Part of New Glasgow street named after Viola Desmond
"It's because of her that a lot of things did happen," says former town councillor Francis Dorrington
A section of street in downtown New Glasgow, N.S., was named Viola's Way in honour of Viola Desmond on Friday.
In November 1946, Desmond, a Halifax businesswoman, was arrested for sitting in the whites-only section of the town's movie theatre.
At Friday's unveiling before a culturally-diverse crowd, emcee Angela Bowden called the occasion a celebration of healing and commitment.
"As a result of Viola's courage, her now infamous story has captured national attention, shining a light on the reality of the harsh conditions the citizens of New Glasgow and the citizens throughout Nova Scotia were forced to endure for decades," Bowden said.
"It is that moral responsibility and righteous battle that burdened Viola and so many of our other blacks right here in Nova Scotia. They bore that same burden."
Viola's Way is found at the corner of Provost and Forbes streets. It is right next to the former Roseland Theatre, the same place where the Desmond incident happened.
Francis Dorrington, now retired, became New Glasgow's first black town councillor in 1976. While he's pleased with all the accolades given to Desmond in recent years, he said it's unfortunate that this acknowledgement was not given while she was alive.
"It's because of her that a lot of things did happen," said Dorrington.
As a young black boy growing up in New Glasgow, he said knew his place in society early on.
"Coming up, we [were] taught, we only could go here, we only could do this, we couldn't go there," he said.
Dorrington said it hurt him knowing that it was the norm that he was treated differently simply because he was black.
"I never did feel good about it, but that was the tradition. That is the way it was," he said.
Denied service at restaurants, barber shops
As a high school athlete who played basketball and rugby, Dorrington said he was also confronted with racial discrimination at some downtown restaurants when white and black players went out together after games to get a cold drink. At some restaurants, he said the black players weren't allowed to drink the beverages inside and were forced outside.
In another incident, Dorrington went to get a haircut from a former high school classmate. After he sat and watched the barber cut two white customers's hair, the barber told Dorrington to come back after 5 p.m. to have his done because "as a rule, we don't cut black people's hair during the day."
Friday would have been Desmond's 104th birthday. She was also honoured today with the Google Doodle, which are the changes Google makes to its logo "to celebrate holidays, anniversaries and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists," says its website.
With files from Jenny Cowley