Viola Desmond – One Woman Made a Difference

Go Lean Commentary

In North America, there is Black History Month and there is Women’s History Month …

This story – about Canadian Viola Desmond – is both!

Viola Desmond challenged racial segregation at a cinema in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, in 1946. She refused to leave a whites-only area of the Roseland Theatre and was convicted of a minor tax violation for the one-cent tax difference between the seat she had paid for and the seat she used which was more expensive. Desmond’s case is one of the most publicized incidents of racial discrimination in Canadian history and helped start the modern civil rights movement in Canada.

In 2010, Viola Desmond was granted a posthumous pardon, the first to be granted in Canada.[2][3] The government of Nova Scotia also apologized for prosecuting her for tax evasion and acknowledged she was rightfully resisting racial discrimination.[4] … In late 2018 Desmond will be the first Canadian born woman to appear alone on a $10 bill which was unveiled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz during a ceremony at the Halifax Central Library on March 8, 2018.[5][6] Desmond was also named a National Historic Person in 2018.[7]

[Reverend] Dr. William Pearly Oliver – [a Social Justice Champion in the vein of Martin Luther King] – reflecting on the case 15 years later[21] stated regarding Desmond’s legacy:

    “… this meant something to our people. Neither before or since has there been such an aggressive effort to obtain rights. The people arose as one and with one voice. This positive stand enhanced the prestige of the Negro community throughout the Province. It is my conviction that much of the positive action that has since taken place stemmed from this …”.

Desmond is often compared to Rosa Parks, given they both challenged racism by taking seats in a Whites only section and contributed to the rise of the Civil Rights Movement.
Source: Retrieved March 14, 2018 from:

Yes, one woman, or one man, can make a difference in society. Viola Desmond proved it! Her commitment to justice and righteous principles compelled her community to take note and make a change.

“Wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.” – Michael Jackson’s song: Man in the Mirror (1987).

Canada today is a very progressive society. From the Caribbean perspective, Canada is now a role model for a pluralistic democracy and Climate Change action. As is the experience, positive reform always starts with one person. In a previous blog-commentary, the movement behind the book Go Lean…Caribbean explained how immigrants to a new community (and minorities) normally go through a long train of abuse, then toleration, followed by acceptance and then finally celebration. Today, Canada is celebrating Viola Desmond; see the news article in the Appendix below.

The success of this community – Canada – has been hard fought, but they did the heavy-lifting and now are enjoying the fruitage of their labor. People from all over the world “are beating down the doors to get in”.

Poor Caribbean communities. We have NOT done the heavy-lifting and our people “are beating down the doors to get out”. (Many times, they flee to Canada for refuge).

This is what the book Go Lean…Caribbean – available to download for free – warned: “Push and Pull” factors are resulting in an abandonment of Caribbean homelands for foreign shores like Canada; (Page 3). Now to learn and apply this lesson.

The Viola Desmond story resonates with us in the Caribbean. Since she was a Black Woman and the majority population of 28 of the 30 Caribbean member-states is Black, we share the same ancestral heritage – Africa – colonial origins – slave trade – and history of oppression as Canadian Blacks. Plus a large number of our Caribbean Diaspora who fled their homeland lives in Canada – one estimate is near a million.

The Go Lean book posits that one person – an advocate like Desmond – can make a difference (Page 122). It relates:

An advocacy is an act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending a cause or subject. For this book, it’s a situational analysis, strategy or tactic for dealing with a narrowly defined subject.

Advocacies are not uncommon in modern history. There are many that have defined generations and personalities. Consider these notable examples from the last two centuries in different locales around the world:

  • Frederick Douglas
  • Mohandas Gandhi
  • Martin Luther King
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Cesar Chavez
  • Candice Lightner

The Go Lean book seeks to advocate and correct the Caribbean, not Canada, and the people who love our homeland. Yet still we can learn lessons from Canada’s history (Page 146) and direct our regional stakeholders to a Way Forward based on best-practices gleaned from Canada’s dysfunctional past. The book, in its 370 pages, serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), to move our society to a brighter future, by elevating our societal engines – for all member-states. This CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion and create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to ensure public safety and protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these engines, including a separation-of-powers between the member-states and CU federal agencies.

