By Jahneil La Mara

Circle of Voices, Inc. recently hosted their annual tribute event, Digging Up Da Sistah Roots 3, in Brooklyn, New York. The event honored LGBTQ women of African descent and their allies who have celebrated their sexuality from the 70s to today. Honorees included Roberta “Oloyade” Stokes, choreographer and dancer; the late Edwene Bey, former lead vocalist of IBIS; Shawn Smith-Cruz, archivist and librarian; and Richard E. Pelzer II, president of the Global Network of Black Pride.

New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, recognized Circle of Voices with a certificate. “In appreciation of your work as a valuable resource and a strong network of advocacy and outreach for African-American women and women of color in the LGBTQ community in Brooklyn,” it read. “This celebration of the past and present role of women of African descent in the LGBTQ community is a testament to their strength and spirit, as well as their determination in overcoming challenges.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also wrote a letter congratulating Circle of Voices for their accomplishments since their start in 1993 and all of the honorees. The mayor even expressed his interest in working with the organization and event attendees.  “I look forward to working with everyone gathered tonight to expand opportunities, fight injustices and ensure equal rights for all,” said de Blasio.

Known as the “organization with resources,” Circle of Voices, Inc. strives to ensure opportunities for LGBTQ women of African descent to locate what is referred to as the 3CR: Cultural, Competent & Caring Resources. These include free mammograms, HIV/AIDS testing, cancer and mental health support, and preventative care resources.

For more information about Circle of Voices, Inc., visit

Jahneil La Mara is a Southern California native and graduate of Florida’s Bethune-Cookman University where she received her B.A. in Mass Communications and served as editor-in-chief of the school paper. Nowadays she’s learning the streets of NYC. She has always been intrigued by the personal style of others and loves food, natural hair, traveling and Instagram. La Mara enjoys reading all things queer, fiction and non-fiction, and writes about her personal experiences being a young fashionable queer woman of color on her blog, She serves as an editorial intern at

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