Collections by Michelle Brown WSG Dr. Wilhelmina Perry


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Amazing, incredible, inspiring are but a few words that could be used to describe Dr.Wilhelmina Perry. She grew up in Harlem with her parents, grandmother, and eight siblings. Her father was a deacon and union leader who sometimes held two jobs to support the family, and her mother also worked outside the home. Dr. Perry was raised in the Pentecostal church in a household filled with a strong sense of community activism and Black pride. She earned a BA in social welfare and a master’s degree in social work. Perry later earned a doctorate in human behavior and leadership. She met her life partner, civil rights activist Antonia Pantoja while teaching at San Diego State University in California. Over the course of their three-decade relationship, they founded the Graduate School for Community Development in San Diego and were mainly involved with social work in low-income communities in both the United States and Pantoja’s native Puerto Rico, to where the pair relocated in the mid-1980s returning to New York in the late 1990s. Following Pantoja’s death from cancer in 2002, Dr. Perry found a purpose by returning to her church roots and joining the Maranatha LGBTQ initiative at Riverside Church in New York City. She co-founded the Interfaith Task Force for LGBT Homeless Youth. She also worked as a marriage equality advocate for Empire State Pride Agenda and was a co-founder of the LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent. She was honored with the Encore Purpose Prize fellowship, one of the nation’s largest and most popular prizes for people over the age of 60 fighting social inequality and recently joined the advisory board for Zami Nobla.

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