On Monday night at the Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards, award winning actress, Viola Davies, took to the stage to recognise five women who were affected by the shooting in a Charleston church in June that left African-Americans dead.
She said, “I hope that there’s continuous, honest, unbridled dialogue,” Davis – who recently made headlines for her impassioned speech after becoming the first woman of color to win an Emmy for leading actress – told PEOPLE at the New York event.
“I hope for the people in power, that the dialogue results into active change of policies to move the race relations forward,” adds the actress, 50. “It could be anything: in education, in media, anything that moves it forward so it doesn’t look the same way it looked last year.”
After losing loved ones in the shooting, Polly Sheppard, Alana Simmons, Nadine Collier, Felicia Sanders and Bethane Middleton-Brown banded together to remember their loved ones – and forgive the killer.
Viola continued, “I cannot imagine their pain. I cannot. But neither could I have imagined your strength and how their response to the tragedy helped move our country and our conversation about race and violence forward,” said Davis as she introduced the women onstage. “They showed us all the healing power for unity and compassion. This is America at its best.”
Shepard, who lost a son in the slaying, kept on with the theme of compassion.
“We need love, not hate. … It’s hate that divides us,” said Shepard, in her acceptance speech. “Let’s imagine the world with each one of us showing [a loving spirit] to the next person every day,” said Shepard. “Now that we have imagined it, let’s do it.”
Concluded Nadine Collier, the daughter of a victim: “Forgiveness is power.”