From left, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle, Santa Barbara County Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf, keynote speaker Dr. Rachael Ross, event chair Wendy Sims-Moten and First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal at the fourth annual African-American Women in Santa Barbara County luncheon. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

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“Coming Together and Being Together” was again the overarching theme at the fourth annual African-American Women in Santa Barbara County luncheon held at The Fess Parker as women gathered to celebrate the bonds of sisterhood.

“The African-American Women’s Luncheon is more than a moment in time once a year,” event chair Wendy Sims-Moten said. “It is affirmation and assurance of strength and power of who we are as women when we come together. It is also an opportunity to educate, elevate the voices, motivate, celebrate and strengthen the bonds of sisterhood.” 

The spirited celebration encompassed a room full of dynamic women who have excelled in various avenues of life, and the event has become an OASIS (Our Annual Sanctuary in Sisterhood) for women from Santa Barbara County and beyond to share their journeys, connect with one another and be inspired by growing network within the community.

“There is no greater feeling of inspiration than that of coming together and being together with others who understand and share your experiences,” Sims-Moten said.

Stylishly donned guests dressed in a blend of business attire and Sunday dress eagerly arrived at the hotel for a celebratory event that began with a lively dance performance by Lorease Amey that continued with music provided by Kevin Miller, DJ Old School.

Welcoming messages and introductions were followed by the keynote speaker, Dr. Rachael Ross, a practicing board-certified family medicine physician and sexologist, who is also a co-host on the Emmy-winning television talk show The Doctors.

Dr. Ross earned a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University, an M.D. from Meharry Medical College and her Ph.D. from the American Academy of Clinical Sexologists.

She is referred to as an expert by both Self and Cosmopolitan magazines, while also contributing to various medical publications. Her busy schedule also includes speaking nationwide at college campuses.

Her groundbreaking work spread through the power of media includes discussions of abstinence, health, sex, relationships, HIV/AIDS prevention and comprehensive sex education for teenagers.

Ross comes from a family steeped in the practice of medicine with her father, Dr. David Ross, and brother, Dr. Nathaniel Ross, both practicing in her hometown of Gary, Ind., with her mother, Ruthie, providing office support. Additionally, her sister, Rebekkah, was also a practicing physician until passing away in 2011, from sickle cell anemia complications. Dr. Rachael Ross currently lives in Chicago but works with her family to maintain the practice in Gary.

“People always ask me, how did you become a doctor, and how did you do this, and one thing I always have to mention is that I have a great family,” Ross said. “My mom, and all four of us are physicians, and my mom every day when she was giving us a bath she’d say that one day you’re going to be a doctor.”

It is this support system and positive belief that Ross shared were a catalyst in how her life developed to where she is today and how these messages ring strong in the belief of sisterhood and a strong network of support.  

“If you really think about something hard enough, and if you really are sure enough about it, and if you’re really speaking it and doing it, it always happens,” Ross said.

This year’s event was represented by First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf, who spoke to the crowd and offered support.

“It’s absolutely important for people who share similar experiences and values to come together to feel supported, to network with one another, to get that foundation that sometimes we lack in society at large because we’re different,” Carbajal told Noozhawk. “And to be able to feel empowered and to go out and be empowered, to take your rightful place in our community in any capacity that we desire. And to motivate, inspire and model the way for others as well.

“And as a person of color myself, I think we need more of this because we need to be able to feel supported, integrated into the community, welcomed into the community and at the end of the day to be encouraged to be able to achieve the things that we want to achieve for this great community that we all live in.”

Event committee member and Santa Barbara’s newest poet laureate, Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle, also shared a poem with the crowd, “We Are All Queens.”

A spirited and successful raffle was capped by networking opportunities for the crowd of inspired women.

“I had a great time and it felt great to donate to the raffle,” said Cherri, who is starting a hair business for women of color, Majaie’s Expressions, with a grand opening scheduled in Ventura on May 9 from 1 to 5 p.m. “Listening to the inspirational speech of Dr. Rachael Ross was the best part for me. She gave me some confidence in the starting of my own business.”

For more information about the African-American Women in Santa Barbara County, visit Facebook by clicking here or send an email to

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.