Achebe Betty Powell, Inspiring LGBTQ+ Leader Passes Away

Brooklyn, New York February 24, 2023 - Achebe Betty Powell, 82, an inspiring LGBTQ+ leader and activist passed away on February 21, 2023.

Achebe is one of the most inspiring LGBTQI+ leaders in her generation (and today)-she worked across movements and challenged us to find the joy that exists in our difficult yet rewarding work of bringing disparate communities together. Achebe was one of the first Black women to have a leadership role in what we then called the lesbian & gay liberation movement in the 1970's.

Achebe was a founding mother of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and remained active in the organization for the last 45 years. Achebe was among the small group of multi-racial, multi-class, feminist activists who came together in 1977 to create a new way of bringing resources to movements led by lesbians and women of color, to, in her words, "generate the justice that our communities need, right here, right now." She was the first Black lesbian to serve on the board of directors of the National Gay Task Force and was co-chair of that board for several years. She attended the historic meeting of lesbian and gay leaders at the Carter White House in 1977. Achebe also served as the director of the Kitchen Table Press and was featured in the documentary Word is Out.

In the last few decades, Achebe also participated in events organized around UN World Conferences on Women and did diversity and social justice trainings for a number of international feminist groups, such as the Center for Women's Global Leadership (at Rutgers University) and the International Solidarity Network of Women Living Under Muslim laws. She was a pioneer in connecting US work on racial justice and intersectionality with trans-national discussions of gender, race, and culture.

"I commit to brining Achebe's spirit into our work," said Susana Fried, Co-Chair of Astraea Foundation's Board. "As a friend of Achebe's, I am honored and humbled to be part of the amazing Astraea journey that daily manifests Achebe's principles and values."

"We are so saddened at the loss of Achebe Betty Powell. She was a pioneer, a visionary, an inspiration, and trailblazer, in a movement that was in its early organizing days. The Task Force was blessed to have her as a board chair and board member, including having her represent us as our first Black board member in 1977 at the first ever meeting at the White House with LGBTQ activists," said Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

In an interview several years ago, Powell said this: 'This notion of freedom is such a powerful, tender, all-encompassing way of being in the world, who you came to this place to be. And that shows by the pigmentation in my skin, the texture of my hair the shape of my nose and they call that race....and the shape of my body and my body parts and they call that gender and then the shape of my mind and where it wants to go and where and who I want to be and they call that lesbian, and that is a beautiful thing.

"She was such a gift and an inspiration- she will be greatly missed," concluded Johnson.

This is a tremendous loss for the LGBTQ movement.

About Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice is the only philanthropic organization working exclusively to advance LGBTQI human rights around the globe. We support brilliant and brave grantee partners in the U.S and internationally who challenge oppression and seed change. We work for racial, economic, social, and gender justice, because we all deserve to live our lives freely, without fear, and with dignity.

About the National LGBTQ Task Force

The National LGBTQ Task Force advances full freedom, justice, and equality for LGBTQ people. We are building a future where everyone can be free to be their entire selves in every aspect of their lives. Today, despite all the progress we have made to end discrimination, millions of LGBTQ people face barriers in every aspect of their lives: in housing, employment, healthcare, retirement, and basic human rights. Those barriers must go.

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