On Thursday, the Bank of Canada announced that the first Canadian woman on a banknote will be Viola Desmond, a black Nova Scotia woman who refused to leave the whites-only section of a movie theatre in 1946. Her dignified stand against racism—a decade before Rosa Parks—is a curiously little-known part of Canadian history. Maclean’s spoke to Constance Backhouse, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who has written extensively about Desmond—and attended the ceremony at the Canadian Museum of History announcing her selection for Canada’s new $10 bill.
Q: Can you tell me about the work you’ve done on Viola Desmond, and what got you interested in her story?
A: I was doing research on the role that Canadian law has played in the history of our country in terms of either promoting racism—supporting it, backing it up—or helping to dismantle it. I got drawn into quite a number of cases where individuals who wanted to get service in restaurants and theatres and other places in Canada that were segregated went to the courts. A number of them tried to seek damages. There were one or two victories, but mainly they lost. I found Viola Desmond was the first woman whose case was taken up in the courts, and it wasn’t that she tried to sue them for throwing her out of the theatre; it was that they took the law and used it to arrest her. That was really shocking to me. We had no laws in Canada actually requiring segregation, like they did in the United States. But here we had people using the law—the amusements tax act—to enforce segregation, and our courts allowed them to do that.
Q: Who was Viola Desmond, outside of this experience in the theatre: what was her career and life before this incident?
A: She was born in Halifax and she came from a family that would be described as very middle-class within the black community. She was reasonably well-educated, she did high school and then was teaching in a segregated black school in Nova Scotia. And then she decided to branch out into business and she took training as a hairdresser in the United States and in Montreal because no one would train a black woman for hairdressing in Nova Scotia. She had to go further afield and she did, she was ambitious. And she came back and she not only set up a very successful salon—she called it a Studio of Beauty Culture—but she set up a school to train other black women, and they came from all over eastern Canada to train with her and be able to open their own salons. In addition, she began to market her own hair products and cosmetics.
It was when she was driving her supplies down into other areas in Nova Scotia that her car broke down (in New Glasgow). That caused her to say, ‘Oh, I might as well take the evening off,’ and off she went to the theatre.
Q: Walk us through what happened in the theatre and the immediate aftermath.
A: There was seating on the main floor and seating in the balcony, and she wanted a seat on the main floor because she couldn’t see well. The ticket agent sold her a ticket and she was going to the main floor when they called her back and said, ‘No, no, you don’t have a ticket for that.’ So she said, ‘I must have bought the wrong ticket.’ She didn’t know that the theatre was segregated. And she went back to the wicket and said, ‘I would like one down please.’ And they said, ‘No, we can’t sell those tickets to you people. You have to sit in the balcony.’
So right then and there—this was spontaneous, it was not something she’d thought about—she went and sat down on the main floor. Her thinking at the time, we discovered later, was that she was a very respectable person and she wasn’t doing anything wrong or causing any trouble, and that they would leave her be.
But they didn’t. They called the theatre manager, who called the local police, and a police officer came in and the two men—white, burly men—dragged her out of the theatre. In the scuffle, she lost her purse and a shoe, and they dragged her off to jail, they locked her up and she spent the night in jail.
Hi! Just to tell that even if I'm headcannoning my Harry as white, I'm so in love with your art that I don't even care of his skin color :) Keep it up, you rock!
This is the whole point!! You shouldn’t care!! :3 I want my Harry to be recognizable as OUR HARRY and to not feel like he’s in any way different just because his skin color is “not a norm”. My wish is for people to see the way I portray Harry and not feel bothered by it at all because it’s still the same Harry! :> And while I myself have developed a specific headcanon for him, I still like all kinds of Harry (white, black, asian, whatever it is) because I think it’s really cool how, while we all might imagine his appearance differently, it doesn’t change what Harry truly means to each of us! :) And I understand that decontextualization and depoliticization of culture and ethnicity is not always fair, but mate I just wanna see characters whose identities and life do not solely depend on their race, sexuality, gender, etc. It’s possible only in a fictional world for now, but I’m hopeful :)
I absolutely adore your work. It's just incredible! I was just wondering whether you would ever go back to drawing say Hermione and Harry as white again - not permanently, just sometimes white sometimes black? Don't get me wrong I love the more diverse POC artworks, but I really love both and I quite like the older drawings that depicted them more like the movies. Not necessarily asking you to do it of course, just wondering whether it was a possibility. Thank you for the beautiful work anyway!
