About Us

GRIOT Circle is an advocacy and service organization committed to the dignity,
well-being, and quality of life of LGBTQ people of color as we age


GRIOT Circle is a community-based, multigenerational organization serving LGBTQ elders of color.  Our mission is to respond to and eliminate all forms of oppression, including: ageism, racism, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, poverty, xenophobia, and their intersections. We achieve this by providing health, wellness, advocacy, and leadership activities to remove isolation and fear, build community, as well as honor racial and ethnic traditions.


All LGBTQ elders of color experiencing a just and abundant quality of life.



GRIOT (Gay Reunion In Our Time) Circle was founded as an informal gathering of elders and was officially recognized as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) in 1996. GRIOT Circle remains the only organization exclusively dedicated to serving the needs of elder LGBTQ people of color.

Most of our members reside in New York’s metropolitan area, though GRIOT has members throughout the country. Nearly all our members are from modest-to-low income households; more than 50% are retired; and about 90% identify as black, African American or Caribbean American.

We provide emotional support and quality programming that affirm the lives of this often invisible and marginalized population. GRIOT is committed to honoring and preserving our histories and traditions while reuniting those parts of our selves that have been fragmented by racism and homophobia. We maintain a space, free of discrimination based on age, gender, race, sexuality, spirituality, and ethnic origin. Everyone is welcome.


Our Founder

Reging Shavers, Founder and Former Executive Director of Griot Circle

In 1995, Regina co-founded GRIOT Circle to combat the lack of community that she had observed amongst LGBT Elders, particularly those of color. Since then, GRIOT Circle has become "an intergenerational and culturally diverse community-based social service organization responsive to the realities of older lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, two-spirit and transgender people (LGBTST) of all colors.” In 2000, Regina assumed the role of Executive Director of GRIOT.

Regina Shavers had a long history of community involvement and activism. As co-chair of District Council 37, she advocated for workers’ rights and served on the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Lesbian and Gay Rights Advisory Board. She played an active role in the Campaign for Inclusive Family Policy, the citywide coalition that obtained domestic partner benefits for New York City employees, and also helped to found Pride At Work, a constituency group of the AFL-CIO that focuses on the rights and unionization of LGBT workers.
The former Assistant Director of the NYC Department of Health’s HIV Training Institute, Regina created and implemented curricula for HIV prevention and treatment, including education tailored for older populations. Regina continued with her HIV/AIDS facilitation as a member of the New York Association on HIV Over Fifty (NYAHOF).

Meet the Board

Franciene Forte; Co-Chair

Forte has worked in trade book production for over twenty years. She is the Production Director of The New Press, a non-profit publishing house, and is a union steward with UAW Local 2110 technical, office, and professional workers union. She was a board member of Audre Lorde Project and of Kitchen Table Press. She was also one of the organizers of the Arms Akimbo Organizing Institute and “Black Nations/Queer Nations Conference.

Juan Battle, PhD; Co-Chair

Battle is a Professor of Sociology, Public Health & Urban Education and the Coordinator of the Africana Studies Certificate Program at the City University of New York (CUNY). Battle previously served as a Fulbright Chair in Austria, Affiliate Faculty in various nations throughout the Caribbean and President of the Association of Black Sociologists. Through these roles and his many publications, Battle has long been a prominent and influential voice surrounding issues of race, sexuality and social justice.

Antonio (Jay) Pastrana Jr., PhD; Secretary

Pastrana is an Associate Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York (CUNY). His research and scholarship examines how race-based marginalization affects the lives of LGBT people of color. A Principal Investigator of the Social Justice Sexuality Project, one of the largest national research projects on LGBT people of color, Pastrana is committed to documenting the lived experiences of these understudied populations and to advancing the exploration of intersectional issues focused on race, class, gender, sexuality, and social justice.

Lynn Sexton; Board Treasurer

Lynn R. Sexton has worked for the Department of the Treasury, IRS Technical Advisory Unit for the past 19 years.  Lynn has and continues to work with taxpayers and their representatives from all ethnicities and socio-economic status.Prior to coming to the IRS, Lynn worked for the City of New York for approximately 13 years. Working with marginalized groups tremendously increased and enhanced Lynn’s experience concerning individuals and families faced with systemic oppression and learned helplessness.Lynn R. Sexton is also a native New Yorker and a third generation preacher, currently serving Sacred Fellowship Ministries, which she founded in June 2014. She joined Unity Fellowship of Christ Church (UFC), NYC in 1996, where she was ordained and matriculated from Deacon Candidate to Associate Pastor. She was also ordained at In the Life Ministries, Bronx, NY, where she served as Assistant Pastor. Lynn R. Sexton received both a Master’s and Doctor of Ministry Degree from New York Theological Seminary, NYC.

