Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director
Raised in North Carolina, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is a minister in the United Church of Christ. She is a graduate of Brown University and received a MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and a MDiv from Harvard Divinity School. She has worked on LGBT rights campaigns since 2004 and was volunteer director of The Progressive Project, a community organizing workshop prior to founding the Campaign for Southern Equality. Jasmine has been interviewed by MSNBC, The New York Times, and the BBC about LGBT rights in the South. She is a recipient of a 2010 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and her first collection of short stories, Damn Love, was published in 2013; it won the 2014 PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention Award for Debut Fiction and is a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award (General Fiction category).
Jasmine has written widely about strategy in the LGBT movement:
“How Resistance Will Change the South” - The Advocate
“Challenging NC’s immoral and unconstitutional Amendment One” – Raleigh News & Observer
“Taking a Stand for Equality in Mississippi”- Huffington Post
Aaron Sarver, Communications Director
Aaron Sarver grew up in North Carolina, attended N.C. State University where he graduated with a B.A. in Economics. His writing and radio work have appeared in In These Times, The Chicago Reader, Alternet.org, and on Free Speech Radio News. For nearly three years he produced and co-hosted the radio program, Fire on the Prairie, which is archived at www.fireontheprairie.com.
Lindsey Simerly, Campaign Manager, WE DO Campaign
Lindsey Simerly grew up across the South and moved to Asheville in 2002. With an over 90% win record, she has worked on local, state and federal campaigns for the past five years, focusing on strategy and field operations. Her personal experiences with poverty shape her commitment to economic justice issues and she currently serves as Chair of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee for the City of Asheville.
Liz Vennum, Legal Intern
Liz is a rising third year law student at Wake Forest University School of Law. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2007, Liz fell down the rabbit hole of community organizing one fateful day when she saw a flyer on a telephone pole advertising that Grassroots Campaigns was hiring activists. She answered the ad and soon found herself canvassing door to door, organizing phone banks, and eventually opening and running her own campaign office in West Palm Beach during the 2008 election.
CSE has a team of growing team of volunteer attorneys, clergy and counselors who help run LGBT Rights Toolkit programs. They are led by:
Meghann Burke, Legal Team Leader
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Meghann Burke is an attorney at Cogburn & Brazil, where she focuses on civil and criminal litigation. She received her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. During law school, Meghann worked with the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project on the first case ever to recover damages against a public entity for its complicity with the Ku Klux Klan’s campaign of racial violence during the Civil Rights Movement, and she wrote an amicus brief with CSE colleagues in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, No. 09-2292 (N.D. Cal. 2010). Meghann began her law practice after finishing a ten-year professional soccer career. Meghann has presented on LGBT civil rights issues at “Identifying, Investigating, and Prosecuting Hate Crimes”, a seminar hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western North Carolina; “Effective Representation for LGBT Clients” a Continuing Legal Education course offered by the 28th Judicial District Bar; and at the 2011 Equality North Carolina Conference. Working with CSE’s Legal Team, Meghann helps to coordinate our Community Law Workshops, provide support services to those in need, and work on special projects about LGBT law in the South.
Diane Walton, Legal Team
Diane Walton (“Dizy”) is a licensed attorney in private practice in North Carolina. The focus of her work is family law, including child custody, adoption, divorce, and partnership documents. Diane served in the United States Coast Guard, is on the CSE legal team, and resides in Asheville, NC with her partner Sarah and their three sons.
Rev. Kathryn Cartledge, Chaplaincy Team Leader
Kathryn Cartledge was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1946. She graduated from Georgia State University with a B.S. Degree and from Columbia Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity Degree. In 2003, Kathryn changed her ordination from the Presbyterian Church to the United Church of Christ. Her education and life’s work has been in Pastoral Care and Counseling. She was a Chaplain for AID Atlanta and was the founding Executive Director of Atlanta Interfaith AIDS Network. Since moving to Asheville in 1992, she has worked at Manna Food Bank and even started a church, The Circle of the Wildly Inclusive God! Kathryn believes that having a spiritual presence is essential in doing this work of bringing about justice and having civil rights for all. She believes that “the church” has caused and continues to cause deep hurt and judgment for many LBGT people and that having a non-judgmental and spiritual presence will help heal old “church wounds” and offer loving support for the work ahead. Kathryn and her partner of 30 years, Elizabeth, live on a small piece of land and care for 2 llamas, 2 fainting goats, 4 chickens, 2 cats and 3 dogs. She loves having her 4 grandchildren with her on the farm – Asa, age 6, calls the land “church.”
Weesie Pigman, Support Team Leader
Weesie Pigman was born in Lexington, KY and moved to Asheville nine years ago to attend college. She graduated from Warren Wilson College with a degree in Psychology. During the 2004 campaign season, she volunteered as a member of The Progressive Project (TPP) and led a campus-wide get-out-the-vote effort. Along with other TPP volunteers, Weesie traveled to her hometown of Lexington to canvass against the anti-gay marriage amendment in Kentucky. Pursuing her childhood dream, she joined the Asheville Fire Department as a Firefighter/EMT and currently works at the downtown station. This experience has led her to return to school to pursue a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and licensure as an L.P.C. and Clinical Addictions Specialist. Weesie is currently completing graduate studies, with specific interests in Crisis Counseling and Trauma Work.