CHRO Connects: Intersectionality and Social Justice: An Evening with Laverne Cox

“It is revolutionary for any trans person to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.”

Laverne Cox

Revolutionary is a very accurate way to describe Laverne Cox.  Ms. Cox may be best known for her role on the popular show Orange is the New Black as Sophia Burset, a transgender inmate and hair stylist at Litchfield Penitentiary. She was not only nominated for an Emmy award for her role on Orange is the New Black; she made history by becoming the first trans-woman of color to be cast in a leading role on a mainstream television show. In 2013, her character Sophia Burset would become the 4th most influential fictional character, according to Time Magazine.

But, Ms. Cox’s most inspirational role is as an activist and advocate. It is only appropriate that she would go on to become the first trans-woman featured on the cover of Time Magazine.

On Wednesday, April 22, 2015, sponsored by the University of Connecticut Rainbow Center, African American Cultural Center, Women’s Center, Asian American Cultural Center, and Puerto Rican Latin American Cultural Center, and other organizations, Cox addressed a packed Jorgensen theater.

Weaving often humorous but always poignant stories of her life seamlessly with a call to intersectional social justice, she brought attendees to two standing ovations. Evoking the spirits and names of Sojourner Truth, Judith Butler, Bell Hooks and others, Cox challenged everyone listening to work towards a world where safe and peaceful space exists for everyone – spaces that embrace and affirm the entire individual and all aspects of their identity.

Ms. Cox’s talents are hardly limited to the arts. She possesses an incredible ability to open minds and hearts to her vision, one very familiar  the CHRO; justice and equality for all persons.  Her message speaks to our mission, and in our efforts to ensure justice and equality for all persons, it is imperative that our work considers the entire person and the full breadth of experiences as well as all aspects and components of who they are.

While Ms. Cox the actress is fabulous, Ms. Cox the social justice activist is fierce. Empowered and empowering, urging us all to help create the most inclusive world possible. She left her audience with a quote from Professor Cornel West that succinctly summed up her message and the event over all; “Justice is what love looks like in public”. That justice and love must embrace the entire individual.