Forbes just named Beyoncé as one of the highest grossing women in entertainment. We know that Oprah rakes in that scrillah. Nikki Minaj brags about this paper chase she been on and even personalities like Cardi B, Blac Chyna, Amber Rose and everyone of the Kardashians have been able to connect money moves with their rise in the game…
What they all have in common is that they make major bank.
Aside from Oprah, money oozes from them in a way that seems so gluttonous that it can nauseate woke-activists who work diligently to associate their wealthy-related freedom and antics with a feminist or womanist agenda. Now this is not a story that bashes women who financially secure. But it is an opportunity to look at Black women and sisters of color’s relationship money, race, power— and how it translates into the world.
This is actually a story about Harriet Tubman and Viola Desmond.
We all know who Harriet Tubman is… we rock her “We Out.” shirts unapologetically and dress our daughters up like her for Halloween. While they out here whitewashing Black history month, ole’ Minty is still in the textbooks chilling with Martin Luther King. Harriet is good (at least the snapshot of her is popular.) But we might not know Viola Desmond, which will make the connection between her and Beyoncé kinda hard.
Viola Desmond was a diva…. And a diva is a female version of a hustler.
When Viola was in her 30s, she had already established herself as a successful Black businesswoman in Canada. She was all about glamour and beauty, trained by Madam C.J. Walker in New York and set up salons for women of color in her town. Not only did she set up a beauty salon, but also she set up the Desmond School of Beauty Culture (which was the first of its kind in their country). After which she started her own line of beauty products called ”Vi’s Beauty Products” which she marketed and sold herself. She was one of the richest business Black women in her country.
But there was no Forbes back then to celebrate her hustle.
In 1946, while attending a movie Viola was asked to leave the whites-only section of the Roseland Theater. She refused. She was dragged out the theater so roughly that they injured her hip and was arrested. She was not arrested and convicted on disorderly conduct but she was booked on a minor tax violation for the one-cent tax difference between her paid Black seat and the White seat she sat in. They kept her in jail overnight and never informed her of a legal right to get an attorney or bail (cause we know she had the paper to get out). Eventually, she paid the fine go out… but that was not the end. She took it to court sparking the Civil Rights movement in Canada. Her example was one of the cases that the NAACP referenced in working with Rosa Parks.
Basically, she did not win…
At least not back then. In 2010, posthumously she was pardoned for the crime that she committed. And in by 2016, the Bank of Canada announced that she would be the first Canadian woman to be featured on their money. She will appear on the $10 bill in 2018. See the connection to Harriet? Under the Obama Administration, Mother Harriet was slated to be on the $20 bill in the near future. It is our hope that that is still ago, because the current administration has not committed to implementing the change.
But if they both make it on the face of these American currencies, these women would be on the money that Queen Bey, Cardi B, Oprah and the gang deposit and spend. Black women who have been historically commodified for what they bring to the table and then awarded by a willingness to use their bodies as tools to get to the next level, are now able to symbolically shift the conversation to from the physical to the financial. Viola and Harriet are not just on these bills. With their faces on the notes, all of us are on the bills. The smirk that is made at Beyoncé being number 1 on Forbes is wiped off the old white man-reading-it’s face. Beyonce embodies that boss tradition of Viola and emancipating sistahs minds on the low like Harriet.
Just last week She’s Got To Have It star, Lyriq Bent and Martin Luther King III honored Viola Desmond for her civil rights contributions for the national and presented her (and by acceptance her family) with the Canadian Walk of Fame. They chose Bent because of his outstanding performance in Book Of Negroes as the male lead and his current strides in American TV and film. It was apropos. Bent has worked diligently in her personal life to keep the legacy of Viola Desmond fresh for a new generation and would love to see her story played out on the big screen.
He got the paper… maybe he should hit up that aforementioned list and make that happen.