Viola Davis delivered a powerful speech at the 2018 Women’s March in Los Angeles, and the crowd couldn’t get enough.
“In the words of my fellow American Malcolm X, I’m gonna make it plain,” she said.
She continued by saying the United States, which she called the “greatest nation on this planet,” put into place some horrific laws: “In 1877, America put laws in place called the Jim Crow laws,” and those laws “restricted the rights of quadroons, octoroons, blacks, Hispanics, Malays … they restricted medical, relationships, education, in all, “they restricted life.”
“It told us we were less than,” she said.
Viola then quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., saying, “I’m not ready to wait a hundred, or two hundred years, for things to change.”
And adding that, “time needs to be helped by every single moment, doing right.”
She added that the movement won’t be easy, and there will be a cost.
“We only move forward when it doesn’t cost us anything,” she said. “But I’m here today saying that no one and nothing can be great unless it costs you something.”
She then shared some sobering statistics:
One out of every five women will be sexually assaulted or raped before she reaches the age of 18. That women of color, if they’re raped or sexually assaulted before the age of 18, are 66-percent more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted again. Seventy percent of girls who are sexually trafficked are girls of color. They are coming out of the foster care system, they are coming out of poverty. It is a billion dollar industry. When they go into the sex trafficking business — and they call it a business, trust me — more than likely, they are gang raped.
She continued: “I am speaking today, not just for the #metoos, because I was a #metoo, but when I raise my hand, I am aware of all the women who are still in silence. The women who are faceless. The women who don’t have the money, and who don’t have the constitution, and who don’t have the confidence, and who don’t have the images in our media that gives them a sense of self-worth enough to break their silence that’s rooted in the shame of assault. That’s rooted in the stigma of assault.”
She then evoked the Statue of Liberty, and said that “every single day your job as an American citizen, is not just to fight for your rights; it’s to fight for the rights of every individual who is taking a breath.”
She named great African American women organizers and activists, like Fannie Lou Hamer, Recy Taylor, Rosa Parks, and Tarana Burke – saying their hard work all came with major sacrifice.
“Nothing and no one can be great without a cost,” she said.
Viola then closed by speaking of her own personal history with poverty and sexual abuse.
“Listen, I am always introduced as an award-winning actor. But my testimony is one of poverty,” she said. “My testimony is one of being sexually assaulted and very much seeing a childhood that was robbed from me. And I know that every single day, when I think of that, I know that the trauma of those events are still with me today. And that’s what drives me to the voting booth. That’s what allows me to listen to the women who are still in silence. That’s what allows me to even be a citizen on this planet.”
She finished by saying that until we’re all free, none of us are.
“As we live on earth, we’ve got to bring up everyone with us,” she said.
She finished by saying her hope for the future is that we “never go back,” and reminding the crowd that marching isn’t enough — that we all must “keep it rolling” when we go home.