I’d like to introduce my speech by saying, ‘My name is Viola Davis and I am a hero.
I’m not a hero with a cape, or a golden lasso or a boomerang. I’m just your ordinary girl, living an extraordinary life with an extraordinary calling.
When you’re poor, there’s trickle-down effects. So, I grew up with the violence, the alcoholism, and I grew up with the terror of coming home and thinking that my father has finally killed my mom. That was my existence.
All I saw was this woman who looked like me, who looked like my mother. It was like looking at a magician pulling the rabbit out of its hat. It is the power of art and what we do that is transformational it shifts us. And man, did it shift me.
I said, ‘That’s what I want to do. That’s what’s going to get me out. That is what is going to make me do something bigger than myself. Oh my God, I’m going to be an actress.’
Everything was about getting out, the ‘call to adventure’ and slaying dragons.
People don’t know that we aren’t just poor, black kids — we’re bigger than that.
There was nothing in my life that made me believe that I was anything else [other than what people said about me.
I’m not a magical negro, I’m not a device, I’m not just someone who is a walking symbol of social change.
I am a woman, and I have a story.