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2012 Award Recipients

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II | 2012 Gala Keynote and Special Award for Extraordinary Leadership

Rev. Dr. WIlliam J. Barber

Rev. Dr. WIlliam J. Barber

Equality NC Foundation is proud to announce that this year's keynote speaker for the 2012 Equality Gala on November 17 will be the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, II, President of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. Equality NC Foundation will also present Rev. Barber with a special award for extraordinary leadership to honor his groundbreaking work against Amendment One. Rev. Barber serves as pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, a 120-year-old congregation with over 400 members and 30 active ministries. He is chairperson of the Rebuilding Broken Places Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit organization involved with building affordable single family homes and senior citizen housing and providing job training, affordable child care, and inner city revitalization in Goldsboro.

Rev. Barber has held adjunct faculty positions at both Duke University and North Carolina Central University, and is the author of the book Preaching Through Unexpected Pain. He graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Public Administration from NC Central University, earned his Master of Divinity from the Duke Divinity School, and his doctoral degree from Drew University in Madison, NJ. He has served as executive director for the NC Human Relations Commission, appointed by Governor James B. Hunt, and is a noted advocate for social justice issues in North Carolina.

Rep. Larry Hall | 2012 Legislative Leadership Award

Rep. Larry Hall

Rep. Larry Hall

Equality NC Foundation is proud to announce that North Carolina Representative Larry Hall will be the recipient of our 2012 Legislative Leadership Award to be presented at this year's Equality Gala on November 17, in Greensboro. One of the strongest opponents of Amendment One, Rep. Hall is a four-term incumbent from anti-Amendment One Durham County, representing District 29. He is a Democratic "Whip" and permanently endeared himself to us during last year's heated legislative fight to stop Amendment One when he joined fellow representatives from the North Carolina General Assembly and North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP to speak out at press conferences, rallies, forums, and even later at the 2011 Equality Conference about its harms, calling it "the wrong way to go."

Hall, a former 1st vice president and executive committee member of the Durham Chapter of the NAACP, as well as life member of the NAACP, is also a decorated United States Marine Corps infantry officer. He also served for two terms as chairman of the NC Black Leadership Caucus and as a member of the State Economic Development Board. He is currently the chair of the State Courts Commission and a member of the State Innovation Council. And he is the recipient of the 2012 NC Justice Center’s “Defender of Justice Award.”

Sammi Kiley | Equality NC Foundation's Inaugural Student Leadership Award

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Sammi Kiley

As a proud Salem College woman, Samantha "Sammi" Kiley is a leading advocate for equality on campus and in the community. Sammi first became deeply involved with Equality NC Foundation through RACE TO THE BALLOT, an education and engagement effort that empowered students to take action against Amendment One on their campuses. Not only did this Equality NC Student Ambassador work collaboratively to organize the Winston-Salem anti-Amendment One kickoff event, she also worked for six months with students at Salem College and other area campuses and faith-based organizations, building up to a massive get-out-the-vote effort that registered and turned out a record number of students for our Amendment One fight.

Sammi worked tirelessly to mobilize student support for the Salem College student government to pass a resolution in strong opposition to Amendment One. She became a local voice for the campaign, speaking out about LGBTQ issues through an array of media outlets, and was able to hold her own as a young queer woman during a live televised panel among leading pro-Amendment advocates. She also led the effort to pass a resolution against Amendment One through the Winston-Salem City Council through meetings with council members and Mayor Allen Joines.

Sammi is now starting a new year--her junior year--at Salem leading get-out-the-vote efforts for pro-equality candidates and has already started working to effectuate fully-inclusive employment non-discrimination in her Triad city in the hopes that students like her won't have to go back into the closet when they enter the workforce.

Reverend Jasmine Beach-Ferrara
 | 2012 Bob Page Equality Champion for the Western Region

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara grew up in Chapel Hill in the 80's and 90's and as a gay kid, it was hard to imagine a future in which she'd live in North Carolina as an out adult, doing LGBT rights work. She told us, “That I have the opportunity to do so today reflects the hard work that people have been doing in our state for a long time, and I'm deeply grateful for this. I remember what it was like during high school, as I started to understand that I was gay. There were times when it was hard and, on those days, small things like reading an article about Sharon Thompson, Mandy Carter, or Mike Nelson would make a difference, giving me hope that someday I'd have the courage to come out. In this way, I came to understand the impact that one person can have by being out and speaking simple truths.”