Dr. Sheldon Applewhite, PhD

Dr. Applewhite earned his PhD in Sociology from Howard University in 2006 and has been an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Social Sciences & Human Services Department at BMCC since 2010. Specializing in urban and medical sociology, Dr. Applewhite worked as an Evaluator and Research Scientist at the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene from 2005-2009 with the Healthy Start Brooklyn Program, a program addressing maternal health outcomes. His current work focuses on health disparities among racial / ethnic groups and the health issues of the LGBTQ community of color. His current research primarily focuses on HIV prevention strategies for same-sex couples. Dr. Applewhite serves as a Board Member with the Black Gay Research Group and as a contributor to AMNY.

Joy Silver

Joy Silver is the Chief Strategy Officer at Choices Women’s Medical Center in Queens, New York. She is an outspoken personality on issues of Diversity and Healthcare in Senior Living. Silver is the President/CEO and founding principal and visionary for RainbowVision Properties, Inc, the world’s first LGBT senior living community, which offers assisted living. Silver also created the non-profit Emerald City Foundation and served as two-term board member for both LAIN (Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network) of the American Society for Aging and the LGBT Historical Society. Additionally, she was a spokesperson for Equality California and Equality New Mexico and led the LGBT Healthcare Committee for Equality New Mexico. In 2009 she was named one of Go Magazine’s "Top Ten Lesbian Entrepreneurs of the Year."

Beverly Tillery

Tillery is the Executive Director of the NYC Anti-Violence Project. For the past twenty years, she has dedicated her career to fighting  for social and economic justice through community-based direct action organizing, labor organizing, human rights and political advocacy, and popular education. She coordinated the Immigrant Worker Rights Project at the New York Coalition of Occupational Safety and Health, worked as the Outreach Coordinator at Amnesty International developing a national field organizing program, and led a campaign at the Service Employees International Union to help healthcare workers form a union. She has designed and facilitated hundreds of trainings and workshops and served as the Board President of the National Organizers Alliance.

Terry Boggis

Terry Boggis is a nationally-recognized leader and activist whose work has focused on LGBTQ families. She currently works with the Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ President and Board of Directors to increase the organization's efficiency and effectiveness.

For 17 years, Terry was the Director of Family Programs at the LGBT Community Center in New York City, where she led programs to provide comprehensive family social support, education, and advocacy for LGBTQ parents, their children, and those considering parenthood. Earlier, she served as the Center’s Director of Communications for two years. Terry also directed the Ettelbrick Family Project at Stonewall Community Foundation, an 18-month Ford Foundation-funded project to advance and enhance understanding of LGBTQ families and their contribution to family evolution and sociology. Terry was a founding board member of Queers for Economic Justice, working as a board co-chair, and serving on the board for over 10 years.

Sandra Hines

Hines worked for twenty-six years with special needs children with the Department of Education and retired in 2011. She has been a member of GRIOT Circle for ten years, serving the Events Committee, Buddy-to-Buddy Program, Book Club, and Women’s Group. An active and vocal leader of our organization, Hines tells the story of how she became involved as a member of the elder LGBTQ community in the “Now is Our Time” video.

Sandra Hines lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She enjoys elevating her knowledge and organizational and leadership skills. As a board member, she strives to advocate for GRIOT members and works to help make GRIOT Circle a successful community-based organization advocating for LGBTQ elders of color.

Mark Fowler

As Deputy CEO at the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, Rev. Mark E. Fowler is responsible for program development, project management and the expansion of Tanenbaum programs nationally and internationally. A sought-after facilitator and keynote speaker on equality issues like race, gender, sexual orientation and religion, Mark’s recent engagements include keynotes at SASK Power (Canada), the NASSCOM conference (Bangalore) and NALC Diversity Best Practices. Mark has also recently conducted workshops at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit, the Diversity in Asia Network (DIAN) of Community Business, and the Forum on Workplace Inclusion.

