Actress and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph: ‘Vote successfully and correctly, like your life depends upon it’

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Sheryl Lee Ralph

Abolitionists, feminists and politicians. Women have been at the forefront as catalysts for change which would only stand to reason, as their natural agency is to labor, birthing the new.  From the activism of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors to Tarana Burke, founder of the “Me Too” movement, the current generation of empowered female leaders channels the pioneering spirit of their steadfast foremothers

SNHU welcomed a distinguished panel of Black women for its virtual 14th annual Black New England Conference Black Women Rock, one of whom was the dazzlingly age-defying diva extraordinaire, Sheryl Lee Ralph.

In the light of ongoing social protest and the most recent contentious and heartbreaking ruling in the case of Breonna Taylor, Ralph’s crucial message was overwhelmingly clear. 

“VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! Black women will be the deciding power of success. Vote successfully and correctly, like your life depends upon it,” Ralph says. 

Loretta Devine, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Deborah Burrell in “Dreamgirls.”

The Tony and NAACP Image Award-nominated, Spirit Award-winning actress and activist Ralph, an OBC (original Broadway Cast) member of Dreamgirls, who performed the glamorized role of Deena for the six-time Tony Award-winning Broadway play, and also played the role of Dee on the ‘90s sitcom “Moesha,” delivered fire on multiple levels. She discussed health, sisterhood and personal power with the virtuosity and the passionate urgency of an evangelist, causing her audience to cling to her every affirmation, no doubt a byproduct of her invigorating personality and confident energy. The only thing missing was a pulpit, a gospel organist and a tambourine ‒ and had that been available, her virtual audience would have been struck with the spirit while staring at their iPads. Here are a few of Ralph’s quote-worthy statements, that will surely serve you now and in the future:

“There is a lot of power in women supporting each other and that kind of power can change the world for the better.”

“I celebrate all women who celebrate sisterhood.”

“Sometimes you have to thank God for your haters.”

“Sometimes you have to be very uncomfortable to steady yourself.”

“I want to know how someone else feels and thinks.”

“Some people think it’s impossible for you, because it hasn’t been possible for them.”

“Don’t sit on the sidelines of your life.”

“Do the best with what you have right where you are.”

“Don’t underestimate the power of you.”

Sheryl Lee Ralph

Ralph also touched on her DIVA (Divinely Inspired Victoriously Aware) foundation, which raises awareness of HIV/AIDS, her personal experience with victims of the disease in comparison to the current pandemic and her frustration with the blatant blanketed lack of empathy on the part of the current administration stating, “Its history repeating itself…who are we not going to care about next?”

This year’s conference included panels on the following topics:

  • Black Women as Purveyors of Change
  • Body Politics & Movements Toward the Sacred
  • Black Women’s Present-Day Leadership & Activism
  • Activism Through the Arts
  • Black Women in Electoral Politics
  • The Next Generation

The Black New England Conference 2020 was held Sept. 25 and 26 and was presented by the Black Heritage Trail of NH in Partnership with SNHU.  Click here for more information.


Constance Cherise is a classic film aficionado and also freelances for TCM.com. Reach her at constance.cherise@gmail.com. Review her portfolio here.