Circle of Voices aims to serve, empower gay women of color

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BED-STUY -

Circle of Voices is a Bed-Stuy non-profit serving gay women of color who they say have largely been forgotten.

Growing up in Philadelphia during the 70s was difficult for Jean Wimberly. 

“I'm a gay lesbian, African-American lesbian, but I couldn't talk about it. So, leaving Philadelphia, coming to New York, I was freed, I was freed up,” says Wimberly.

After attending a women's music festival in Michigan back in the 80s, the Bed-Stuy resident was disenchanted with the lack of representation of women of color. She decided to take matters into her own hands and create her own music festival for women like her. 

“The festival happened in 1993, it took two years to put it together,” says Wimberly.

From there, it evolved from a music festival to an arts organization with a health component. 

"We started hearing stories of women that were lesbians that weren't comfortable telling their GYN doctor their lifestyle, and I’m saying maybe by you not telling the truth, something like a yeast infection or another kind of bacteria could have been developed through your behaviors and they would miss it and maybe misdiagnose it,” says Kaz Mitchell, co-executive director of Circle of Voices.

The couple now runs the organization together, inspiring people like Jade Whitehead, who was empowered hearing stories of other women.

“When I decided to be a lesbian, to be a part of that community, it wasn't so welcoming and that was maybe 1992. From what I saw, I thought I didn’t want to be that,” says Whitehead.

The group says it helped a population that is largely marginalized to have a voice and necessary support.

“I had six children when I came out, I had been in a whole other system for over 40 years and it was very, very difficult. I didn’t think I could actually make that kind of transition and I think it had to be a Circle of Voices,” says Rev. Dr. Lynn Sexton, of Harlem.

Circle of Voices has received loads of accolades and awards, but the best reward is serving the community that needs it.

“I’m just so excited and I’m feel so blessed personally and in community to be a part of their organization,” says Sexton.

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