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Close out Black History Month in Ottawa with these upcoming events

A look at the Bank of Canada Museum’s exhibit on Viola Desmond, the first woman to be put on a Canadian banknote. (Via BOC Museum)

Learn about Viola Desmond, laugh at Yuk Yuk’s, explore local art and more during Ottawa Black History Month events.

A Noteworthy Woman

The Bank of Canada Museum is honoring Viola Desmond, the first woman to be put on a Canadian banknote in an exhibit titled, A Noteworthy Woman, that will run until May of 2019.

Carolyn Cook, manager of the museum’s interpretation and outreach, said Desmond’s selection was born out of a process to highlight an important part of Canadian history about a woman who exemplifies social justice and human rights.

“We went through thousands of nominations of Canadian women,” remarked Cook. “We picked Viola because it is an important social history story not only because of the incident itself, but who she was as a person. She was an independent business woman in a time when it was really difficult to be that.”

Desmond owned a beauty shop in Halifax and started her own cosmetics line despite multiple professional roadblocks. She was barred from beauty schools in Nova Scotia and had to pursue her education outside the province in Montreal and the United-States.

The incident Cook is referring to happened at the Roseland theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia on November 8th 1946, where Desmond refused to move from a seat on the main floor which was designated for whites only. She was escorted by police out of the building, fined $20 and spent a night in jail.

Desmond’s case was taken all the way to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia where she lost. The exhibit now displays the official pardon issued by the Government of Nova Scotia.

“We were able to get the official pardon on loan,” said Cook. “The exhibit also has one of the beauty products from her business which we were thankful we could get.”

The museum will also host an event Feb. 23 where poet Nadine Williams will have a reading of her poem about Viola, and children will have a poetry workshop where they will have the opportunity to write poems about people that inspire them. For more information on the event click here…

Lyft Canada is also offering a cheap way to get to the exhibit, to commemorate Black History Month. Riders can use the code BHMOTT19 any time this month for $10 off a ride to the museum.

Black History Month Comedy Show

Ottawa’s comedy club Yuk Yuks will be hosting comedians Jean Paul, Aba Atlas, Aisha Brown and Ottawa based Bee Black this Feb. 21 through 23.

Thursday’s show will begin at 8:30 pm and Friday and Saturday’s show at 7:00 pm. Find out more…

Loud Black Girls! Black Legacy Month Showcase

A showcase Feb. 21 at 6:30 pm at 99 Fifth Avenue will host a celebration of art, voices and stories of local black women in the Ottawa region. There will be food and advance tickets are $5. Find out more here…

Even more events

Via blackhistoryottawa.org…

  • Afro-Caribbean Entrepreneurs Workshop – Feb. 23, 2-6 p.m. @ Marriott Hotel, 100 Kent St. ($)
  • Remembering and Understanding the Heritage of African Canadians – Feb. 23, 7 p.m. @ St. Andrew’s, 82 Kent St. (No admission but consider a non-perishable food donation.)
  • In the Beginning Fashion Show – Feb. 23, 6:30 p.m. @ Ottawa Church of God, 1820 Carling Ave. (Goodwill donation cover charge.)
  • Viola Desmond: Canadian Heroine – Feb. 27, 7 p.m. @ Ottawa Public Library, main branch, 120 Metcalfe. (Presented by Norma Domey, Viola’s great-niece!)

(There’s plenty more from the Ottawa Public Library. Check out their list of recommended e-books and audio books to learn more about black heritage or check out two art exhibitions at the main branch from Marilyn Wilson and Winton Bascombe.)


Jordan Gowling

Jordan Gowling is an Ottawa reporter and a journalism student at Algonquin College.