Meet Grace Okerson
Master of Arts in Public Ministry
Master of Arts in Public Ministry student, Grace Okerson, is in her second year at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Grace was born in Haiti and raised in south Florida. She attended the University of Central Florida where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences with concentrations in Diversity & Social Inequality, Women & Gender Studies, and Journalism Studies with Cum Laude honors.
After college, Grace lived in Detroit, MI, for two extremely formative years. As a result, she often describes Detroit as the place where her heart resides. While living in Detroit, Grace worked at a walk-in day center for low-income Detroiters and individuals experiencing homelessness. It was at this Detroit day center that Grace began to pinpoint and articulate her call into ministry. Through intimate conversations with clients about life, unjust systems, grief, and gratitude, Grace realized that God was calling her into the ministry work of justice. God was calling Grace to bridge the gap between the church and the world; to commit her life and work to the intersection of theology and social justice.
This call led Grace to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. At the outset of her time at Garrett, Grace was overwhelmed by the hospitable community that welcomed her and of which she has become a part. Grace has consistently seen the ways in which students at Garrett strive to offer support and take care of one another. As a result, the student community at Garrett has been an important part of Grace’s seminary journey.
Through her classwork, Grace learned the vital necessity of de-centering whiteness in theological interpretation. The process of de-centering whiteness has shaped how Grace interacts with biblical texts, centering those on the margins, instead. Grace has learned how to follow God’s preferential option for the poor and the disinherited of society by centering marginalized communities in theological interpretation. This theological understanding requires resisting and dismantling the status quo of white supremacy, deeply impacting how Grace lives into her ministry and calling as a prison abolitionist.
Two of Grace’s favorite classes at Garrett have been ‘Introduction to Theology’ and ‘Theology, Race, and Culture.’ Both courses were taught by Dr. Brian Bantum, Neal F. and Ila A. Fisher professor of theology. These courses were impactful because they broadened Grace’s understandings of race and the ways in which race interacts with theological frameworks. During one of the classes Grace took at Garrett, she was assigned the text, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, by Kelly Brown Douglas. Engaging with this text has been one of the most transformative experiences of Grace’s time at Garrett. Written in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin, this text reminded Grace of the incident that initially radicalized her and made the eradication of anti-black bias a central tenet in Grace’s vocational call to ministry. Kelly Brown Douglas’ text helped Grace realize where she had been, where she was now, and where her vocational call was leading her next.
As Grace looks toward what comes next, she hopes and plans to continue working for agencies and organizations that are aligned with her vision for society: intersecting theology and social justice. Grace envisions a just society that is free from the grips of white supremacy and where all people are treated with dignity and respect. Grace plans to continue living into her calling and mission driven work by advocating for those within the penal system and striving towards the abolition of systems and structures that do more harm than good.