Loretta Ross is an expert on women’s issues, racism, and human rights. Her work emphasizes the intersectionality of social justice issues and how this transforms social change.
Ross is a nationally-recognized women's rights and human rights leader. She was a co-founder and the National Coordinator, from 2005 to 2012, of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, a network of women of color and allied organizations that organize women of color in the reproductive justice movement.
Other leadership positions have included:
- National Co-Director of the April 25, 2004 March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C., the largest protest march in U.S. history with more than one million participants.
- Founder and Executive Director of the National Center for Human Rights Education (NCHRE)
- Program Research Director at the Center for Democratic Renewal/National Anti-Klan Network where she led projects researching hate groups, and working against all forms of bigotry with universities, schools, and community groups.
- Founder of the Women of Color Program for the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the 1980s
- Leading many women of color delegations to international conferences on women's issues and human rights.
Ross is a co-author of Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice (Outstanding Book Award by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights), and author of “The Color of Choice” chapter in Incite! Women of Color Against Violence. She has written extensively on the history of African American women and reproductive justice activism and is a member of the Women's Media Center's Progressive Women's Voices. Ross appears regularly in major media outlets about the issues of our day.
Ross is a rape survivor, was forced to raise a child born of incest, and is a survivor of sterilization abuse. She is a model of how to survive and thrive despite the traumas that disproportionately affect low-income women of color. She is a nationally-recognized trainer on using the transformative power of Reproductive Justice to build a Human Rights movement that includes everyone.
Ross serves as a consultant for Smith College, collecting oral histories of feminists of color for the Sophia Smith Collection which also contains her personal archives.
She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and holds an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law degree awarded in 2003 from Arcadia University and a second honorary doctorate degree awarded from Smith College in 2013. She is pursuing a PhD in Women’s Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. She is a mother, grandmother and a great-grandmother.
LECTURE TOPICS AND DESCRIPTIONS
Sexual Assault on Campus
When Loretta Ross was 16 years old, she was raped on a college campus. The experience inspired her to volunteer at the Washington DC Rape Crisis Center in 1979, the first rape crisis center in the country. Yet 35 years later, rape and sexual harassment on campus are still widespread. One in five women are sexually assaulted in college. Yet most colleges and universities have yet to forge a consistent and strong response to this crime again women.
Speaking out as the issue permeates the headlines, Ross is a powerful voice on behalf of women's human rights. She urges us to start a new conversation about campus rape and assault which does not blame young women for their clothes or drinking, and counters the narrative that sanitizes these brutal realities through the schools' media machines.
Reproductive Justice as Human Rights
Reproductive Justice moves beyond choice and access to abortion. The term was coined by African American women, including Ross, in 1994, following the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt. It is a broader term that uses a human rights framework and also looks at reproductive oppression, sterilization abuse, immigration restrictions, gun culture, rape culture, the prison-to-school pipeline, etc. This presentation covers all aspects of Reproductive Justice which is becoming the primary framework new voices in the movement are using to move beyond the paralyzing debates of abortion politics.
Appropriate Whiteness is a lecture series based on Ross' experience doing anti-Klan and anti-white supremacy organizing. It is directed at young people who want to move beyond the hurtful, hardened racial patterns of the past and live more intersectional lives. It explores how technology can play a role in easing and crossing rigid boundaries. The lecture addresses situations of racial awkwardness and fears of "messing up." It helps normalize discussions of race with a frank analysis of what to do and not to do in moving forward difficult dialogues.