This Black History Month Fierce is taking a look at the amazing and absolutely fierce black women among us who are changing our history every day and who will undoubtedly be among the black history heroes we will celebrate in years to come.
It is easy to talk about a celebrity’s accolades. Being the only black actress to achieve the triple crown of acting, winning an Oscar, Tony and Emmy or being the first black actress to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series is certainly impressive.
While these achievements set Viola Davis apart from her peers and should be celebrated as part of Black History Month, what truly makes Davis an icon worth celebrating is her passion for exposing the narratives of everyday people through her activism in addition to her acting.
In January, Davis spoke at the Women’s March in Los Angeles. Her impassioned words are evidence that whether Davis is conversing or acting, she speaks from a depth of experience.
“I am always introduced as an award-winning actor but my testimony is one of poverty. My testimony is one of being sexually assaulted and very much seeing a childhood that was robbed from me. And I know every single day, when I think of that, I know the trauma of those events are still with me today,” said Davis. “And that’s what allows me to even become a citizen on this planet is the fact that we are here to connect. That we are here as 324 million people living on this earth to know that every day that we breathe and we live, we’ve got to bring up everyone with us.”
Davis has used her influence as an actress to do just that: lift people up. Davis is a vocal advocate for the Rape Foundation. In 2016, she was honored at their annual brunch for her inspirational leadership in bringing justice and compassionate care to rape victims, of which every 1 in 6 women is a survivor, and sexually abused children as well as her impact on public consciousness about these crimes. During the brunch, Davis shared that sexual assault is the one thing she, her sisters, her mother, and her friend from childhood share.
At the Rape Foundation’s opening of the Stuart House, Davis recounted the story of her sister’s sexual assault at the age of 8 years old and how she wished there had been a Stuart House there to help which you can watch on Pop Sugar.
Hoping to make a difference in the lives of the 16 million children facing hunger in America, Davis has been a prominent advocate for Hunger Is, whose goal is to eradicate childhood hunger in the U.S. Last year, she led the “Hungry for More” campaign which ran in more than 2,300 Albertsons Companies grocery stores throughout the country.
As a child of poverty, Davis recalled in an Entertainment Weekly interview, “When I say we had nothing, I mean zero. I remember one time a friend came over to the house and she opened the refrigerator. There was nothing in it. She said, ‘Are you guys moving?’”
Davis is also co-president and CEO of the production studio JuVee Productions along with her husband Julius Tennon.
JuVee Productions, created in 2011, is behind diverse projects which tell character-based narratives concerning race, gender and politics among other subjects. Its most recent project, Two Sides, is a 4-part docu-series on TV One of which Viola Davis is Executive Producer and narrator. The series exposes the facts behind the police killings of Ezell Ford, John Crawford, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland.
“This is a way of humanizing these victims. We want it to stop but we’re approaching it in an emotional, angry way. What this show does is it arms you with as much information as possible,” said Davis in a promotional video for the series.
Another JuVee Productions project, American Koko is an unapologetically honest narrative on the experience of a black woman in a post-racial America. Koko works at the Agency “Everybody’s a Little Racist” and solves racial issues while facing problems which arise in her own life.
Davis warns in a bonus episode that to watch American Koko, one needs to be “open.”
“What it will bring to you is an understanding of truly what It means to be a black woman in the United States of America,” said Davis. “What’s been taken from us: a lack of acceptance of our beauty of our gifts, a lack of not hearing our voice, our humor, our sexuality.”
Davis has taken the influence and responsibility which has come from her fame to give opportunities and voices to African-Americans, women, children and anyone else who has needed one.
As she expressed in her Emmy acceptance speech, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.”
Thanks to the compassion which comes from memories of her past, she has created opportunities for the voiceless through not only her art but her heart.