A lot of deserved attention is being given to Viola Davis, who stars in and produced The Woman King. Before I get into more about Viola, I want to draw attention to the director of The Woman King and other more-than-noteworthy films. Her record is one of excellence in creating films that have strong moral and positive messages.
Historically, women have not been in the director’s chair. For a Black woman to be in the director’s chair the number of times Gina Maria Prince-Blythewood has is truly an amazing accomplishment. Thank you, Director Prince—Blythewood, for your contributions to the film industry and to our culture.
Although the focus of The Woman King is Black women warriors, another warrior who ran up against a ceiling created for Black folks is John Boyega. Being a man, notwithstanding, John Boyega has felt the oppression of being Black in a world acculturated to seeing only White people as heroes in films. This was the reality that fueled what some saw as a backlash against having a Black man as one of the heroes in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Thank you, John Boyega, for sharing your talents as King Ghezo in this epic film that focuses on Black women warriors.
As Viola Davis and the other stars of The Woman King make appearances throughout the media universe, Viola shares strong messages that refute the endemic negative messages that Black girls and women have historically received not only from folks who were not Black but also from Black people who put down women because of their particular shade of blackness.
Here are snippets of messages that Viola sent that resonated with me:
Clear up space for yourself.
Do not disappoint yourself; disappoint others instead.
Don’t say “Yes” so people will love you. They don’t love you.
… weighed down with a cultural history that tells you that you are nothing.
Life is a relay race and you run every leg of it yourself.
I have a new term—“I’m worth it!”
If you have not seen interviews with the stars of The Woman King, I recommend that you take a look at some of them to hear about the six-year experience of getting the film from concept to reality.
Director Gina Prince-Blythewood, in response to an interviewer’s question, responded that she hoped that women would see themselves reflected in the film. She also hoped that when they leave the theater after seeing the film, women feel enlightened, inspired, and empowered.
A constant refrain that remains with me after seeing The Woman King and hearing comments of those who made the film possible is “spirit of the warrior within.”