The book stresses that reforming and transforming the Caribbean societal engines must be a regional pursuit – we must become a pluralistic democracy: Black, White, Red and Yellow. Our problems are too big for any one Caribbean member-state to contend with alone. This was an early motivation for the roadmap, as pronounced in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 12 – 14):

xi. Whereas all men are entitled to the benefits of good governance in a free society, “new guards” must be enacted to dissuade the emergence of incompetence, corruption, nepotism and cronyism at the peril of the people’s best interest. The Federation must guarantee the executions of a social contract between government and the governed.

xix. Whereas our legacy in recent times is one of societal abandonment, it is imperative that incentives and encouragement be put in place to first dissuade the human flight, and then entice and welcome the return of our Diaspora …

xxxii. Whereas the cultural arts … of the region are germane to the quality of Caribbean life, and the international appreciation of Caribbean life, the Federation must implement the support systems to teach, encourage, incentivize, monetize and promote the related industries for arts … in domestic and foreign markets. These endeavors will make the Caribbean a better place to live, work and play.

xxxiii. Whereas lessons can be learned and applied from the study of the recent history of other societies, the Federation must formalize statutes and organizational dimensions to avoid the pitfalls of communities like East Germany, Detroit, Indian (Native American) Reservations, Egypt and the previous West Indies Federation. On the other hand, the Federation must also implement the good examples learned from developments/ communities …

The Go Lean book provides 370-pages of turn-by-turn instructions on “how” to adopt new community ethos, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to execute so as to reboot, reform and transform the societal engines of Caribbean society.

The Go Lean movement calls on every man, woman and child in the Caribbean to be an advocate and a champion, or at least appreciate the championing efforts of previous advocates. Their examples can truly help us today with our passions and purpose. Consider this sample of prior blog/commentaries where advocates and role models have been elaborated upon: Carter Woodson – One Man Made a Difference … for Black History Oscar López Rivera – The ‘Nelson Mandela’ of the Caribbean? Caribbean Roots: Al Roker – ‘Climate Change’ Defender Caribbean Roots: John Carlos – The Man. The Moment. The Movement Caribbean Roots: Esther Rolle of ‘Good Times’ Caribbean Roots: Sammy Davis, Jr. Edward Snowden – One Person Making a Difference Remembering Marcus Garvey: Still Relevant Today The NBA’s Tim Duncan – Champion On and Off the Court YouTube Millionaire: ‘Tipsy Bartender’ Bahamas Origins Role Model Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight Frederick Douglass: Role Model for Single Cause – Death or Diaspora Bob Marley: The Role Model and Legend … lives on!

Thank you Viola Desmond, for being a good role model, and a reminder: Black Girls Rock!

We conclude about Viola Desmond as we do about our own Caribbean champions and advocates; we said (Go Lean book Valedictions on Page 252):

Thank you for your service, love and commitment to all Caribbean people. We will take it from here.

The movement behind Go Lean book, the planners of a new Caribbean stresses that a ‘change is going to come’ our way. We have endured failure for far too long; we have seen what works and what does not. We want to learn from Canada’s History – the good, bad and ugly lessons.

There are the 5 L‘s. We have now Looked, Listened, Learned and Lend-a-hand; we are now ready to Lead our region to a better destination, to being a homeland that is better to live, work and play. Let’s move! 🙂

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Sign the petition to lean-in for this roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix – Viola Desmond On New Canadian $10 Bill

March 12, 2018 – Canadian hero Viola Desmond is the face on the new $10 bill in Canada, which goes into circulation at the end of March.

Viola Desmond was thrown in jail in Nova Scotia in 1946 because, in a movie theatre, she wanted to sit downstairs where the white people were allowed to sit. She didn’t want to sit up in the balcony, where the black people had to sit. The police held her in jail overnight. The dignified and brave Desmond paid a fine of $20 the next day, even though she had done nothing wrong. Today, we think of her for being a brave advocate for the rights of African-Canadians and helping to inspire the human rights movement in Canada.

(Learn more about Desmond on Historica Canada’s Viola Desmond page.)

It is a great honour to have your face on a country’s money. This is the first time an African-Canadian woman has been featured on Canadian paper money. (Queen Elizabeth is featured on the $20 bill.)

There’s something else interesting about the new bill. For the first time, it is vertical, meaning it’s meant to be looked at up-and-down rather than horizontally (across).

The new bill also features a number of images that are reminders of human rights. For instance, there is an image of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where Desmond’s story is part of the permanent collection. There is an image of a feather, to recognize rights and freedoms for Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. And it features a paragraph from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 15, which says, “Every individual is equal before and under the law.”

Viola Desmond’s sister, Wanda Robson, was one of the first people in Canada to receive a copy of the new $10 bill. In a Bank of Canada video (below), she said her sister’s photo on it is “so life-like. It’s as if she’s in this room!”

Source: Retrieved March 14, 2018 from

Related Videos
The video below (1:00) is a “Heritage Minute” produced by Historica Canada. It tells the story of Viola Desmond.


VIDEO – Heritage Minutes: Viola Desmond –

Historica Canada
Published on Feb 2, 2016 – The story of Viola Desmond, an entrepreneur who challenged segregation in Nova Scotia in the 1940s. The 82nd Heritage Minute in Historica Canada’s collection. For more information about Viola Desmond, visit:…


Additional Video: Wanda Robson sees Canada’s new $10 note featuring her sister (Viola Desmond) for the first time  –

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