James Butler.

In remembrance of our dear friend and GRIOT member James Butler, 68, who passed in April 2011.  James was a caregiver to his mother who passed in 2004, then for his sister as well as his longtime lover Bob who has alzheimer’s.  James was HIV-positive, while his partner is not, and was undaunted by his diagnosis as he tirelessly served as caregiver for three loved ones.  James lived in Prospects Heights, he treasured the many mementos of his travels with his partner who is a devout Leontyne Price aficionado.  James was a thoughtful, tender spirit with a big heart who supported several GRIOT Circle initiatives.  We continue the work with the embrace of his spirit and memory.

Feel free to share your sentiments and memory of James Butler in the comment box below.  Photo: Sean Drakes.


Robert Spellman.

Robert Spellman was born on August 23, 1947 to Mose and Dorothy Spellman, in Forth Worth, Texas.  He graduated high school in 1966 and received a scholarship to attend Lincoln University, PA.  Upon graduation Robert moved to New York  city; the place he would call home for the rest of his life.  Richard Brown, his brother, came with him., and would be his support until his passed on July 12, 2008

Robert held several positions in both private and non-profit sectors, including   Senior Program Coordinator and  Health Educator and Risk Reduction Counselor, at Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD).  He served as Program Coordinator at Federation Employment Guidance Services (FEGS).  Robert became the East Harlem HIV Network Coordinator, at Harlem Directors Group, and he served secretary on the Board of  GRIOT Circle.

Known and loved by all, Robert worked steadfastly on issues and concerns relevant to seniors and HIV/AIDS on the seniors roundtable for the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce.  He worked in collaboration with Sage USA,  the New York State Black Gay Network , People of Color in Crisis, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, New York Association  on HIV Over Fifty,  AIDS Community Research Initiative of  America, and the Audre Lorde Project.

Robert is preceded in death by his Father Mose Spellman and his sister Altha Spellman.  He is survived by his mother Dorothy Spellman, brother Douglas and Richard Brown, and his sister Lelia Humphrey.


Regina Shavers, co-founder, GRIOT Circle

Regina Shavers was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 13, 1941 into a family with a long history of community activism.  In 1980, she began working for the New York City Police Dept., she eventually became a supervisor for the Communications Division Training Unit.  In 1990, she was appointed to the Mayor’s Police Council as a representative for the LGBT community.  In 1991, Regina received the Women’s Advisory Committee of NYC’s “Contributions to City Government” award for the greater understanding and acceptance of diversity she facilitated.

Regina served as a shop steward in District Council 37, advocating for workers’ rights.  In 1989, she was appointed co-chair of DC 37’s Lesbian and Gay Issues Committee, and in that capacity she served on the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Lesbian and Gay Rights Advisory Board.  Through DC 37, Regina played an active role in the Campaign for an Inclusive Family Policy, the citywide coalition that negotiated with Mayor David Dinkins to get Domestic Partner benefits for New York City employees.  In 1990, Regina helped to found Pride At Work, a constituency group of the AFL-CIO focused on the rights and unionization of LGBT workers.

In 1991, at the age of 50, Regina graduated cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in English and Women’s Studies from Hunter College.  While pursuing her degree she served as editor of Hunter’s Returning Woman magazine, was a Mellon scholar, served on Hunter’s Women’s Studies Program Committee, and on the Evening Session Student Government.

When she left the NYPD in 1993, Regina became Assistant Dir. of the NYC Dept. of Health’s HIV Training Institute.  She created and implemented training curricula for HIV prevention and treatment, with particular focus on developing approaches responsive to the needs of diverse communities.

Upon retiring from the Department of Health in 2000, Regina became the Executive Director of GRIOT Circle, Inc., an organization which she co-founded in 1995 to address the needs of LGBT elders of color.  Through GRIOT Circle Regina worked to counteract the effects of ageism, racism, sexism and homophobia on the aging LGBT community, and fostered an environment that is supportive, empowering and affirming.  Additionally, she was a member of the New York Association for HIV Over Fifty (NYAHOF) where she developed curricula for educating the elderly about HIV/AIDS and facilitated workshops.

In February 2008, Regina transitioned, she is survived by her devoted life partner, Rev. Janyce Jackson,  daughters Dawn and Shatema, grandsons Tony and Tyler, son Jeral Jones and grandson Koran.  Her loving mother Geraldine Shavers, niece Tene, nephews Gregory and Damon.

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