Kimberleigh Smith is so VOCAL

  • Candid photo of Kimberleigh Smith smiling

Kimberleigh Smith, our vice president of Policy, Advocacy & Communications, will be the 2015 recipient of the Joe Capestany VOCAL for Justice Award at the She’s So VOCAL Gala on Thursday, June 18th. Kimberleigh will be receiving the award from Dr. Mary T. Bassett, NYC’s Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In every sense of the word, Kimberleigh gets VOCAL. She was a 10 year member of Lavender Light: The Black and People of Color Lesbian and Gay Gospel Choir, in addition to having an impressive career of advancing social justice and health equity.

Kimberleigh began her career as a journalist and was a writer for the progressive, Brooklyn based, black owned, The City Sun. One of her first big stories was about people of color living with HIV who were using alternative treatments. She immediately recognized that AIDS was the civil rights issue of her time. She realized that AIDS shone a light on the racism that she had observed first hand and the homophobia that she was facing as a queer, black woman coming out in the early 1990’s.

Kimberleigh has gone on to hold powerful positions at some of New York City’s most influential AIDS advocacy organizations, including Brooklyn AIDS Task Force, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, GMHC and now, Harlem United.

She is a thoughtful leader who is able to turn good ideas into a reality. She is the one who will willingly agree to do the right thing, even if it’s politically unpopular.

Kimberleigh was an early supporter of some of the most progressive campaigns undertaken by the NYC AIDS community, like the Women HIV Collaborative. She was also instrumental in creating the NYC Communities of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition which successfully advocated for millions of dollars for HIV prevention, treatment and services for organizations explicitly run by and for people of color.

Last year, Kimberleigh was appointed to the Governor’s Ending the AIDS Epidemic Task Force and remains a driving force in New York’s campaign to end AIDS in New York State. We are so grateful to have allies like Kimberleigh in our movement and are thrilled to honor her this year at our gala.

You can meet Kimberleigh, her wife Betsy and her son, at VOCAL’s She’s So VOCAL Gala on June 18th. Tickets are on sale now for this special event celebrating women, like Kimberleigh, who have dedicated their lives and careers to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the drug war, and mass incarceration.