The work Jasmine is doing with the Campaign for Southern Equality and the WE DO Campaign is based on simple truths: that LGBT people are fully equal, that discriminatory laws which deny this must change, and that the urgency of our situation calls for us to act now. She and her dedicated colleagues think that LGBT people and allies in the South have a powerful—and unique—role to play in achieving equality under federal law. She notes, “I feel very blessed to do this work. These days that means traveling the South as we prepare for the next stage of the WE DO Campaign, which will take place in January 2013 with actions in up to eight Southern states. Hearing people's stories and watching the strength and grace with which they navigate the realities of being a LGBT person in the South is what makes me so hopeful about what we can do together. We are proud to be a partner with Equality North Carolina, which does such vital work in our state, and look forward to that collaboration continuing to grow.”

 Jasmine lives in Asheville with her wife Meghann Burke.

Chris McLeod & Krista Tillman | 
2012 Bob Page Equality Champions for the Charlotte Region

Chris McLeod

Chris McLeod

An attorney with twenty years of fundraising experience, Chris McLeod is the president of GIVING MATTERS, INC., a consulting firm that specializes in providing planned giving counsel to nonprofits, churches, and educational institutions.

Chris grew up in Durham in the 60’s and 70’s, and lived in Washington, DC, and Chapel Hill for several years, so she never gave much thought to the notion of gay rights since she had always lived in gay friendly communities. In her early 30’s, she began to hear heartbreaking stories from her gay friends about their estrangement from their families and their inability to share their true selves at school and at work, and she became increasingly aware of the depth and breadth of pain they suffered and the impact of the hostile culture on their lives. However, it wasn’t until she moved to Charlotte in 2004 that Chris began to think of herself as an activist and advocate for gay rights. After complaining to several friends and colleagues about the conservative climate in Charlotte, Chris was invited to join the board of The Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund to contribute her fundraising expertise. In a matter of a few years, Chris began to be recognized as a point person for other straight allies who wanted to make a difference in the climate of Charlotte.

Krista Tillman

Krista Tillman

Krista Tillman and her family moved to Charlotte in 2000 to serve as the president of North Carolina operations for BellSouth. Community work has been a large part of her life since moving to Charlotte, especially focused on using the energy and resources of the business community to tackle some of the state's most critical social issues such as K-12 education and economic development. During the Charlotte Chamber’s intercity visit to Seattle in June 2011, many of the business community attendees discussed the need to be more open and inviting to the creative class and the LGBT community, similar to the atmosphere in Seattle where the LGBT community is openly embraced. 

In the summer of 2011, Chris was asked by the president of the local community foundation to help Krista Tillman get connected in the LGBT community and build a vision for a more welcoming and affirming community for LGBT members and their families. Krista and Chris began referring to their effort as “Straight Allies Charlotte,” believing they needed to educate and enroll straight people in Charlotte to effect the necessary cultural change in the Charlotte community.

While the effort began before Amendment One was placed on the ballot, Chris and Krista organized an effort to raise over $30,000 from a broadly representative group of individuals to fight Amendment One, distributed over 2,500 Straight Allies yard signs, and used their network to encourage many prominent community leaders to speak out and agree to be videotaped about their opposition to Amendment One. By having an organization focused on straight supporters, Straight Allies Charlotte has compelled hundred's of "straights" to ask to be part of the movement, to speak out against prejudice, and to continue dialogue and work for equal rights for all.

Reverend Julie Peeples | 
2012 Bob Page Equality Champion for the Triad Region

Rev. Julie Peeples

Rev. Julie Peeples

Reverend Julie Peeples has been the pastor of Congregational United Church of Christ since 1991. Beginning in the late 90's, her church moved beyond "don't ask, don't tell" and gradually built a strong consensus that clarified who they are and their understanding of the gospel: that God loves all equally and unconditionally, that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that all are welcome here. 

