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    LGBTA activist and "Orange is the New Black" actor Laverne Cox spoke to a full house in B.N. Duke Auditorium on Sept. 24. Cox plays the character of Sophia Burset in the Netflix series now in its second season.

LGBT activist Laverne Cox speaks to overflow audience about her life

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Actress and LGBT advocate Laverne Cox spoke at  N.C. Central University’s  second Lyceum Series program at 7 p.m. on Sept. 24.

Nearly an hour before the show, students and guests lined up outside B.N. Duke Auditorium. Thirty minutes before the program, every seat was occupied, creating an overflow into the Hubbard-Totton Chemistry Building auditorium.

The program opened with an empowering and vibrant performance from NCCU’s modeling troupe, De Haute Allure. Trinice McNally, the Mistress of Ceremonies, thanked the models, the LGBTA community and campus organizations the Lavender Project and C.O.L.O.R.S. “North Carolina Central University is the first to have an LGBT center on their campus in the state of North Carolina,” said McNally.

Deatrin Sutton, the Master of Ceremonies, introduced Cox with a list of her accomplishments in film and in the LGBTA community, accompanied by a round of applause as she walked on stage with an ear-to-ear smile and wearing a warm orange ensemble.

“I stand here before you tonight a proud African-American transgender woman,” Cox said opening her speech. Cox said it’s important to claim your identity in public with pride. She provided troubling statistics of bullying, homicide, suicide and incarceration rates in the LGBT community. “It is a state of emergency,” she said citing Cornell West’s words that “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

Cox plays the groundbreaking role of “Sophia Burset” in the Netflix series, “Orange is the New Black,” as an incarcerated African-American transgender woman. She is the first transgender woman of color to have a leading role in a mainstream television show.

Cox said she has been inspired by Sojourner Truth’s famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech. This was her motivation during her upbringing while coming to terms with her identity.

During the question-and-answer session students asked about her transition from male to female and how she came to terms with her identity. “I was lucky to have a mother who always loved me and was always in my life,” said Cox.

When one student asked when found pride in her life, she replied, “It’s a process. It’s something I continue to work on. My artistic space has been very empowering.”

The Campus Echo is the official student newspaper of N.C. Central University, an HBCU in Durham with about 8,250 students. The Campus Echo is one of the most highly recognized HBCU student newspapers in the nation. In the last 15 years our print and online editions have won over 250 national and regional awards from the Black College Communication Association, the Society for Professional Journalists, the Associated Collegiate Press and the North Carolina College Media Association.

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