Viola Davis brought her oratorical talent to the Women’s March in Los Angeles last Saturday (January 20), as the Oscar-winning actress and producer delivered a passionate speech that centered women of color within #MeToo and gender justice activism.
“We fall asleep when we’re moving ahead and we don’t look to the left and the right, and we’re not including people in this move ahead,” she said early on in her remarks while addressing the limits of complacency. ”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!”
Davis then pivoted to several sobering statistics about sexual violence and its specific impact on women and girls of color, including herself:
One out of every five women will be sexually assaulted and raped before she reaches the age of 18. One out of six boys. If you are a woman of color and you are raped before you reach the age of 18, then you are 66 percent more likely to be sexually assaulted again. 70 percent of girls who are sex trafficked are girls of color. They are coming out of the foster care system, poverty, it is a billion-dollar industry.
I am speaking today, not just for the me toos—because I was a me too—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 don’t have the [U.S.] 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.
Davis also paid homage to the legacy of Black women who fought against White supremacy and sexist violence. She named Fannie Lou Hamer, Recy Taylor, Rosa Parks and Tarana Burke, saying: “It cost them something [to speak out]. Nothing and no one can be great without a cost.”
The march was one of many across the U.S. and world that commemorated the first anniversary of the original Women’s March. The New York Times notes that this year’s U.S. actions incorporated messages to galvanize supporters to vote for structural change during the 2018 midterm elections. Women’s March organizers have not yet given an estimate of the total number of attendees; The Washington Post approximated that slightly over 4 million people participated in stateside marches last year, making it the largest collective day of demonstrations in U.S. history. The Los Angeles Times reported that “tens of thousands” marched in Los Angeles on Satuday, while The Times noted ”more than 200,000” in New York City.
Watch Davis’ full speech above.