We love speeches. Short ones, long ones — the duration doesn’t matter to us, just as long as we’re inspired while listening or reading in this case. This week, director Ava DuVernay was honored at the 22nd annual ELLE Women in Hollywood awards. And she gave what we considered a moving speech. Read it in its entirety below.
My mother is from Compton, California, but my father is from Hayneville, Alabama and that’s less than 20 miles from Selma. When I was young, one of the uncles told me a great story one summer when I went back to Hayneville—?and it’s a story I never forgot. It was about a village in the south, the village of proud people that tucked itself away from a country that deemed them less than. It was an all-black village: there was a baker; a barber; a florist; a dentist; a preacher; and a school teacher. And while they paid attention to the rest of the world, supported change, and fought the struggle for recognition of their humanity and dignity, they also focused on their daily bread, their clean haircuts, their flowers, their teeth, their education, and their spirit. They didn’t allow their conversations to be wholly consumed by those who didn’t value them. They valued themselves. They kept themselves, and they cultivated joy.
I invite us to think of this room as a village, one that fights for change on the outside, but one that recognizes that an equal part of that fight is keeping ourselves strong and joyous and sane in a really insane industry. Because our conversation shouldn’t be consumed with what he’s not doing or what they don’t value. We value us. We build our village. We grow stronger. We testify in commissions, and we write our own op-eds, and we push at every turn that’s necessary. We also blossom because we nourish one another. We focus on her—?the woman sitting right next to you. We focus on us. It’s equally as important. If we don’t do both, I think we lose. Toni Morrison, a prophet that I really admire, said the function of racism is distraction to keep you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining your reason for being. I think sexism is the same. Patriarchy is the same thing—?constantly having to justify our very presence. It’s something to think about. I believe that there are multiple ways we can attack the problems that we face as women in this industry. And fortifying one another and being food and fuel and fire for one another is one of those things. If I don’t do it, I start thinking too much. And when I start thinking too much I start to be mad.
[READ MORE ON THE NEXT PAGE.]