“When I came out in this community, I realized that for black women there was nothing for us to call our own, so I started throwing these parties. It was natural for me. I didn’t know much but I knew there needed to be some better parties.”
“The more you know, the more you see that needs to be done.”
“One of my many missions is to let people know that you really cannot exist within a bubble. There can be a lot more accomplished if you work with others. So that’s really my hard sell, a lot of coalition building ... If you all have the same mission, which should be equality, why would you be segregating yourself from each other? There’s more power in numbers."
Sheila Alexander-Reid wanted to give lesbians of color a voice, and a good time. Her organization Women In The Life (WITL) has brought professionally managed social events, a magazine, a web portal and a non-profit socially activist association to the community. Growing up in segregated DC, where house parties were the norm, she and her brother became expert party organizers. After discovering the lesbian community in her late twenties, the need for social events for lesbians of color led her and two friends to create VTR, her first event management organization. The next two years were intense and exhausting.
After a brief hiatus, Alexander-Reid created Women In The Life in 1993. A blockbuster party following the 1993 March on Washington launched WITL on a regular schedule of parties. In the autumn of 1993, Alexander-Reid also launched a magazine addressing issues and news of interest to lesbians of color. The project was another part of her mission of giving her community a voice.
Eight years later, she recreated Women In The Life as a non-profit focusing more on social needs than event management. Alexander-Reid wanted to devote more energy and time to health and advocacy.
The murder of her friend Wanda Alston in 2005 shocked Alexander-Reid. Even more appalling to her was seeing that the absence of a will completely undermined Wanda’s own wishes and legacy. As a consequence, WITL created the Wanda’s Will project to help men and women in the gay community ensure that their “rights and ... wishes are fully honored in life and beyond.”