In May 2021, Senait Yohannes presented a plan to Dean Holloway and Susan Marks at the Faculty of Law, and Michael Wilson the prior Principal of Crescent Heights High School to commemorate former student Violet King with a portrait and plaque.
With only two photos of Violet King to work with, we commissioned Edmonton born Black artist, Keon Courtney @Keontheartist, to create a rendition of Violet King. We were very intentional in how we wanted to portray Violet: standing in front of a regal purple curtain, wearing her barristers’ gown, and smiling from ear to ear—which goes against the stereotypical imagery we see of Black women.
UCalgary’s Faculty of Law and BLSA will soon unveil the portrait and plaque at its future home in the Bennet Jones Theatre. While it awaits being permanently displayed in the hallways of Crescent Heights High School, the Diversity Council at CHHS has held several contests to engage their student body with the portrait and Violet’s story, and regularly presents it during the lunch hour.
“I used to wander the hallways at Crescent Heights and look at all the grade 12 graduating classes. Starting from approx. 1930’s onwards, I would try to point out any Black person who attended in those early days and imagine what their lives were like at a time where the KKK had an active membership (actually still being incorporated in Alberta till 2003), where segregation existed and Black people were barred from entering establishments, and gender discrimination was normalized. I’m not sure if I ever found Violet King, but I know now that despite these threats that existed, Violet chose herself every single day. She chose to push forward no matter the cost, and in doing that was able to create the life she envisioned for herself. She is a reminder to me that the path won’t always be an easy one, especially for Black woman, but we must choose ourselves every single day, even when the world is telling us to be quiet, that we’re incapable, or we don’t belong." - Senait Yohannes
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