LEADING WOMEN’S SOCIETY
The 2020 Leading Women’s Society is a component of the Positive Women’s Leadership Project, which provides resources, training, education, mentoring and support to increase the leadership capacity of HIV positive women to engage in community representation, prevention and support, policy and advocacy, and social change. The society is made up of HIV positive women who are nominated from within their communities, and who express a deep desire to become more active and vocal at a local, regional, and national level in the fight against HIV
INTRODUCING OUR 2020 HONOREES
THE PANDORA SINGLETON ALLY AWARD
Pandora Singleton came to this Earth to become many things to many people – daughter, wife, mother, leader, founder, visionary and ALLY. Pandora was the fiercest, most passionate supporter and warrior for women living with HIV. She went beyond service to become a best friend, a great mentor, a mother-sister figure and a fearless fighter for human rights for women. She also fought for the rights of all People Living with HIV, especially gay, bisexual, and transgender men of color. Pandora was the Founder/Director of Project Azuka in Savannah, GA. She was a founding member of SisterSong National Reproductive Justice Collective. She served as Co-chair of the GA Community Planning Group and was a Board member of the National Minority AIDS Council. Pandora literally gave her life fighting for so many others. We honor her story with this award as we show our gratitude for another ally who is a leading woman, who is not living with HIV and has been an invaluable ally for more than 20 years to Women Leaders Living with HIV.
Vice President, AIDS United
Valerie L. Rochester has used her 25 years of experience as a leading wellness architect to provide programmatic, administrative, and technical support services in the public health field. A native of Indianapolis, she was exposed to public service at an early age. Her passion for other people’s health and well-being has guided her both professionally and personally, instilling in her the drive to be a purposeful disruptor for bringing about change. She lives by her favorite quote from Muhammad Ali:” Service to others is the rent we pay for our room on this earth” and her motto in life is Make History Now!
Prior to joining AIDS United, Valerie was Director of Programs & Training with the Black Women’s Health Imperative, where she led the organization’s national programmatic responses to address racially and gender-based health inequities; managing an extensive portfolio of health initiatives addressing the priority health issues of breast and cervical cancers, HIV/STIs, obesity, and chronic disease prevention. As a health strategist, Valerie recognizes the importance of engaging and mobilizing communities to help bring about improved health outcomes and has applied these approaches to her work with local, federal, national, and state agencies. She has also served on the board of directors of numerous national and community-based organizations, including her current tenure as a board member of the National Minority AIDS Council, where the holds the position of Treasurer. Because of her commitment to addressing health inequities in communities of color, Valerie was awarded the Congressional Black Caucus Healthcare Hero Award in 2002 at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, presented to her by former Congresswoman Donna Christensen.
On another note, most people would never know that Valerie is a sports and classic horror fan, with a little pop culture thrown in. Her interests are a mix of boxing, Alfred Hitchcock movies, and fashion. When she isn’t shopping for shoes or bags, she likes running, reading Stephen King novels, and spending time with friends learning hand-dancing. She is a self-described “coffee-fiend” who likes traveling to unusual places, discovering different R & B and hip-hop artists and learning all the words to their songs.
ABSOLUTE LOVE COMMUNITY AWARD
SisterLove has sustained her commitment to the mission of achieving full sexual and reproductive justice as a means to end HIV in our communities. We could not have done this for more than 31 years without the strength and support of dozens of partners, collaborators, and sponsors. This year, we are adding an award to the 2020 Leading Women Society Awards and Institute - Introducing the Absolute Love Community Partner Award. This special acknowledgment is our lovenote to a community partner who has shown and shared dedicated support for Women Living with HIV in our programs, as well as the 2020 LWS, for at least 20 years.
The Armorettes are a Legendary Camp Drag Organization that have been around for over 41 years and counting. They have raised over 2.20 Million dollars in the 41-year period one dollar at a time. The Armorettes’ namesake comes from where they started and their tale began, at the Armory Bar in Atlanta, GA. The original Armorettes were Thelma, Julie Garden, Justa Tish, Kitty Carlisle, Ginny Tonic and Liz Helen. These original six stepped up for the community during a very dark time in the late 70’s and early 80’s, when the HIV epidemic was becoming more and more rampant and out of control. They decided enough was enough and if no one was going to help their community they would step up and do so.
So, they decided to put on drag shows at the Armory in Atlanta, GA in order to raise money for their friends who were sick and dying from HIV. Every dollar they took in they immediately turned around and put it to good use by distributing the money to those in need. The Armorettes have always stepped up and done what was right and more importantly what was needed for the community and will continue to do so till a cure is found.
Today, the society has a membership from different walks of life, who all have a deep rooted desire to change the face of the HIV pandemic. Leaders serve in several different capacities including as prevention specialists, executive directors of community based organizations, as ministers in faith-based institutions, and as active advocates on Capitol Hill. One of our very first honored women was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA), and continues to serve as the first HIV positive African-American woman appointed to the special committee. The diagram below gives a geographic overview of the current membership of 2020.
The society focuses primarily on mentoring up and coming advocates and providing leadership and training opportunities for HIV positive women throughout the country and globally. The overall goal of this program is to put a stronger face on the epidemic throughout the nation by engaging smart, beautiful, professionally poised and inspiring HIV+ women in leadership roles on the local, regional, and national level.
In 2009, SisterLove initiated the society by honoring 20 HIV positive women from around the country who have been living positive for 20 years or more. Since that time, SLI has honored a total of 130 women, and most recently expanded the society to include women who are positive that have a desire to be leaders and have not been positive for 20 years.