Actor, Producer Tracee Ellis Ross Pushes Empowerment at N.C. A&T’s Speaker Series

By Tonya Dixon / 10/06/2022

North Carolina A&T kicked off the fall 2022-23 Chancellor’s Speaker Series in a major way Oct. 4. Special guest speaker Tracee Ellis Ross was warmly welcomed to a sold-out Harrison Auditorium filled with hundreds of excited students and friends eager to hear the night’s conversation, “Empowered: A Conversation About Women’s Rights.”

From the moment the curtains opened, the anticipation was high and the discussion never waned. Ross greeted the crowd with her best and heartfelt “Aggie Pride,” to which the audience happily responded in kind. It was clear the tone was set.

Ross and moderator, alumna and obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Nicole Rankins settled into an engaging conversation that touched on health and welfarewellness, representation, success, and self-empowerment.

In response to her thoughts on the implicit requirement that women must overproduce for equal treatment, Ross said that not only are women enough, but women are worthy and powerful: “Those are facts. Even though the world doesn’t always mirror that back.”

After exploring the complexities and obstacles women have historically had to overcome, the conversation turned toward entrepreneurship, specifically how women are breaking barriers and developing the products and services they want and need. Ross shared the evolution of her haircare line, Pattern Beauty.

“Pattern has been 10 years in the making,” she said. “I’m excited to have total creative control.”

Ross said she certainly endured doubt, but she knew what she wanted and was willing to wait until she could provide a product she was proud to offer. “I want to promise something with the [Pattern Beauty] brand … everything with the company runs through the mission.”

Touching on the recent Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, Ross and Rankins shared their concerns in a moment that nearly silenced the room.

Out of the country at the time of the announcement, Ross said she was overwhelmed and had to gather her thoughts through journaling. “I am worthy. I am more than the parts of my body. I am a whole being,” she said in summation.

She added that the antitdote to fear, whenever it creeps in, is being well informed. “Getting information is part of being empowered,” she said.

“We should all have the right to whatever happens in our bodies. Full stop,” said Rankins. “Historically, as women, we haven’t had control over our own bodies.”

As the conversation drew to a close, Ross discussed how she has evolved and grown into the woman she is today, the importance of intentionality with your own path, advocating for one another and the power of voting.

“Even as a child, when I saw things unfair, I think that was me beginning to be a figher for justice and showing up for others,” she said. “My freedom is inextricably tied to yours and others. I have decided to be intentional and purposeful about how I use my voice and the agency I have.

“Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Genuinely make space for yourself in the world and honor your heart. Don’t live a life that’s anyone’s but your own. I just want you guys to thrive.”

Media Contact Information: tddixon1@ncat.edu

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