‘We are unstoppable’
EMMY award-winning actress Dr Sheryl Lee Ralph on Sunday gave a powerful rendition of the first verse of the song titled Endangered Species as she reminded Jamaican women of their strength and resilience, encouraging them to stand united and empower each other.
“‘I am an endangered species, but I sing no victim’s song. I am a woman, I am an artist, and I know where my voice belongs,'” Ralph said.
She was the guest speaker at the People’s National Party (PNP) Women’s Movement’s 50th Anniversary Annual Conference at The Cedar Grove Academy in Portmore, St Catherine. She told the audience — of mostly women — to recognise that their strength lies in their collective voice, “because when we come together, we are unstoppable”.
“Sisterhood is a gift — a gift that transcends borders and reminds us in our shared and varied experiences [that] together we can uplift and empower one another,” Ralph said.
“If one of us is doing well, it is up to us to reach back and help the other. It is not good enough to rise alone. We must rise together,” she added.
Ralph then asked the audience if they felt she reached where she was by herself. “Hell no! Somebody took me by the hand,” she responded to her own query, crediting the founding President of the PNP Women’s Movement Beverley Manley Duncan for guiding her during her younger years.
“It is an honour for me to stand here with you today as I am able to give one of my greatest mentors, Beverley Manley, her flowers today. I want to say thank you to this woman for taking me by the hand as a child and having me spend weekends with her… and showed me how to represent as a little black girl, to be proud of who I was, to push my shoulders back and go in front of the world — young, gifted and black,” she said.
Ralph further shared her belief that “a change is coming and it is a change that will be led by women”, and asked the women in the audience if they were ready to take their place.
“So woman, nuh cry. Get ready, because it is your time; it is woman time. Stand up! Are you ready to take your place?” she said, as the women in the audience stood on cue and cheered.
Ralph’s speech, though brief, aptly captured the conference’s theme: “Time Come — Igniting Sisterhood for Change.”
The American-born actress, author, singer, and social activist, who has Jamaican heritage, was last year bestowed with the Order of Jamaica, the nation’s fifth-highest honour, for her sterling contribution as an actress, cultural ambassador of Jamaica and for contribution to the international film industry.
She also won the Emmy Award last year for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard in the ABC sitcom Abbott Elementary. She has been nominated for another Emmy Award.
Ralph is also among a new group of entertainment professionals selected to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In May this year, she was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from her alma mater, Rutgers University, where she created history in 1972 as the youngest graduate at age 19.