My sister sent me a text a few weeks ago about a talk Laverne Cox was giving at our university. She asked if I wanted to go, and then forwarded me a link to the university’s student government page where students with tickets to Laverne Cox’s talk could win a chance to meet the famed actress and activist by submitting a short writing response.
“Yeah, maybe I’ll do it,” I said to my sister. “I’m sure I wouldn’t win it, but I could always post it up on my blog.”
A couple of weeks went by before I thought about the writing submission again. I wonder when that short response is due?
I looked up the text on my phone that my sister had sent me and noticed the familiar date. I realized that I only had a few hours before the time would be up, and so I quickly grabbed my laptop and began writing on the day the writing submission was due.
The prompt read: Why would you like to meet Laverne Cox and briefly describe what this opportunity means to you? I thought for a moment about the 250 or so words that we were allowed to write and began typing.
The advocate, actress, and artist, Laverne Cox, has become the popular and well-loved face of a new feminist revolution. Feminism, the advocacy of equal rights of all genders on the grounds of politics, society, and the economy, has been pushed back into the light and has become a large part of my societal identity. Meeting Ms. Laverne Cox would be such an honor and an opportunity to speak with one of the many people who have spoken up and used their voice for advocacy and change.
To be able to encounter a modern day inspiration, as a fellow African American woman, would be nothing short of amazing. In life I try and surround myself with socially, politically, and intellectually aware people in order to learn from them, grow, and develop into a stronger individual. And being granted the opportunity to possibly speak with Ms. Cox would allow me to do so.
She is a wonderful person and an outstanding advocate for the Trans* community. I understand that there are a lot of other Cal State Fullerton students attending the talk who would love to meet her, but I would love to be considered as one of the people who get to do so.
I hit send and assumed that was the end of everything until I the day of the talk. I received a phone call around noon that day from one of the members of the student government. She told me that I had won a meet-and-greet ticket for Laverne Cox after the talk and that they would tell me where to go after the event.
I was incredibly excited and nervous to be given an opportunity to speak with such an influential person. And I was sort of glad that the meet-and-greet wasn’t advertised as much in order for me to be able to be chosen.
Ms. Cox spoke about the various groups with intersectional feminism and how they related to her life and what has been going on in society. She quoted Michael Eric Dyson during her talk before speaking about her own experiences. “Justice is what love sounds like when it speaks in public.”
She highlighted the magnitude of injustices and issues that were associated, not only with the LGBTQIA community, but with other minorities such as race and those with disabilities, and related back to aspects of her own life and experience. She made the whole auditorium laugh, cry, and applaud in a standing ovation. She spoke clearly and eloquently, and left the audience with more knowledge about social issues than when they walked in.
After the talk, I walked with my sister to the room where I would meet Ms. Cox. We lined up outside the small space and quickly walked in after the event organizers opened the door. We ended up forming another line in order to take pictures with Ms. Cox after she walked in. We applauded her once more as she walked up to the area right in front of where the photographer was standing, and waited patiently for our few minutes with Laverne Cox.
“Hello, and what is your name?” Ms. Cox had asked.
I walked up to follow her hand movements motioning me forward and to answer my question. I had to quickly figure out a way to look like I wasn’t going to vomit all over her beautiful shoes.
“Uh, my name is Jasmine,” I responded.
“And what are you studying here?”
“I’m a graduate student in the Communications program.”
“Oh wow!” she said with a smile. “And how is that going?”
“It’s going well. I’m actually graduating next weekend.”
“There must be not a lot of other Black people in your program then.”
“No, I’m the only one in my program. And it’s pretty much only my sister and I here today.”
A glance around the room had shown that I was correct in my previous statements. Ms. Cox, my sister, and I were the only Black people that I could see in the room for the meet-and-greet. And it was in between taking pictures with Ms. Cox that I spoke about the contrast in diversity in various areas of my own life, and how I felt about seeing so few people who looked like me.
It was in that brief conversation with Laverne Cox that the importance of minority representation in media and popular culture was revealed. Having examples of people, who are just like you, is not only incredibly encouraging to see, but it is also crucial for individuals in the minority to succeed.
Ms. Laverne Cox’s audience, not only that day, but throughout the entirety of her public career, has been inspired, educated, and encouraged to achieve greatness and to pursue their dreams. Seeing one person stand up and make a change only creates more people to stand as well. Which makes the world one step closer towards a more positive and just society.
2 thoughts on “The Meet and Greet with Laverne Cox”
Jasmine, what a beautiful piece AND a wonderful opportunity for you and the other students. Like you, I am often the only black person in the room or at a program. But, if someone else shows up, there’s an instant connection. We are in on something the rest of the people are not.
You’re right that seeing someone who looks like you is encouraging and lets you know that you, too, can do whatever you wish. I remember, as a guest teacher, walking into a 3rd grade classroom in a mostly white school. The two little black girls, who sat near the front, looked at each other with great surprise when I appeared. One of them said with wonder, “She’s black!” and they squealed and smiled. The importance of my being there dawned on me then. Not just for those two girls, but every other child in the room needed to see someone who looked like me conducting the class.
Congratulations on your accomplishments, Jasmine. You are one who our kids will be looking up to.
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Thank you 🙂