Veteran social justice organizer and educator Achebe (Betty) Powell passed away Feb. 21, according to multiple reports.
Powell died of COVID-19 related complications at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Brooklyn, according to a Feb. 22 statement from the the National LGBTQ Task Force.
"Achebe was one of the first Black women to have a leadership role in the lesbian & gay liberation movement in the 1970's," said the statement. "She was the first Black lesbian to serve on the board of directors of the National Gay Task Force and was co-chair of our board for several years. She also attended the historic meeting of lesbian and gay leaders at the Carter White House in 1977. A lifelong activist, Achebe was a founder of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and director of the Kitchen Table Press."
Born in 1940, Powell graduated from Fordham University in 1964. She was active in a number of progressive causes, and was a firm believer in the intersectionality of movements on the left. In a 2004 oral history given to interviewer Kelly Anderson on behalf of Smith College's Voices of Feminism Oral History Project, Powell said, "The amount of speaking and giving voice to our claim for rights, the right to be and the right to have access to all the things that we needed to be was justI don't know, just incredibly powerful and empowering part of my life."
Additional memberships included the LGBT Academic Union, the National Black Feminist Association, Salsa Soul Sisters, National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, New York City Black and Jewish Women's Dialogue Group and the Multicultural Advisory Committee of the New York City Board of Education.
She also founded Betty Powell Associates, a racial diversity consulting firm. Powell was also one of numerous individuals profiled in the landmark 1977 gay-rights documentary Word is Out.
Powell's oral history is at www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/vof/transcripts/Powell.pdf .