Montreal, January 22, 2022 – Friends, colleagues, pupils, musicians, journalists, artists, university professors, members of Black community, a judge and politicians as well as members of the Bahá’í Administrative bodies from all over Quebec and North America joined together to celebrate the life of an outstanding woman who served humankind in her Verdun community and other parts of the province for almost a century!

Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet Founder of the Bahá’í Faith “once compared the coloured people to the black pupil of the eye surrounded by the white. In this black pupil is seen the reflection of that which is before it, and through it the light of the spirit shineth forth.”

And that is how Violet was ; she shone forth the light of spirit at whomsoever came across her path!

It was impossible to listen to all remanences of over sixty friends attended her virtual commemoration, nonetheless everyone was united in this that Violet was their mentor, their guide and their helper in all their efforts!

The first message of recognition was sent from Marie-Andrée Mauger, the Mayoress of the Borough of Verdun where Violet  was born and resided all her life:  

« We will make sure to honour the memory of  Mrs. Violet States Grant, Grande Verdunoise.» was the message and she paid a glowing tribute to Violet on her Facebook page.

There were countless messages from Violet’s pupils. She taught in Verdun and Montreal public schools for 25 years and as a private piano teacher for 28 years. She taught music, in some cases, over one thousand students per week!

Her honourable Juanita Westmoreland-Traore, the first black judge in the history of Quebec and the first black dean of a law school at the University of Windsor, Ontario in Canada's history mentioned that she took music lessons with Violet when she was just six years old. Later in her life Violet introduced her to ‘Cross Roads Africa’ where she learned so much about life and international solidarity. What was remarkable about Mrs. States, she mentioned, was how much she cared about her students in elementary schools as well as those who took lessons in her home. She was refused to teach in public schools because of racial prejudices at the time so she taught music in her own home. It took her years before she was allowed to teach in public schools. She gave such an importance to students to become self-sufficient by saving their money at the Caisse Populaire Desjardins. Violet also encouraged the future honourable judge to join the Black Gospel Music Choir and learn about the history of Black Community. Violet taught her students they can overcome all obstacles regardless of its nature. She was a true spiritual mother to the community and her students. Violet’s students were her family!

Violet was frequently stopped in the street by her students and would receive words of gratitude from them especially those who have learned to save their money and that saving had become a significant start in their later life!

Violet was alert to difficulties her students were going through. In one occasion she encouraged one of her students to improve her English through correspondence with an Australian friend. Violet mentioned to this student that you are not only improving your English but you can also talk to your pen pal about the Bahá’í Faith. This correspondence has been continued for almost fifty years, the student said, and is still going on!

Violet was also a member of Montreal Coloured Women’s Club. She travelled with them to follow the slave trade route. Violet was a woman of social action in all walks of life. She played a major role in paying tribute to early Black Railroad Workers of Canada and official recognition of a historical Slave Cemetery in St. Armand, Quebec.

Violet was a part of Verdun Oral History Project and also a winner of athletic games in her school. Not surprising, the principle of the school did not give her the trophy she won during the school’s assembly because she was black. He went to Violet’s classroom and gave the trophy to her later without any ceremony!

Violet was a woman full of love, remarked one of the friends present, tenacious was another attribute which came to mind. Whenever Violet found an interesting idea or subject she persistently had to follow it up to achieve the goal!

There were numerous messages from Violet’s pupils; everyone was united in that Violet was a loving person who not only cared about her students but also for their families.

Violet rode her bicycle in Verdun streets every day until she was in her late 80s, either to go to work or go shopping.  

It was unbelievable to hear how much Violet went through racial prejudices throughout her life. Starting from her childhood until her late life; ringing in her ears: “N-, Black”- “N-, Black”! the rhyme of children’s voice during her school time. The only place she was free from prejudice, perhaps was the years she played music in an all women symphony orchestra. She travelled to New York in 1947 with the orchestra and performed in prestigious Carnegie Hall there. It was a period of terrific segregation in North America but nothing could stop Violet to do what she was intended to do! She was the only black woman in that orchestra!

Violet was a unique human being not only in the history of Montreal Bahá’í Community but in Verdun and Montreal where she served humanity for almost a century! It is heart-breaking to think such an outstanding person could be subject of discrimination in the society!

Peacefully, on January 4, 2022 in the afternoon, the pure soul of Violet States Grant flew to the World Beyond, five days short of being one hundred years old. She is always remembered fondly and lovingly by her students, the Montreal Bahá’í Community and Verdun Borough where she was born and served all her life of almost a century.

Here is the link to the Commemoration video recording:  


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