Hey! Thank you!! Very nice to hear you adore my work!! :3 To answer your question, well… I don’t think it’s a possibility, really. :/ I always liked the idea of POC Harry and Hermione. The reason why they weren’t as dark-skinned in the very beginning is because I was shy about it? I didn’t really know people actually drew/imagined them as POC, but only after I began drawing more and also joined the fandom did I notice how popular POC Harry and Hermione are, so that encouraged me not to be so uncertain about drawing them as POC, and I began emphasizing their darker skins more because that’s what I always wanted and that’s how I see them in my head! :) I really really like the way I portray some of the characters, I am attached to how they turn out in my drawings (POC or not), so I’m sure you can understand how I feel, considering that you sound like you, too, are attached to them being white, which is just as fine! :) Everyone imagines things their own unique way, so it’s impossible for me to try to replicate everyone’s imaginations, and that’s why I am choosing to stick to my imagination only! :> Hope that makes sense!! <3
So many people of color have had their livelihoods ruined by the racist white people around them but we should feel bad about outing bigots? Finally being a bigot carries some threat of consequence and we’re supposed to regret this as an era of outrage?
Some fcs that could be used for period rps!! Not all of these series/movies are actually set in a period time, but could be used anyway. This list is intended for you to add diversity to period rps, not to create a Japanese period rp.
TAKAHATA MITSUKI (1991) -
Toto Nee-Chan: Fatherly Sister
KIMURA TAE (1971) -
Toto Nee-Chan: Fatherly Sister
i’m always worried about whitewashing too because it’s hard to determine where it crosses that line, but i think it’s about keeping the depths and color in the face and not falling into the “pastel/dull” coloring trend that’s prevalent on tumblr as that just doesn’t translate with people of color. something i’ve struggled with is determining how much brightness/contrast is too much, but it’s all about trial and error. if you accidentally whitewash, just try to figure out what you can improve so it doesn’t happen again. if you stick with the basic layers like levels, brightness/contrast and curves and keep the balance in the person’s skin tone and maybe work a bit with color balance and vibrance to bring color in where the lighting of the show might wash it out you should be fine.
Yeah, absolutely, there are two main kinds of whitewashing:
washed out pastels (this one is most problematic bc it’s really obvious that our skin tone is not correct here)
overemphasis of cyans combined with brightness
for asians for example, overuse of cyan makes us look white because it erases the part of our skin tone that defines us, which is a yellow/warm undertone. that said, i’ve seen people go too orange/bronze and while i appreciate the effort, we are also not oompa loompas.
anyway, i made a reference chart herewhich i hope helps? but i definitely want to revisit it and make a clearer version. i think the big problem is tutorials will show you how to color, but there’s never any discussion on how to recognize the right skin tone. so many people understand the theory but when applying it, it’s difficult due to a lack of a solid reference point.
as a general rule of thumb though your Curves layer if you use one should look like the left (basically maintaining the depth of the skin tone, like you said):
Ocean coloured fairy moon spirit with a voice of fire, thorns and honey, whispering into the night; screaming at the stars. Bleeding. Demanding truths, answers. Whose destiny is written in the stars? Is it hers? Oh, how her songs delivered on sleepless nights are sad, aching and drive a soul mad with longing. Needing. Hunger. To be scorched brown by her fire, pricked by her thorns, and bathed in the sweetness of her honey. To be consumed. Transformed; made complete. To be loved.