Viola Davis told attendees of the Women’s March in Los Angeles, California, to know that time’s up on overlooking women of color in mainstream feminist movements.
The “How To Get Away With Murder” actress gave a powerful Saturday speech in which she began with a history lesson in Jim Crow laws and the black, Latinx and Native Americans they oppressed.
“And the reason why these Jim Crow laws were in place have stifled my rights and your rights is because we fell asleep,” she said. “We fall asleep when we’re moving ahead and we don’t look to the left and right and see that we’re not including people ... Because really, at the end of the day, we only move forward when it doesn’t cost us anything. But I’m here today saying that no one and nothing can be great unless it costs you something.”
The Oscar-winning actress went on to talk about the #MeToo movement and the nameless girls and boys who disproportionately fall victim to sexual harassment but aren’t able to use their voices.
“When I raise my hand, I am aware of all the women who are still in silence. The women who are faceless,” she said. “The women who don’t have the money and 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 is rooted in the shame of assault, that’s rooted in the stigma of assault.”
Davis highlighted that black women who have spoken out against sexual harassment, from Fannie Lou Hamer to Tarana Burke, did so at a price.
“Nothing and no one can be great without a cost. I am always introduced as an award-winning actor, but my testimony is one of poverty, of one being assaulted and very much seeing a childhood that was robbed from me. I know that every single day when I think of that, I know the trauma of those events are still with me today ... That’s what allows me to listen to the women who still sit in silence.”
She left the attendees with a simple request: that they not just clap because the messages sound good, but that they actively seek progress for all.
“I stand in solidarity with all women who raised their hands because I know that it was not easy,” she said. “My hope for the future is that we never go back.”
Watch Davis’ full speech here.