Actress Viola Davis
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Whenever mainstream news organizations cover Africa, they always seem to want to show the bad stuff: the poverty and the hunger that plague some communities.

It irks my dad no end; he says that if they turned their cameras to a few neighborhoods right here in America, they'd see people who are living in very similar conditions. 

Viola Davis can attest to that reality. 

The Academy Award-nominated actress is turning 50 on Aug. 11, and as reported by the New York Daily News, she explains in an interview with AARP magazine how it's caused her to look back on her difficult childhood, since she grew up dirt-poor. 

"Most of the time, the school lunch was the only meal I had," Davis recalls. "I would befriend kids whose mothers cooked three meals a day and go to their homes when I could."

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She also vividly remembers the racism she experienced, a double whammy, since not only did she have to come to grips with her family's poverty, but she also had to learn how to navigate the world as a black person. 

"People would throw things out of cars and call us the n-word. It was constant," Davis said.

Survival is our first and most passionate instinct, and Davis remembers that when she didn't have food, she shoplifted to get some but was scared straight when she got caught. 

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"The store owner screamed at me to get out, looking at me like I was nothing, and the shame of that forced me to stop," Davis said.

She's learning to come to terms with what she endured, and not to be so ashamed of that time in her life. 

"Turning 50 is making me reflect on my life in a way that's more compassionate and forgiving," Davis said. "I'm able to almost accept the old me."

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Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features expert advice with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.

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