This story is part of QnotesCarolinas’ special project “OUTlook: Finding Solutions for LGBTQ Labor and Workplace Equality." It is supported by the Solutions Journalism Network.
To learn more about solutions journalism, visit solutionsjournalism.org.
Liam Michael Hooper is known for many things. He’s an author, a gender theorist, theological activist, trans activist, advocate, educator, podcaster and public speaker.
He holds a Master’s Degree in Divinity and, as a trans man, brings a unique and fresh perspective to the interpretation of faith. Now he’s about to take on another title.
The Wildacres Leadership Initiative (WLI) recently announced that he had been chosen to serve as the assistant director for the organization.
For the uninitiated, the WLI trains, supports and convenes a statewide network of leaders to take action on the state’s most important issues, through civil dialogue and by engaging across differences to improve the lives of all North Carolina residents.
Established in 1946, the organization offers a residency program, an environmental artist and residence program, gatherings for artists, writers and musicians; educators, environmentalists and scientists; and interfaith leadership teams, among others.
Of particular importance is the Friday Fellowship Experience, a program that accepts leaders from across the state and brings them together to grow and learn in the context of relationship building. Participants are known as Friday Fellows, and they come from all walks of life.
A 2020-22 graduate of the program, Hooper’s primary responsibility at WLI will be to further engage Friday Fellows who have completed the program and worked with communities throughout the state to model and practice collaborative change aligned with the organization’s goals.
Prior to joining WLI, Hooper worked with communities all across the state. He first moved here as a child with his family in the late 1960s. He later studied visual arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, which led him to continued studies and work as a technician in the professional theater in Philadelphia. After returning to NC in 1987, Hooper graduated from Winston-Salem State University and began working in various settings as a case worker and crisis intervention counselor, therapist, and clinical director serving vulnerable and underserved communities through the AIDS Task Force of Winston-Salem, Charter Behavioral Health Care, Diamond Health Care, and, finally, Synergy Recovery in North Wilkesboro.
In 2010, Hooper shifted to focused, justice-seeking work in multiple community-based ways, including collaborations with the Campaign for Southern Equality, Equality NC, and various interfaith justice coalitions throughout the state and in 2015, he received a Master’s of Divinity from Wake Forest University.
These days Hooper and his spouse Diana, live in Winston-Salem with their terrier, Dodi, where they strive for deeper connections to all our relations. They find such reward in family, friends, gardens, wandering creatures of all kinds and their local Jewish community. Their son is currently finishing his undergraduate work in social work at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee.
In addition to Hooper’s recent hire, WLI also brought on board Beth Coleman as the lead faculty representative.
“I am so pleased these individuals have chosen to share their time and talents to further build connection and community across North Carolina,” says WLI Director Hunter Corn. “We are fortunate to have the energy and experience both Liam and Beth bring to WLI at this moment.”