On July 1st, Affirmation hosted a special Affirmation LIVE event, a roundtable discussion on Black Lives Matter. This event was organized and facilitated by Fred Bowers, a leader in Affirmation for over 20 years, a former member of the executive committee, and recipient of the Mortensen Award. He was joined by several panelists, including Leader of Affirmation People of Color Melissa Malcolm King, for an enlightening and motivating discussion highlighting the important intersectionality of the LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter movements and the responsibility we all have to work for equality, justice, and liberation.
Fred Bowers is a social equity and justice activist, influencer, writer, and social pioneer within the Latter-Day Saint, black, and LGBTQ communities. Fred works to disseminate knowledge about the intersection of these communities through his work in Affirmation’s LGBT People of Color and Allies Facebook group. Fred served as Affirmation 2012 Conference Chairperson and won the Affirmation Mortensen Award the same year. He is the founder of Affirmation’s LGBT People of Color and Allies and Affirmation Pioneers (formerly Prime (Ages 50+)) Facebook groups. Fred served on Affirmation’s Board of Directors from 2011-2017.
He serves/served in leadership roles in Big 4 Consulting Firms LGBTQ business resource groups. He also served on Out and Equal’s Workplace Advocates People of Color Advisory Committee.
Melissa-Malcolm King is an inspiring writer whose current projects include a monthly exhibition for Exponent Magazine, content coordinator for the Affirmation Chicago Chapter, and Curl Connection, A Natural Hair Care Social Media Group. As a Queer person of color, Melissa is an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and is on various planning and leadership boards throughout the continental United States.
In addition, Melissa has a not-for-profit entitled Project B.E. S.A.F.E. -Bridging(the) Education( of )Safety, Awareness (and) Female Empowerment. Project B.E. S.A.F.E. Mission is two-fold -1st, providing resources and an outlet for escape for women surviving domestic violence. 2nd- to empower women and other marginalized groups to climb out of despair and into a place of hope.
Melissa is a Special Education Teacher and supports inclusion in the community as an active member of the disability rights activist coalition. (D.R.A.C). As a native Long Islander and a new contributor to Innervision Magazine, Melissa is excited to embark on this next adventure in her writing career.
Alexsandro Barbosa is Brazillian and was born in Salvador. He currently lives in São Paulo. He was born into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served a full-time mission from 1998 to 2000. He’s 41 years old and has been married to Rony Mesquita for 19 years. He’s a hairdresser and entrepreneur in the beauty industry. He found Affirmation in 2017 and currently serves as the president of Affirmation Brazil.
Kimberly Applewhite Teitter (she/her) is black and proud! She is a psychologist at the Utah Center for Evidence Based Treatment. Her dissertation was on the lives of LGB individuals in conservative religious communities. She has participated in facilitating dialogues for Affirmation and other LDS/LGBTQ affinity groups.
Derek Knox is a biblical scholar, theologian, and educator hailing from Texas, now living in the Boston area. His research interests involve grounding LGBTQIA+ theology and activism in the scriptures, and the intersectional relationship of all social and moral injustices. He joined the LDS Church in 2015 after starting a master’s degree in biblical studies at Andover Newton Theological School and has quickly become one of the most respected queer biblical scholars in the Church. Derek is also a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, where he has presented his research.
Camlyn Giddins’ favorite titles are friend, sister, gatherer, teacher and artist. Using her B.A. in media arts, Camlyn has experience as a producer, cinematographer, and editor working on a total of six short film projects. The Coal Minority won best documentary short at the NYC Workers Unite Film Festival. Camlyn’s work in film and communities centers around her love for people and relationships. Her work in interdisciplinary arts allows her to guide youth through their creative process in order to bring an idea to life, tell meaningful stories, and connect to themselves. Her passion for teaching expanded when she worked in the Washington DC public school system. Camlyn enjoys a life filled with creative projects, bringing communities together, interfaith studies, and health. Camlyn currently works as a teacher and a community engagement coordinator in Provo, Utah. She teaches film, photography, and race and culture. Healing and integration are at the heart of Camlyn’s work.
J. Tekulvē Jackson-Vann is a native of Milledgeville, Georgia and grew up in the shadows of Central State Hospital, which was once the largest Psychiatric hospital in the South. He is a Graduate with Distinction from Georgia Military College Prep School. After serving an LDS mission to East Lansing, Michigan, he earned a BS in Marriage, Family, and Human Development with an emphasis in Family Life Education from Brigham Young University-Provo. He earned a MS in Marriage and Family Therapy from Valdosta State University. He has held national leadership positions within the National Council on Family Relations. His areas of interests include grief and loss, divorce recovery, substance abuse, adolescents, couples and family, and LGBT issues in addition to the connection between mental health and chronic illness. He is a Clinical Therapist at a residential treatment center for adolescent boys and the Northern Utah Center for Couples and Families. He’s the father of 5 children.
John Rodriguez is originally from the Dominican Republic and lives now in Seattle, Washington. John is the founder of the Affirmation Dominican Republic Chapter. He is a full-time LGBTQ+ rights activist and has been advocating for equality and human rights, as well as for the LGBTQ+ Community for the past 15 years. John has worked as Executive Director for different Non Profits, also has worked as Development and Communications Director, and marketing consultant, relaunched the Seattle Affirmation Chapter. He currently serves as remote Executive Director for the It Gets Better Dominican Republic Chapter and co-chairs a committee as a mental health provider for a Health Program managed by King County serving the King, Snohomish and The Island Region in Washington, John has been leading a peer support group focused on spiritual and emotional support and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth in Seattle. John also serves as Co-Chair for the Seattle LGBTQ Commission.
Justis Tuia serves as a Budget Officer at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). In this role, he oversees the financing and evaluation of programs in the Special Education, Rehab Services, Special Institutions, and Higher Education spaces. Prior to this role, Justis oversaw a portion of the Department’s work in the areas of school choice and family engagement.
Under the Obama Administration, he served as a special advisor in the Office of the Director at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), where his portfolio consisted of diversity and inclusion initiatives across the Federal workforce, and as a detailed Project Manager at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian.
Justis joined the Federal workforce in January 2010 as a Presidential Management Fellow after spending several years working in the fields of higher education and human resources. His first position with the Federal government was with the Department of Defense at the Pentagon, where he split his efforts between the Office of Culture, Religion, & Military Equal Opportunity and the newly established Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response.
He currently serves on the boards of LGBTQ and Allied Employees at ED, Asian American Pacific Islander Connections, and Cupid’s Sting: An Interpersonal Violence Reduction Program. He is a former International Scholar Laureate and Diversity Fellow of The Washington Center. He earned an MA in Intercultural and International Communication from American University’s School of International Service and a Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, in Political Science from Truman State University.