OU Women's and Gender Studies Gala to Honor Activists, Allies

Three pioneers for change will be honored at OU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Board of Advocates Voices for Change gala at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 13, in the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History Great Hall, 2401 Chautauqua Ave.

University of Oklahoma alumna and actress Olivia Munn will receive the inaugural Voice for Justice Award for her leadership and activism against sexual harassment in the workplace and will give the keynote address. The 2018 Courage Awards, honoring those who have had the courage to stand up to injustice, will be presented posthumously to Clara Luper, Oklahoma Civil Rights pioneer; and Suzette Grillot, dean of OU’s College of International Studies.

“The OU Women’s and Gender Studies Board of Advocates annually recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond in the fight for social justice, and we are excited to honor these outstanding activists and allies this year and to welcome speaker Olivia Munn, who has been a strong voice for equality for women everywhere,” said Jackie Farley, board president.

The Voices for Change fundraiser will feature a silent auction and dinner by Abbey Road Catering. Admission is $125 per person, with proceeds benefiting OU Women’s & Gender Studies’ student internships, scholarships, instructional program support and the WGS Center for Social Justice Activist-in-Residence Program. Tickets can be ordered online at wgs.ou.edu/voices or by contacting the Susy Jorgenson at (405) 325-3481. The deadline for registration is April 4.

An Oklahoma City native, Munn majored in journalism and minored in Japanese and dramatic arts at OU. She has appeared in nearly 50 films and television shows and is best known for her roles as Psylocke in “X-Men-Apocalypse,” Sloan Sabbith in HBO’s “The Newsroom” and as a correspondent for “The Daily Show.” She is also the author of The New York Times best-selling book “Suck It Wonder Woman: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek.”

In November 2017, Munn and five other women accused film producer and director Brett Ratner of sexual misconduct. She became a leading voice in the Hollywood movement to report sexual harassment and take steps to eradicate it.

Because of that, she is an active supporter of the Times Up Initiative, led by women in the entertainment industry, to provide legal defense funds to help less privileged women protect themselves from sexual misconduct. The initiative also works for legislation to penalize companies that tolerate persistent harassment. She has used her celebrity to bring awareness of the movement at the various events, including the Critics’ Choice Awards and SAG Awards.

Clara Luper is described as the “mother of Oklahoma’s civil rights movement,” She was born in 1923 and attended all-black schools, including Langston University. She was the first African-American student to enroll in the history department at OU, earning her master’s degree in history education in 1951.

She taught history for 41 years at various Oklahoma City-area schools, and served nearly 50 years as adviser of the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council. In 1957, Luper and her students were invited to New York to perform her play “Brother President: The Story of Dr. Martin Luther King” at a national Freedom Riders rally. After experiencing their first integrated lunch counters in the North, Luper’s students returned to Oklahoma determined to end segregation policies.

On Aug. 19, 1958, Luper and a group of 13 Youth Council members staged their first lunch-counter sit in at Katz Drug store in Oklahoma City. It was described in The Oklahoman as “the nation’s first and longest sit-in in the civil rights movement.” Because of their actions, Katz Drug stores desegregated lunch counters in all 38 stores in four states. Together with her students, Luper integrated hundreds of restaurants, cafes, theaters and hotels and other public facilities.

She also participated in civil rights marches in Washington, D.C., and Selma, Alabama, with Martin Luther King. She was arrested for her civil rights activities 26 times. In 2011, Oklahoma officials honored Luper’s death by placing her casket in repose in the rotunda of the State Capitol. OU’s Clara Luper Department of African and African American Studies was recently named in her honor.

Suzette Grillot has served as the dean of OU’s College of International Studies since July 2012. She was integrally involved in the College of International Studies’ creation where she also served as the associate dean for the four years prior to becoming dean. Additionally, she serves as OU’s vice provost for international programs and the William J. Crowe Jr. Chair in Geopolitics.

Grillot has been praised for her efforts as an advocate for OU’s international students, as well as those who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) participants. Last fall, she helped coordinate a public forum on campus to provide support and resources for DACA students and to educate the university community about their plight. “Dr. Grillot has worked tirelessly for DACA students, championing their rights for equal treatment,” said Lupe Davidson, director of the OU Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

An award-winning mentor and educator, Grillot continues to teach courses every year, focusing on subjects such as the global community, global security, international activism and illicit trafficking. She also hosts the weekly World Views radio show on OU’s NPR affiliate, KGOU. The program highlights various global topics and features international guests.

OU Women’s and Gender Studies is an interdisciplinary program that seeks 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.

For more information on the Voices of Justice Gala or for accommodations, contact the Susy Jorgenson at (405) 325-3481.