Viola Davis was born August 11, 1965, in Saint Matthews, South Carolina, to father Dan, a horse groomer and trainer, and mother Mae Alice, who, in addition to working as a domestic and factory worker, was also a civil rights and welfare reform activist. The family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island while Viola was an infant. Growing up in abject poverty, her parents’ income was frequently insufficient to support the family. School lunches were often her only meal of the day.
Davis fell in love with acting at the age of six, when she saw Cicely Tyson in a television adaptation of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Inspired, Davis soon began acting in school productions and theater competitions. After high school, she enrolled at Rhode Island College, where she majored in theater and graduated in 1988. She proceeded to the Young People's School for the Performing Arts in Rhode Island on scholarship before attending the Juilliard School, graduating in 1994.
In 1996, Davis made her Broadway debut in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, in which she played the long-suffering paramour of a musician recently released from prison, a performance that earned her a Tony Award nomination. She made her film debut the same year with a bit part in the drama The Substance of Fire. In 1999 Davis played opposite Phylicia Rashad in the Off-Broadway drama Everybody’s Ruby, based on writer Zora Neale Hurston’s investigation of a murder.
Davis has been acting for nearly three decades and her filmography is one of the most impressive in Hollywood. To date, she has 96 acting credits and 27 producing credits. She has received four Academy Award nominations, winning in 2016 for her role in Fences. She has received seven Golden Globe Award nominations, again winning in 2016 for her role in Fences. She has received five Emmy Award nominations, winning in 2015 for her role in How to Get Away with Murder. She has received 10 Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, winning in 2011 for her role in The Help, 2014 and 2015 for her role in How to Get Away with Murder, 2016 for her role in Fences, and 2020 for her role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. She has received three Tony Award nominations, winning in 2001 for her role in King Hedley II, and in 2010 for her role in Fences. Davis’s memoir, Finding Me, was published in 2022. The following year she won a Grammy for the audio version of the book. With that award, she achieved “EGOT” (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) status.
In addition to her acting pursuits, Davis is a philanthropist. She has a passion for giving back and has become an advocate for social justice and equality for women of color in Hollywood. As a first generation college student, she highly values access to education. As such, she donated funds to her hometown public library in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to assist in preventing its closure due to a lack of city funding in 2011. She donated to her alma mater, Central Falls High School, to support its theater program in 2018. And since 2014, she has collaborated with the Hunger Is campaign to help eradicate childhood hunger across America by starting the $30K in 30 Days Project with the organization.
Davis has been quoted as saying, “The reason I became an actress is because I wanted my acting to reflect life as it is. I want to put truth on the screen. I want real women to see real women on the screen.” Known for her precise, controlled performances and her regal presence, Davis has been considered one of the best actresses of our time.
― Kimberley Baker Guillemet
Like many of us, I have a whole list of things I would endeavor to accomplish if I had unlimited amounts of time and resources. I would increase my morning devotional and meditation time. I would take up piano again, practice my Spanish more often and even pick up another language, or two. I would write another book. I would remodel our house to make it bigger so that we can host more family and friends. I would travel more often, and widely. I would engage in more regular and more intentional self-care practices. The list goes on and on.
But I don't do these things in the amount and with the regularity that I would like to. And some of them I have not started at all. Why? I have told myself that I do not have “enough.” I don't have enough time. I don't have enough money. I don’t have enough resources. I don’t have enough of whatever is needed.
A few weeks ago, I was challenged in that mindset by a sermon by Pastor Steve Furtick. He likened the “not enough” mentality with a scarcity mindset. Upon hearing this, I immediately felt uncomfortable. I thought, Does this apply to me? Seeking reprieve from conviction, I initially rebuffed the thought, telling myself, I am a master at time management and I'm quite frugal. I really, actually, truthfully do not have what is needed to accomplish the things on my aspirational list. I need more time. I need more resources. I need more money. I just need more.
But then I thought some more and asked myself, Do I?
My husband and I discussed the issue a few nights later and as we talked, we remembered a time in our marriage when we made less than a third of what we make today in salary, but still had to clothe, feed and house the same four children we have now. We remember praying for a salary increase so that we could make ends meet. Since that time, God has provided for us in spades, such that not only have all our needs been met, but we have been able to bless family members, friends, and even strangers with time, resources, food, company and more.
Yet, here I am, still saying that it's not enough.
Really, when is it enough? When do we decide that we have enough? I have had to challenge my thinking in this area and what I have come to realize is that it becomes enough when I decide it's enough. Please understand that I am not advocating a delusional mindset where we convince ourselves that we have resources that we do not or time that does not exist. The reality is that time, money and other resources are indeed finite. However, we have choice in how we use them. We have choice in how we choose to steward our money and we have choice in how we utilize our limited time.
Starting from a foundation of grace and understanding that nothing in life has perfect timing or execution, I'm giving myself permission to allocate time and resources to pursuits that give me joy and that I feel help me fulfill my purpose and mission on this planet. Of course, that cannot be to the exclusion of required activities that ensure that we're able to feed, clothe and house ourselves and provide for those who depend on us. However, I don't believe that our heart calls us to move in specific directions and engage in various endeavors for no good reason.
As we close out 2023 and prepare for 2024, let’s give ourselves permission to come from a mindset of abundance and assume that we do indeed have enough.
― Jelani Clay
Since I posted my blog last month, war has erupted in the Middle East and thousands upon thousands of lives have been lost. We are inundated with information and images chronicling the atrocities by and through all forms of media day in and day out. Some of us may feel a sense of responsibility to ingest large amounts of this information and imagery for various reasons. We may want to show solidarity or bear witness to the events from a remote location. And in addition to the events happening in other parts of the world, in the United States, we continue to navigate our own tragedies, many of which have become commonplace: alarmingly high rates of homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse, suicide and and all manner of homicides. For many, hope seems elusive, to say the least.
Though I am not a psychologist, a psychiatrist or a therapist, I am a human who has been able to navigate adversity with my sense of hope intact. People often ask me how I have been able to retain a positive outlook despite having to walk through some very difficult moments and experiences, some intensely personal and private, and some collective and shared.
The answer is mindset management. In addition to holding tightly to my faith, I vigilantly guard my mind. Just as we are what we eat, what we ingest is what we become. What we put into our hearts and minds matters. The media that we consume, the books that we read, the people with whom we choose to spend our time, the music to which we listen, all have tremendous impact on our sense of emotional well-being. This is not to say that we should not remain aware of world events and extend love and show empathy toward our fellow humans. Quite the contrary. I believe that it is our responsibility to show care toward other humans who are navigating tragedy--both directly and indirectly. And if we are able to lend a helping hand, it is our duty to do so. However, we cannot expect that constant inundation with negativity will bode well for our mental well-being over time. It will eventually take its toll. I believe this is especially true for young people.
I encourage you to guard your heart and your mind. Be intentional about the time you spend ingesting difficult and/or tragic events. Give yourself the space and grace to rest, both physically and mentally. Allow yourself to experience joy and celebrate the good in the world and in your life.