stereotypes has helped to maintain whiteness white privilege  and its invisibility . The construction of static, primitive and dark images are used to elevate the status of whites and define them as NOT the other. The goodness and dynamic nature of whiteness  is inferred but not overtly stated; and, the privilege that accompanies whiteness  is assumed the normal consequence of not being the other.

References:

RACISM FREE ONTARIO FAQ:  What is “white privilege”? – Racism Free Ontario Initiative

 Racism Free Ontario is a 100 day anti-racism campaign across Ontario. Like our facebook page and follow us on twitter! For more info visit RacismFreeOntario.com

See more FAQ: What is racism? What are different forms of racism? / What can you tell me about the history of racism? / What are important terms and concepts to know? / What is a Microaggression? What are Racial Microagressions?  /Who are People of Colour? Why can’t I use the term “coloured”? / What is colour-blindness?/What is white privilege? Is there such thing as “reverse racism?”What is meant by the racialization of poverty?/How does racism relate to the other “isms”? / Is the Canadian legal system in denial of its white privilege? /What if I have spent years using harmful language? / What should I do if I witness racial violence?

On Wednesday April 14th, 64 years after she was dragged out of Roseland Theatre, Ms Desmond was pardoned by Nova Scotia Lt.-Gov. Mayann Francis. This may seem like a happy ending because the government has finally acknowledged a miscarriage of justice, but the pardon was granted against the express wishes of Ms. Desmond’s family. According to The National Post, Sharon Oliver, Ms. Desmond’s niece, and Ms. Desmond’s three sisters, were all angered by the decision:

“She would have laughed and said, “Pardon me for what? I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Sharon Oliver.

A pardon removes the offense from the record as though it never happened, but each succeeding generation of Canadians should be aware of the struggle that Ms. Desmond engaged in. It is further problematic that, once again, the Canadian government is not listening to the wishes of Blacks and is instead rushing forward in a mistaken attempt to prove how much things have changed. It is not up to the oppressor to decide how to make amends, the aggrieved party should have the right set the terms for reconciliation. The fact that government proceeded with this action against the express wishes of the family does not signal change, but a determined effort to silence Blacks.

Even the fact that Ms. Desmond is most commonly referred to as Canada’s Rosa Parks is highly offensive. Ms. Desmond fought her battle before the world had even heard of Rosa Parks and she is a person in her own right. The continual referral to Parks erases Desmonds identity and makes her a secondary figure. If we truly wish to honour Viola’s struggle, we should own her legacy completely, without trying to make it appear as though the Civil Rights struggle was strictly an American phenomenon.

Canadians have always been resistant to acknowledging that though we are a multi-racial society, racism is a part of our culture. From Africville to Viola Desmond, Blacks have had to fight to be acknowledged as citizens and as people worthy of basic human rights. If we truly want to honour Ms. Desmond, we should listen to the opinion of her surviving family members and not run roughshod over their concerns.

If nothing else Viola taught us that, “If you allow people to dictate what you can and can’t do, then you will never reach your dreams.” The government may choose to memorialize Ms. Desmond by erasing her spurious conviction, but Black Canadians can use this as a lightening rod to help sustain the continuing struggle for equal rights.

Unlike the United States, where there is at least an admission of the fact that racism exists and has a history, in this country one is faced with a stupefying innocence.

— DIONNE BRAND

Viola Desmond. On November 8th 1946 Ms. Viola Desmond decided to go and see a movie while she was waiting for her car to be repaired. She requested floor seats and paid for the ticket. As she sat watching the movie she was approached and asked to move, but claiming an inability to see from the balcony she refused.

Her refusal would not be accepted and she was subsequently dragged out the theatre by two men who injured her knee in the process. She was arrested and was forced to spend the night incarcerated on the male cell block. Such was her dignity that she sat upright throughout the terrible ordeal.

During her trial she was not told that she could have legal counsel, or cross examine the witnesses testifying against her. The fact that she was unfamiliar with the legal segregation that the cinema utilized and that the sign indicating the seating standards by race was obscured was not taken into consideration. She was subsequently found guilty of tax evasion because though she asked for a floor seat the segregated seating meant that she had actually purchased a ticket for the balcony where Blacks were forced to sit.

By not sitting in the supposedly appropriate place, she had avoided paying exactly one cent in taxes. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail and was ordered to pay a total of 26 dollars in fines, with 6 of those dollars to be given to the manager of the theatre who had damaged her knee when he roughly removed her from her seat.

Not content with the verdict, with the support of NSACCP (The Nova Scotia Association for the Advancement of Coloured People), Ms. Desmond would fight her way to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. Despite the fact that this was clearly a miscarriage of justice based solely in the theatre’s racist policy, the conviction was upheld.

Frederick Bissett, Ms.Desmonds White lawyer, donated his fees back to the NSACCP which then used the funds to fight segregation in Nova Scotia. In 1954, (well before Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat) segregation was struck down in Nova Scotia thanks in large part to the struggle of Ms. Desmond.

At the end of the supreme court battle, Ms.Desmond’s marriage failed because it could not withstand the strain of the trial and publicity it resulted in. She was also forced to give up her dream of owning a chain of beauty salons that catered to Black women. Ms. Desmond moved to Montreal to attend Business school and, upon completion of her degree, to New York to start her business as an agent. Ms. Desmond died at the age of 50, shortly after she arrived in New York City.


  • Day 64 
    of Racism Free Ontario’s100 People of Colour Spotlight.
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  •  (via  RacismFreeOntario.comViola Desmond)