Rev. Fowler is an ordained interfaith/interspiritual minister. He is appreciative of the privilege of seeking God in all its manifestations on the planet, thus far. Rev. Fowler has given the morning message several times at the New Thought Spiritual Center of Eastern Long Island in Southampton, New York, the Community Protestant Church in the Bronx, at Sacred Fellowship Ministries in Brooklyn, and at Unity of New York in Manhattan. Rev. Fowler is also a Second Year Dean of Students at the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary.

Rev. Fowler earned a B.A. in English and Education at Duke University and trained as a Mediation and Conflict Resolution Specialist with the NYC Department of Education. He completed the seminary program at the One Spirit Interfaith Seminary in New York.

Our Staff

Recognizing that far too many members of our community have been systematically overlooked, underserved, and have endured discrimination and violence based on their age, race, sexual orientation, and/or gender expression; while empowering ourselves to be self-sufficient and free to enjoy aging in a safe and supportive environment, GRIOT Circle’s mission is to provide programs and services to assist our members in removing the isolation and fear around aging in the LGBTQ and larger communities, as well as  eliminating discrimination wherever it exists.


José Albino

Executive Director


José has been working in the aging field for over twenty years and has been responsible for guiding a diverse number of departments within the aging field including, meals on wheels, senior centers, case management, health and wellness, supportive housing and mental health programs.  José holds a bachelor’s in Psychology from the University at Albany, an MA in Education and Human Development with a concentration in Community Counseling from The George Washington University, an Advanced Certificate in Executive Leadership and Non Profit Management from NYU and received his Certification as a Professional Life Coach from The Institute from Professional Excellence in Coaching.


Aleksandr Chandra

Volunteer Coordinator


While in college, Aleksandr grounded his interests in aging and the body in community-based action and public policy. As a student he launched a local intergenerational contact program in New London, Connecticut that connected college students with older adults through meaningful collaborations. In 2015, Aleksandr interned at the Agewell Foundation and founded Mending Maya, an art-based intergenerational contact program in New Delhi, India. The following year, Aleksandr presented his work at a TEDx conference and received public service and community activism accolades. Most recently, Aleksandr completed a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA and volunteered for an online grassroots campaign writing stories about the LGBTQ South Asian community.   Chandra identifies as a queer mixed-race femme and an elder justice educator.


Katherine Acey

Director of Strategic Collaborations


Katherine Acey is a highly respected activist, best known for her expertise and commitment to LGBTIQ and social justice feminist activism and philanthropy. She is currently a Senior Activist Fellow at the Barnard Center for Research for Women working on issues of aging and multigenerational relationships.  Acey served for more than two decades as the Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice.  Acey received a BA in sociology from Daemen College and a MS in Social Work from Columbia University.


Aundaray Guess

Director of Programs/Site Manager for SAGE-GRIOT


Aundaray Guess has been working in the LGBT field for 15 years. In addition to developing programs for the LGBT community, Aundaray is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post and a regular featured writer for Poz Magazine, an online and print magazine focused on HIV/AIDS. He served as the Communication Director of GMAD (Gay Men of African Descent) prior to joining GRIOT. Aundaray has a Bachelor of Science in Media Studies and a Masters in Public Relations and Corporate Communications from NYU.


Lisa Eddy

Program Coordinator


Bio Coming Soon

Volunteers and Committees

Group Facilitators
Gherri Davis (Book Club)
Don Quigley (Wood Carving) `
Robert Waldron (Men Over 50 HIV Group)

Office Volunteers
Ros Davis
Felicia Holley

Project Volunteers
Liz Bardwell Boyd
Gherri Davis
Sandi Green
Chancer Lloyd
Jon Vasquez

Buddy-2-Buddy Member Coordinating Committee
Sande Hines
Idell Small
Chancer Lloyd

Events  Member Committee
Sande Hines
Ros Davis
Felicia Holley
Chancer Lloyd


Annual Report 2016

"Our testimony has and will continue to be: when we see a need, we work to
address it. We will continue to show love and compassion to each other and
empower those who want to grow."

Franciene Forte   & Juan Battle, Ph.D.
Board Co-Chair        Board Co-Chair

Click here to read GRIOT Circle's 2016 annual report


We would like to thank our donors for their strong support of LGBTQ elders.

Contact Us
25 Flatbush Avenue, 5th Floor Brooklyn, NY 11217
Phone: (718) 246-2775    Email: Cathlene@griotcircle.org