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Viola’s Way unveiled in downtown New Glasgow

Francis Dorrington, Izabella Izzard, New Glasgow police officer Darryl Paris and Mayor Nancy Dicks unveil Viola’s Way.
Francis Dorrington, Izabella Izzard, New Glasgow police officer Darryl Paris and Mayor Nancy Dicks unveil Viola’s Way. - Kevin Adshade

Civil rights icon has street named after her

NEW GLASGOW, N.S.  – More than 70 years after Viola Desmond made history, a small section of Forbes Street adjacent to the former Roseland Theatre was named in her honour.

On Friday – which would have been Desmond’s 104th birthday – Viola’s Way came into being, a small side street between Archimedes and Provost streets, which New Glasgow’s Elizabeth Paris called “long overdue” and a proud day for those who know of Desmond’s historic stand.

“The unveiling of Viola’s Way is a reminder to all of us of the history that took place here, not only in New Glasgow but across Nova Scotia,” said Angela Bowden, who grew up in New Glasgow and now lives in Bedford.

“And it’s a step in the right direction. Change can come about when you work together and resist.”

Desmond is recognized as a civil rights leader for taking a stand and refusing to give up her seat in a white only section of the Roseland Theatre in November of 1946.

Amid the songs, poetry, drumming and reflection, a theme stood out: persistence and courage.

The recognitions keep growing for Desmond: her face will be on the new $10 bill, parks and schools in Canada have been named after her and now this latest accolade from the Town where Desmond’s act of defiance would someday make her a Canadian legend.

“We are honoured to pay tribute to a truly remarkable woman,” said New Glasgow Mayor Nancy Dicks.

Desmond, a beautician and entrepreneur from north end Halifax who sold her own line of cosmetics, was headed to Cape Breton when her car broke down, forcing her to stay overnight in New Glasgow. She decided to watch a movie at the Roseland Theatre, where the segregated theatre relegated black patrons to the balcony, while floor seating was reserved for whites. Desmond, who sat in the floor section and refused to leave, would be dragged out of the theatre by police, thrown in jail for 12 hours and fined.

Bowden noted that Desmond didn’t intend to become a civil rights icon, “but we’re so grateful and humbled that the fight chose her.

“Viola’s story belongs to every single one of us. I think she’d really be proud today to see the turnout and the amount of people that came out to support her, and that the Town of New Glasgow chose to honour her in this way,” Bowden said.

“My mother who is still living – she’s 73 years old – and she could not have envisioned this. She comes from that time, and we’re just overwhelmed. Courage and strength goes a long way.”

Read more about Desmond

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