Meet our Board

2018-2019 Board of Directors 


Charnessa Ridley


President, Executive Committee
Member Organization: North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA)

Charnessa Ridley is the Technical Assistance Coordinator for North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA). In this role she focuses on meeting the needs of rape crisis center staff and advocates through training, education, resource development and resource sharing.  In her time with NCCASA she has also held the position of Forensic Compliance Specialist and Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator; both roles included exploring systemic approaches that would improve multi-disciplinary responses to victims of rape and sexual assault.

Charnessa received her B.S. in Criminal Justice from Elizabeth City State University, and her Executive MPA from North Carolina Central University. In 2018 she became an Instructor for East Carolina University, where she currently teaches Leadership Studies in the Political Science department.

Charnessa is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and serves on the leadership council for North Carolina Black Women’s Roundtable.


Pat Orange 


Membership Director
Member Organization: Women's Forum of NC

Patricia Orange, a life long advocate for women's issues and concerns, was born and educated in Buffalo, NY.  Upon retiring, she moved to Raleigh, NC and became active in a number of women's organizations, serving as an officer and on the Boards of NARAL ProChoice NC, League of Women Voters, Blueprint NC, and the Women's Forum of NC. In 2010 she became the convening chair of NC Women Matter, a project of the Women's Forum, which is a coalition of women's organizations from across the state focusing on women's issues and getting out the female vote. 

Portia Taylor 

Portia Taylor is a native of Durham, NC. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she studied psychology, Africana studies, and women’s and gender studies. Portia plans to make a life long effort of using community  experiences and her own intellect to consistently and thoughtfully extend her talents to the social, political, and economic movements of North Carolinians. In her spare time, Portia enjoys wine tasting, culinary freestyling, Grouponing and visiting museums.

Lyric Thompson

Policy Director

Lyric Thompson is a women's rights advocate, speaker and professor based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Currently she is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), where she leads the institution’s formulation of evidence-based policy recommendations and manages ICRW’s advocacy efforts with the U.S. Government and internationally. She is an adjunct professor at the George Washington University, where she teaches a graduate level course on women’s rights advocacy.

Lyric is on the board of NC Women United, and leads or is a member of a number of advocacy coalitions on women’s rights issues, including Girls Not Brides USA, the Coalition for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Equality, the Coalition to End Gender-Based Violence Globally, the U.S. Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls. She is on the Editorial Board of Apolitical, and writes regularly on gender and foreign policy for such outlets as Ms., Huffington Post, Devex, The Hill, Thomson-Reuters Foundation and openDemocracy.

In 2018, Lyric was named as one of the Gender Equality Top 100 by the public policy platform Apolitical. In 2016, Lyric was honored by Professional Women in Advocacy for Excellence in a Campaign for Women Serving Women, recognizing her leadership advocating with the U.S. government for the world’s first piece of foreign policy dedicated to the rights and empowerment of adolescent girls. In 2011, Diplomatic Courier Magazine named her among the Top 99 Under 33 Young Professionals Impacting Foreign Policy.

Tara Romano


Immediate Past President
Member Organization: NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina

Tara Romano has been involved with NCWU since 2006, when she co-coordinated the 2006 Wake Women's Agenda Assembly. She joined the board in 2008, and was President from 2013-2017.  Tara has been active in the women's movement in North Carolina for more than a decade and believes that public policy informed by women's actual experiences, and with women's input, is a key component of building a more just and equitable North Carolina. She is the Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina. In 1999, Tara climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.


Want to join our board? Check out vacant positions below. If you are interested in joining, email us at
Vacant Positions:
Vice President
Outreach Director
Technology Director
Communications Director
One each Eastern/Western NC board liaison


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