By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
NORMAN, OK – The University of Oklahoma Women’s and Gender Studies Board of Advisors will host its annual Voices of Justice Gala on Friday, April 21, from 6:30 – 9 p.m. The event will take place in the Grand Hall of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, 2401 Chautauqua Avenue in Norman.
Proceeds will benefit Women’s & Gender Studies’ student internships, scholarships, instructional program support and the WGS Center for Social Justice Activist-in-Residence Program.
Oklahoma State Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, will be the keynote speaker for the event, which will feature a silent auction, a buffet dinner by Abbey Road Catering and jazz music by the Furlough Sextet of Norman.
Four Oklahomans considered “champions in the fight for social justice” will be honored with the organization’s Courage Awards.
Recipients are the Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, executive director and co-founder of Black Lives Matter Oklahoma chapter and the Rev. Lori Walke, associate pastor of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City.
Also honored will be Courage Award co-recipients Kathy Fahl and Kasey Catlett of Norman, director and assistant director, respectively, of OU’s Gender + Equality Center.
“The OU Women’s and Gender Studies Board of Advisors annually recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond in the fight for justice.” Said Gene Callaway, advisory board president.
“We are excited to honor these four outstanding activists and allies this year and to welcome Rep. Emily Virgin, who has been a strong voice for justice in her own work as a legislator, attorney and community volunteer.”
Dickerson, an associate minister for Church of the Open Arms in Oklahoma City, serves on several civic and community advocacy boards, including the Oklahoma City Martin Luther King Coalition, OKC PRIDE, the Diversity Center of Oklahoma and the Black Lives Matter Oklahoma chapter. She serves as secretary of the National Association of Black Social Workers, volunteers with the YWCA Stomping Out Racism Campaign and works with several youth mentoring and advocacy organizations. A published poet, Dickerson is a member of IAO Poetry Committee and the Dramatic Flair’s actors troupe. She is a graduate of Lemoyne Owen College and NOVA Theological Seminary.
Walke earned her law degree from Oklahoma City University and her master of divinity degree from Philips Theological Seminary. After being ordained in the United Church of Christ, she began her ministry at Mayflower. A passionate ally for the LGBTQ community, Walke officiated the marriages of 14 couples the evening marriage equality became legal in Oklahoma (October 2014). That year, she presided over the wedding ceremonies of more than 100 same-sex couples, earning her Freedom Oklahoma’s Ally of the Year Award. She volunteers with Planned Parenthood and the Board of Central Oklahoma Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, also serving as vice chair. Walke is the faith leader organizer of V.O.I.C.E., Voices Organized in Civic Engagement.
A licensed clinical social worker, Fahl is director of OU’s Gender + Equality Center. In 2008, she created the first OU Ally program, a cultural and awareness training that creates an LGBTQ-affirming campus, where more than 4,000 staff, faculty and students have received training. As OU’s Advocates coordinator, Fahl manages a team of 40 volunteer advocates who respond to instances of campus sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking and harassment. In 2014, she was honored as Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers, Oklahoma chapter, and received the Deana M. Franke Moving Upstream Award from the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
Catlett has served as the associate director of LGBTQ and Health Programs at OU’s Gender + Equality Center since 2014. He oversees Ally education and awareness initiatives that support and celebrate LGBTQ students on campus. Last year, he singlehandedly trained over 1,000 new Allies. Catlett is responsible for the center’s health programs, including safer-sex education, breast health awareness and healthy perspectives on body image. Catlett advises student groups, such as the LGBTQ Program Advisory Board, Greek Ally Task Force, Sexperts and Mosaic Executive Committee. Catlett has received the Robert D. Lemon Social Justice Award and in 2017, he received the Promising New Professional Award.
OU Women’s and Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary program that works to enhance students’ knowledge of gender roles and relations across cultures and history. WGS courses investigate the intersection of gender and such diverse phenomena as politics, religion, society, economics, war, communication, music, art, family life and popular culture.
Admission to the gala is $125 per person. Tickets can be purchased online at wgs.ou.edu/voices or by contacting Susy Jorgenson at 405- 325-3481. The deadline for registration is April 15.
For more information, visit wgs.ou.edu.