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Viola Davis Stands Up for Black Women in Speech

"I was tired of seeing movies without me in it and I don't mean me—Viola—I mean, me, as a Black woman."


After winning a leadership award this week, Viola Davis used her time on stage to speak her mind, and she brought her A game. Not often are Black women given a platform. We usually take it, or create it for ourselves and for others. A video clip of her speech is going viral with more than 500,000 views.

Davis has had enough with Hollywood not giving all people of color, and their stories, a platform. As an honoree of The Hollywood Reporter's 2018 Women in Entertainment Power 100, she made it clear what the industry has relegated Black women to:

"We have to be maternal, the savior, make the white the character feel better ... We don't have vaginas as Black women."

She said Hollywood needs to stop "taming" people of color.

"Everything that I am and we are is what makes art in this world rich," she said.

"Embrace the truth. There's something to be said about being wild. Steve McQueen is wild. Ryan Coogler… Greta Gerwig… people who just dare, who say, 'You cannot silence me.'"

Davis talked about the silencing that led her and her husband to create JuVee — a production company with a mission to tell stories of color.

"I was tired of seeing movies without me in it and I don't mean me — Viola — I mean, me, as a Black woman."

She talked about her call to lead in the industry, but said straight up: "I cannot lead with bulls**t."

"The demons aren't gargoyles, they're not men with pointy noses, ears... they're other people's desires for your life," Davis said. "People who don't see you, people who stereotype you, people who take your pathology, your complexity, everything away from you. How you have to water yourself down in order to meet the standards of the community that is in charge, which is not mine."

She ended her speech with encouragement to empower Black children, saying "Don't let anyone tell you who you are. There is no limit to how see to people of color."

The comments echoed her sentiments in September about regretting some roles she has taken.

"Have I ever done roles that I've regretted? I have, and 'The Help' is on that list. Being that role model and picking up that baton when you're struggling in your own life has been difficult," she said, but "I choose to be the leader."

Social media responded in applause to Davis' speech:

Reader Question: Do you think her speech resonated with people and may yield allies for Black women?

The Conversation (3)
votetocorrect08 Dec, 2018
Viola Davis is finally fed up!
Tony Thompson07 Dec, 2018

A+speech from Viola Davis. I completely agree with her. Regarding the reader question, I think its quite apparent it resonated with some people. I suspect the bulk of those who felt resonance are African-Americans, but I do not doubt that some non-Blacks felt similarly (though in either case, my gut says women and non-men make up the bulk of the people who felt her speech hit home. We men can be really difficult on issues of gender equality all on its own. The intersection of race and gender equality is another level of understanding on top of that. So I do not imagine it resonated with as many men as with non-men.

As for the second part of the question, was that the purpose of her speech? If not, I dont think this is the right place to ask it.

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