Everything Viola does is magic.
This is not up for debate, don’t at (@) me, this is not up for further discussion. My Auntie Viola is magic, dammit! From the melanin, to her articulate nature, the fashion and not being here for the bullshit–I am HERE for! Here and PRESENT!
In December 2018, during The Hollywood Reporter Power 100, Viola Davis made this moving 3-minute statement about the state of Black art and storytelling. But this statement is the one that had me shouting:
“Stop taming us.”
Indeed, this was the most poignant thing I had ever heard a Black woman say. The idea of having the complexities about your sifted and watered down and then the remnants sold or pandered to audience whom can’t seem to handle all your Black all at one time. This phrase sent confirmation through my artistic self. This undeniable knowledge that as Black, woman and writer that I had supreme authority over my own story.
In her acceptance speech, Viola spoke about her production company JuVee Productions I couldn’t help but be inspired. There needs to be more companies with people that look like me and the rest of the melaninated vox populi! There needs to be more platforms for people of color to tell stories in our own capacity–without sifting out what most ‘folk’ think won’t market.
But this power of this phrase ‘stop taming us’ was empowering! It was a reminder that every time an editor that didn’t look like me, didn’t like my work; thought I should change it; couldn’t handle what I was trying to say or thought it was ‘just too Black’; I know that they just couldn’t and still cannot handle all that I tried to convey. They couldn’t handle all I wanted to say, or all that I was, without thinking immediately about what needed to change.
Stop. Taming. Us.
Stop wishing artists were less Black. Stop wishing artists were less vocal. Stop looking at the work of those of us that walk in and inhabit intersectionality (i.e., Black and–) and immediately say what needs to change to be palatable.
Stop trying to make what ain’t meant to be sweet aspartame or high fructose corn syrup.
Stop asking us to not use the AAVE. Or ‘finna.’ Or fixin’ to.
Stop asking us to slow down, edit, change the pace of our work.
Stop. Taming. US.