Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Regina Shavers has passed away

[UPDATE: I have added information about a memorial service being held in honor of Regina at the end of this post]

When I was young and pretty and gay - and making my first inroads in LGBT-rights advocacy in New York in the mid 1990's - one of my most memorable experiences was being part of the group of men and women who launched the
Audre Lorde Project in Brooklyn.

The experience brought together a myriad of queer activists, young and old, of different ethnic backgrounds and nationalities,reflecting different genders and religions - and political ideals. And somehow it all worked! There were people from the vibrant Indian gay community of New York mingling with members of established African-American gay organizations. Muslim queers mixing it up with Christian queers. Even as I write about it I get uplifted. It's something that I have never experienced again even as I hope that young gay activists of color out there are being able to find similar places today.

Anyway, once ALP opened it's doors, it began to "incubate" new organizations and the first of them was the GRIOT Circle in 1995. The co-founder was Regina Shavers who sought "to combat the lack of community that she had observed amongst LGBT Elders, particularly those of color," as her bio says (full bio below).

It was through The Audre Lorde Project that I had the honor of meeting Regina and to work with her over the years. As former ALP Executive Director Joo-Hyun Kang wrote to me this morning, she was "a giant among heroes" and truly an inspiration to myself as well as others. Which is why it made me so sad to find out that she had passed away yesterday.

Other bloggers have already began to share their memories of Regina with much more eloquence than mine.
I'll update the roster if others appear.

The Task Force has also released this statement:

The Task Force mourns the death last night of longtime leader Regina Shavers. She was a peace activist in the 1960s, founded the first gay/lesbian labor caucus in New York City and was one of the first openly LGBT leaders in New York City's municipal labor unions. In the 1990s, she worked to combat anti-LGBT violence and was a member of the Mayor’s Police Council on Gay & Lesbian Concerns.

Shavers founded the GRIOT Circle, an intergenerational and culturally diverse community-based social service organization for older LGBT/Two Spirit people of color. She was a proud butch lesbian and, through GRIOT, an outspoken advocate for LGBT elders. In 2005, the Task Force awarded her its first annual Allan Morrow Community Service Award in recognition of that work. She is survived by her partner, the Rev. Janyce Jackson, and their children and grandchildren.
Here is Regina's amazing bio:


Regina Shavers founded the GRIOT Circle, "an intergenerational and culturally diverse community-based social service organization responsive to the realities of older lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, two-spirit and transgender people
(LGBTST) of all colors."

Regina Shavers had a long history of community involvement and activism.

As co-chair of District Council 37 she advocates for workers’ rights, and serves on the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Lesbian and Gay Rights Advisory Board. She played an active role in the Campaign for and Inclusive Family Policy, the citywide coalition that negotiated with Mayor David N. Dinkins to obtain Domestic Partner benefits for New York City employees.

She also helped to found Pride At Work, a constituency group of the AFL-CIO that focuses on the rights and unionization of LGBT workers.

Regina was also the former Assistant Director of the NYC Department of Health’s HIV Training Institute. Here, she created and implemented curricula for HIV prevention and treatment, including curricula specifically tailored towards older populations. Regina continued with her HIV/AIDS facilitation as a member of the New York Association on HIV Over Fifty (NYAHOF).

In 1995, Regina co-founded GRIOT Circle to combat the lack of community that she had observed amongst LGBT Elders, particularly those of color. She assumed the role of Executive Director of GRIOT in 2000.

Regina Shavers founded the GRIOT Circle as "an intergenerational and culturally diverse community-based social service organization responsive to the realities of older lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, two-spirit and transgender people (LGBTST) of all colors." The goal of GRIOT Circle is to maintain a safe space for elders, provide emotional support and quality programming which affirms age, gender, racial, spiritual and ethnic origins for the over 50 LGBTST community in Brooklyn. GRIOT Circle provides educational and informational forums, referrals to social service providers, health and fitness programs, spiritual wellness, computer training, a friendly visitors program and social outreach. Volunteer members make reassurance telephone calls and visits to homebound, sick or hospitalized persons.

In honor of Regina V. Shavers there will be a Celebration of Life Service on Saturday, February 2nd, 2008.

Services to be held at:
Liberation In Truth Unity Fellowship Church
608 Broad Street, @ Trinity & St. Philips Cathedral
Newark, New Jersey 07102

Viewing will be from 11 AM until 12:30.
Celebration service will follow from 12:30 to 2 PM

Immediately there after the family invites you to join them in a repass to be held at 24 Rector Street.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in the name of Regina Shavers to one of the following organizations;

Griot Circle, Inc.
25 Flatbush Avenue, 5th floor
Brooklyn, New York 11217-1101

Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church
P.O. Box 200434
Riverfront Plaza Station
Newark, New Jersey 07102

Lavender Light, The Black and People of all Colors Lesbian and Gay Gospel Choir
70 –A Greenwich Street #315
New York, New York 10011


Anonymous said...

I met Regina when we both sang with Lavender Light Gospel Choir. She was a strong and calming presence and her spirit will continue to be a guiding force to all of us who were blessed to know her. Thanks, Andres, for posting this and giving her life and legacy the attention she deserves. -- Eddie

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of meeting Regina when I joined Lavender Light Gospel Choir about 3 years ago. A serious, observant, kinder woman you couldn't find. She was a fountain of information and advice and experience. We must keep up her legacy! For sure, you've got a home on the other side Regina!

Bernie said...

I've been out of town for the past week and offline. I am really sad to read this news.

Anonymous said...

I met Regina @ Hunter College back in 1988-1989. I was in awe of her and admired her so... She had the one of the most beautiful smiles I remember. She was a mentor to many people at school and a voice of reason and love. She will be sorely missed in many communities. My prayers are with J.J. and everyone else touched by Regina's life.