Valerie Papaya Mann
Valerie Papaya Mann is an African American lesbian who was born and raised in Washington D.C., where she currently resides. She came out in the mid-1970s. She, along with many other African American lesbians believed at the time, “that racism in the larger society made radical solidarity more pressing – and more possible – than gender separatism within the black gay community.” Racism in feminism for example, disheartened many women of color.
She attended Bowie University where she received a B.S.
in both Education and Communication. Eventually Mann attended American University’s Kogod School of Business Administration where she earned a Master’s degree in Public Relations Management and Marketing. For 25 years, she dedicated herself to the fight against HIV/AIDS, working as the
executive director of three HIV/AIDS focused organizations. One was the D.C. Care Consortium. As the director of this organization, Mann spoke in support of growing funding and support for local D.C. AIDS organizations by the federal government and other organizations. She also worked with the AIDS Project East Bay in Oakland California, which provided housing assistance, emergency funds vouchers and more. 70% of those assisted were people of color, 40% were homeless, and 25% were women.
In the early 2000s Mann taught herself how to play the Zither Harp, eventually playing to audiences in both the United States and Ghana. Her first CD, titled Inner Voyage To Outer Limits, was released in December 2010. For a time, she lived in Ghana, where she began writing her memoirs. While there, The Akwamu Cultural Clan of Ghana adopted her and crowned her as a queen mother. Mann is the Nkorsorhema of Akwamu, Queen Mother of Development, and has committed herself to bring economic relief to a region which consists of 17 towns and villages.
While in Ghana, she also spent more than a year serving as president of the African American Association of Ghana (AAAG). According to the “About Me” section of her website, Valerie Papaya Mann “also helped design and get three-year funding through the World Bank, for a HIV/AIDS Interactive Resource Center, located at The University of Ghana, Legon. The center provides much-needed, up-to-date information on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and points community-based and governmental agencies towards available resources and research.” In total, Mann has traveled to 12 African countries, and during her travels began to collect and sell African art.