Star of the hit ABC television show, “black-ish,” Tracee Ellis Ross has long used her platform and voice to champion causes important to her, advocating for equity, inclusivity and acceptance, which closely align with the core values and mission of the Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls.
The Emmy-winning actress, producer and activist will be the keynote speaker at the fund’s annual luncheon April 4 at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich. The fund is the largest women’s fund in New England. Its 2018 luncheon, which featured Billie Jean King as keynote speaker, raised over $700,000 and drew a crowd of more than 800 supporters.
“We’re honored and delighted to welcome Tracee Ellis Ross as our keynote speaker,” said Tricia Hyacinth, director of the Fund for Women & Girls. “‘Brave Bold You’ is our theme this year, and we believe that theme embodies not just Tracee Ellis Ross but also the work that we do each and every day to improve the lives of women and young girls in communities in our area.”
Echoing her sentiments, foundation CEO Juanita James noted some of the roles and the topics Ross takes on in her television show really delve into both the complexity and challenges and the opportunities women face.
“And she does it in a way that is thoughtful, insightful and compelling but really quite engaging and humorous,” James said. “She brings in a larger audience and exposes them to the challenges that we face whether it’s challenges with respect to unconscious bias or conscious bias, so it is completely in line with the Fund for Women and Girls and what we are trying to do and with the foundation of what we are trying to do.”
Ross became the first black woman to open the annual TED conference with her 2018 talk “A Woman’s Fury Holds Lifetimes of Wisdom.” She is a co-founding signatory of Time’s Up, a movement against sexual harassment founded by Hollywood celebrities in response to the #MeToo movement, and is a three-time NAACP Image Award winner.
Since 1998, the Fund for Women and Girls has invested over $6.5 million in grants to programs serving females ages 5 to 90 and in the last two years alone has helped an average of 10,000 annually. Through a renewable grant totaling $100,000, it launched an innovative collaboration in 2018 with five local non-profits to end sexual violence in Fairfield County
Among its outreach efforts, the fund is supporting three key areas: safety, health (behavioral as well as reproductive) and economic security, ensuring that lower income women have access to college education so they can complete their education, whether it be with an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, be able to support themselves (and families if they have children) and enter promising careers, Hyacinth explained.
Among the women the fund has helped is Rebecca DelValle of Ansonia, who learned about the fund’s Family Economic Security Program (FESP) in partnership with Housatonic Community College when she enrolled as a freshman there.
“My experience with FESP has been amazing, as far as the workshops they have done and the one-on-one advising and the coaching they have given us,” Rebecca said, noting FESP was able to give her emergency funds to cover repairs to her hard drive when her computer crashed and she was not able to get her homework done. FESP staff also kept Rebecca motivated and taught her and her husband, Rich, financial literacy skills.
“When I felt like giving up, my FESP counselors were there to encourage me saying,‘You got this’ and ‘You’ll be fine.’”
Rebecca has worked hard to overcome a troubled childhood that culminated in her leaving home at 16, having her first child at 17 and struggling with drugs in the past. She is graduating from Housatonic with honors in May and will start at University of Bridgeport this fall. Rebecca, along with her husband, who is also enrolled at HCC and the FESP, will be featured speakers at the luncheon, sharing their story with attendees and how the program has made such a significant positive impact on their family.
“We are very excited about this luncheon, we actually still have some tickets available,” James said. “It will be an afternoon of unforgettable inspiration and humor and connectedness with other women as well as hearing more about the work and how it is impacting some of the young people that have benefited from our programs — in addition to hearing the inspirational words of Tracee Ellis Ross.”
For more information, visit fccfoundation.org/fwg or call 203-750-3200.