Freedom Center for Social Justice

Freedom Center's Bishop Tonyia Rawls

Since its inception, the Charlotte-based Freedom Center for Social Justice seeks to enhance quality of life by increasing the number of healthy options & opportunities available to low income communities, communities of color, sexual minorities and youth. To honor its broad mission and support these important goals, the Freedom Center for Social Justice has established programs and initiatives that support and help create true culture change within communities, businesses, organizations and institutions that serve and connect to some of the most marginalized, including The Transgender Employment Program, The Transgender Faith and Action Network and most recently The LGBTQ Law Center.

As a Southern-based organization, Freedom Center for Social Justice is a rising star on the national stage, providing invaluable education on issues of employment, healthcare, and law at the intersections of poverty, people of color, immigrant communities and excluded and marginalized sexual minorities.

Bishop Tonyia Rawls will accept the 2013 Organization of the Year award at the 2013 Equality Gala. Bishop Rawls is the Founder and Executive Director of The Freedom Center for Social Justice (FCSJ). Founded in 2009, the FCSJ has launched the region’s first LGBTQ Law Center and a Transgender Employment Program. Since August 2013 these programs have touched hundreds within the Carolina’s and that support promises to continually grow as the vital need is presented. Nationally, the FCSJ Transgender Faith and Action Network expands the work of their successful TransFaith In Color Conference which is hosted in Charlotte for Trans* people of color and allies. Bishop Rawls is a graduate of Duke University and sits on the Governing Board of the North Carolina Council of Churches and on the board of the Mecklenburg County Community Building Initiative. Bishop Rawls is the Founding Pastor of Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte and in April 2008, was consecrated as one of the first women Bishops in the Los Angeles-based Unity Fellowship Church Movement’s history. She is Prelate of the denomination’s Southern Jurisdiction. In addition to her work as a spiritual leader and social justice activist, she has been a reviewer for the Journal of African-American Studies and is published in Black Sexualities: Probing Powers, Passions, Practices, and Policies (Released 2010).

The Freedom Center includes:

LGBTQ Law Center
The LGBTQ Law Center celebrated its grand opening on August 16, 2013 and opened its office on August 19th, 2013. Kelly Durden and Sarah Demarest have been helping the local LGBTQ community with legal matters in the areas of Family Law (including Divorce, Custody, and Domestic Violence), Name & Identification Change Documents, Simple Wills, Advanced Directives (Living Wills, Powers of Attorney), and Expunctions . Community clinics, led by the law team, are currently being scheduled in various cities across the region. Their name change clinic for transgender people and “Know Your Rights” for LGBTQ people, have already been great successes in both Charlotte and Greensboro.

Trans* Employment Program
The Transgender Employment Program is scheduled to launch November of 2013. Led by Alex Rupprecht, Program Administrator, this program serves as a link between the Charlotte area business community and the Charlotte area trans* community, with the goal of linking qualified candidates with inclusive companies. This program also provides opportunities for education, networking, and connections to resources that are vital to trans* people. It is through a partnership with the Human Rights Campaign that early stages of this program are possible.

In 2010, a summit was held in California. The result of this summit was a conference known as Trans Faith in Color. The conferences, held in Charlotte in 2011 and 2012, were great successes in both attendance and results. Now known as the Transgender Faith And Action Network, the third conference will be held in 2014. Trans*FAAN offers expanded opportunities for trans* people of faith and their allies to envision change, build, grow, heal, and shift culture within faith communities and the world.

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