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Diversity Committee to Hold Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Awards Dinner

Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 ∙ 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Oklahoma Judicial Center, 2100 N. Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City


The OBA Diversity Committee is set to host its Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Awards Dinner on Oct. 15, 2015, in Oklahoma City. The event will feature a keynote address from Jabar Shumate, University of Oklahoma University Community vice president. Vice President Shumate assumed his position at OU in July. In his newly appointed role, he will have oversight over all diversity programs within the university, including admissions. He will also be kept completely informed by the Office of Student Affairs of all activities aimed at making campus life more inclusive and will work directly with President Boren and with the deans of the university to broaden the pool of applicants for faculty and staff positions.

Prior to taking on his new role at OU, he served in the Oklahoma Legislature, serving four terms in the House of Representatives before being elected to serve in the Senate in 2012. Vice President Shumate is an alumnus of OU and of Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa. While a student at OU, he served as student body president and upon his graduation from the university, served as the OU president’s press secretary.

Also during the dinner, six individuals and organizations will be honored with the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Awards in recognition of their efforts in promoting diversity in Oklahoma. The Diversity Committee, with the support of OBA President David Poarch, will recognize the following individuals and organizations that have outwardly demonstrated that “diversity matters in Oklahoma.”

Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Award Recipients

Member of the Judiciary

Judge Jerome Holmes 

Since August 2006, Jerome A. Holmes has served as a
 circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. He was nominated for this position by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate. Judge Holmes is the first African-American to serve on the 10th Circuit.

Judge Holmes received
his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, where he served as the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal editor-in-chief. He received
a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Wake Forest University, graduating cum laude. Judge Holmes also earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he was a John B. Picket Fellow in criminal justice policy and management.

Judge Holmes has been a committed volunteer and
leader in community affairs. He currently serves on the governing boards of several nonprofits, including the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, where he serves as chair, the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City (Club 29), where he serves as immediate past president and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, where he serves on a number of
committees, including the Executive Committee. Judge Holmes formerly served as the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oklahoma board of directors vice-chair. He is a graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City (Class XX) and Leadership Oklahoma (Class XVIII).

Attorneys

Damario Solomon-Simmons, Riggs Abney

Damario Solomon-Simmons was born and raised in Tulsa in a low-income, single-mother household. He attended the University of Oklahoma, at which he played for the famed Sooners football team. In 1999 he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in African & African-American studies. He completed a master’s degree in adult and higher education and received the Black Graduate Student of the Year award in 2001. He graduated from the OU College of Law in 2004 as the first African-American winner of the prestigious Joel Jankowski Award which honors the most outstanding OU law graduate.

Mr. Solomon-Simmons
 started his law firm, Solomon Simmons Sharrock, right out of law school as a solo practice in which he provided legal services to low-income community members in exchange for office space. His firm grew into one of the largest African-American majority-owned law firms in Oklahoma history, and allowed him to successfully represent hundreds of clients in federal, state, tribal and administrative proceedings and legal transactions. After the retirement of his long-time law partner, Susan R. Sharrock, he joined Riggs Abney on March 9, 2015, where he focuses his practice on civil litigation, civil rights, employment, government relations and sports and entertainment.

He served as a member of the national legal team — including famed attorney Johnnie Cochrane and distinguished scholar Dr. John Hope Franklin — that fought to obtain reparations for the survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot in Alexander et al. v. Oklahoma. His work on the 1921 case earned him an invitation to testify before the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington D.C.

Valery Giebel, PrayWalker

Valery Giebel was admitted to practice law in Oklahoma in 2013. She is also admitted to practice before the Cherokee Nation and the United States District Courts for the Northern, Eastern and Western Districts of Oklahoma. She is also a member of the American Bar Association, the Native American Bar Association and serves as the Tulsa County Bar Association’s director-at-large.

Ms. Giebel is an associate at PrayWalker in Tulsa. She has legal certifications in sustainable energy and resource law, Native American law and entrepreneurial law. She serves as officer in the OBA Indian Law Section where she is
credited, along with the other officers, for reviving the previously inactive section. She is also an officer in the Energy Law Section and an OBA Diversity Committee member.

As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, she is involved in community and social activities within the nation and occasionally volunteers at the Eastern Oklahoma Food Bank and assists with making home repairs in low-income communities with her husband. She makes it a priority to promote Indian law issues and advance the interest of female and young lawyers in all organizations she is a part of.

Organizations

The Education and Employment Ministry (TEEM)

TEEM is an interfaith 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that exists to break cycles of incarceration and poverty through education, character development and work readiness training.

TEEM’s objectives include: reducing recidivism rates, strengthening families, and improving quality of life in greater Oklahoma City and its surrounding areas; providing effective, evidence-based pre- and post-release re-entry services to nonviolent offenders transitioning into society; building positive relationships and effective support systems with participants to obtain successful outcomes; removing barriers to employment through occupational skills training, financial literacy instruction, cognitive behavioral courses, legal assistance, effective case management and job placement assistance; promoting public awareness
of the benefits of effective re-entry programming; giving a hand up to re-entering adults impacted by providing the tools needed to refine skills, achieve goals, and obtain self-sufficiency; holistically prepare participants for employment and successful reintegration into society by incorporating mentoring, character building, life skills training, and confidence building; empowering participants to be productive, contributing members of the community; and breaking the generational cycles of incarceration and poverty.

TEEM has been recognized by several media outlets for its work in assisting and preparing some of Oklahoma City’s most vulnerable citizens to become active and productive members of the community.

Unheard

Unheard is an alliance of black students from the
University of Oklahoma organizing for change within the campus administration and atmosphere at the university. Its primary areas of focus revolve around the lack of representation and continuous support on campus. Some of the issues Unheard seeks to address at OU, include, but are not limited to, the lack of black faculty beyond the African-American studies department, retention rates among black students, financial assistance/scholarships received by black students, supportive programs for black students, “The Sooner Experience,”
lack of a presence within executive hierarchy and equitable funding for black student organizations.

Through their steadfast and diligent work, the students of Unheard, were able to make some very necessary changes on the OU campus. The students admit that when they started their journey no one could have imagined the outcome and the impact that has already occurred. Inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Unheard’s desire to push for equality is filled with the courage of the past, the present state of our current society and the future for all to be equal. While this journey has not been easy, Unheard is grateful for the support along the way.

VOICE

VOICE is a coalition of congregations and other civic institutions that have come together out of a deep sense of mission and concern for families. Together, they are learning to build relationships across the lines that divide people in our community, in order to stand together to challenge some of the decisions that are made that impact families. VOICE has taken on increasing utility rates and high-stakes testing, and currently, it is working on a campaign to challenge the fines and fees placed on those who have been incarcerated.

About the Author

Tiece Dempsey chairs the OBA Diversity Committee. She is a judicial law clerk for Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange, United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.