For Julie, working against the amendment was a natural extension of that journey.

She notes, “The amendment was a violation of the rights of others, a violation of what I believe in, and a violation against real human beings that I care deeply about, whom God loves. The effort to defeat it brought together such an amazing cross section of wonderful people: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight, old, young, musicians, artists, teachers, students, and more. One of the good things to arise out of the pain is the richness of these collaborations and friendships, which will continue to have a positive impact on this community. Many of these folks are staying involved in the work for full equality.”

In the months since the amendment vote, Julie has worked with a number of youth and adults who are struggling to leave behind toxic faith communities in their process of coming out. She believes the Christian church has much to repent for in its treatment of LGBT individuals. Along with two other Greensboro ministers, she is developing a workshop for clergy and church leaders, to prepare them to help their congregations become more open and welcoming. They will begin offering these workshops this winter. 

Julie and her husband Paul live in Greensboro and have two daughters, Meghan and Hannah.

Pam Spaulding
 | 2012 Bob Page Equality Champion for the Triangle Region

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding is the editor and publisher of Pam's House Blend at pamshouseblend.firedoglake.com, honored as "Best LGBT Blog" in the 2005 and 2006 Weblog Awards. It was launched in July 2004 as a personal response to the anti-gay state of the political landscape. Her advocacy extends to social media as well with over 11,000 Twitter followers, 6,200 Facebook friends and subscribers, and more than 7,000 on Google Plus+. 

Pam has guest posted/contributed to Americablog, Glenn Greenwald's column on Salon, Pandagon, The Bilerico Project, and The Independent Weekly. She also wrote a monthly column for the Raleigh News & Observer's The Durham News, the first out lesbian columnist for this major newspaper.

Pam was featured as one of the OUT 100 in 2009 and named one of Huffington Post's Ultimate Game Changers in Politics, and landed on Politics Daily’s Top 25 Progressive Twitterers list. She received the Women's Media Center Award for Online Journalism and she is nominated for its Social Media Award this year.

 With roots in North Carolina and New York City, Pam considers herself to have "dual citizenship" status as a Southerner and a Yankee—and brings this perspective and voice to her blog, which focuses on current political events, LGBT and women's rights, the influence of the far Right, and race relations.

 We love Pam for many reasons, not the least for her eloquent and sustained support of our work. During the Amendment One campaign, she kept the spotlight on the shenanigans of the other side, and also worked in concert with other noted LGBT bloggers across the country to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through a “moneybomb” for our side. In so doing, she not only elevated the conversation, but also helped build our supporter base, not to mention a new and more sophisticated LGBT rights movement in North Carolina.

 Pam lives in Durham with her wife Kate—they legally married in Vancouver in 2004—and their two dogs.

Sherre Toler
 | Bob Page Equality Champion for the Eastern Region

Sherre Toler

Sherre Toler

Sherre Toler has long been an advocate for civil rights. In the early ‘80’s she had the opportunity to work in the Arkansas Governor’s Office working for then Governor Bill Clinton. Her firsthand observation of the Clintons’ tireless dedication to human rights inspired her to finish college, graduate from Vermont Law School, and devote her career to public service. 

As a staff attorney for a domestic violence shelter and rape crisis center, and later as an assistant public defender, Sherre always championed the cause of justice for her clients. She went on to become a domestic relations hearing officer processing all family law cases including custody, divorce, child support, and protection from abuse cases in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, where she ensured that every party coming before her received a fair and impartial hearing.

Upon moving to North Carolina, Sherre served as director of elections in Harnett County for 11½ years. During that time, she proudly operated her office in a fair, efficient, and nonpartisan manner. However, when the North Carolina General Assembly voted to put a referendum on the ballot stating that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state, Ms. Toler could no longer remain nonpartisan. She resigned her position in January of 2012 believing that civil rights should never be put to a popular vote and she refused to be a party to that action.

 Sherre lives with Joe, her partner of eleven years, and her son Trey, age 21, lives and works in Pennsylvania. She owns her own business, Lighthouse Strategies and Consulting, in Wilmington where she continues to work for social justice and equality.

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