March 30, 2018 • #GirlBoss

Real Women, Real Clothes: Patricia Williams Lessane, PhD of The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center

Patricia Williams Lessane, PhD is the next impressive woman in our “Real Women, Real Clothes” series.

Residing in South Carolina, the executive director of The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture is the definition of a role model, someone who’s using her powerful voice to influence and push for change.

After earning a BA in English from Fisk University, a MALS from Dartmouth College, and a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Patricia eventually found herself at The College of Charleston–after time spent working at Roosevelt University and  The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

Part of her current role includes the opportunity to mentor students and young professional women.

She says, “This is OUR time, and we have to seize the moment and we have to bring younger women along. It’s our duty!”

Clearly, Patricia’s own words speak for themselves, so we’ll keep this introduction short.

Tell us about yourself.

I am the executive director of The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. I am a tenured faculty member and teach African American Studies courses.

I write about the intersections of race, class, and gender in black people’s lives, and I recently completed a young adult novel in partnership with In This Together Media titled “Lowcountry,” which is set in Charleston. Stay tuned for publication date!

What’s the best piece of life advice you’ve ever received?

What’s for me is for me, so when a door doesn’t open, I know it isn’t my door.

The doors to my opportunities, blessings, journeys, and adventures always, always open for me.

What’s the favorite part of your work day?

First thing in the morning when I get into my office and I turn on my space heater–all year long because it’s always too cold in the summer due to the air conditioning and too cold in the winter because, well, it’s winter–and it’s quiet, I look out my window and see palm trees and orange and banana trees in the yard next to the research center.

Just for a few minutes, I feel like I’m in paradise.

What do you do to give back to your community?

I always try to speak truth to power when it comes to issues around race, gender, and class. Always. I do this in my writing—I often write op-eds about pertinent issues plaguing our community and that negatively impact our students and African American people here in the Lowcountry.

I also speak quite a bit at churches, conferences, and to students about how symbiotic African American history and culture is to American history and culture. I mean African American history and culture is American history and culture.

On Patricia: Utility Jacket

How would you describe your everyday style?

A mix of preppy-bohemian-funky-feminine

What drew you to these particular Draper James pieces?

I love a great jacket/cape. I feel grown-up and sophisticated in a well-tailored jacket.

And those pants are so flattering. Either with the jacket or the blouse, the look is sleek and feminine. But I can wear both to work or to brunch or even, ahem, on a date, should that ever happen!

What’s the one thing you can’t live without?

Just one? It’s a tie between MAC Russian Red Lipstick and Tom Ford Oud Wood and Black Orchid. Yummy!

What’s your favorite thing about living in the South?

The topography. It’s such beautiful country. I love being surrounded by palmetto trees, the marsh, the ocean, crepe myrtles, and magnolia trees.

It’s whimsical, magical, and awe-inspiring. I have to say that being here immersed in Gullah culture is equally amazing. The resilience and rich culture of these people continues to enrich and inspire me!

Do you have a favorite “Southernism”?

“Y’all” of course! I grew up being scolded for using the colloquial term! Love it!

I feel like it unifies people from all walks of life!

Photos by Anne Rhett Photography