Women We Love 2022: Kimberleigh Joy Smith

Photo by William J. Nazareth Jr.

Kimberleigh Joy Smith

For Kimberleigh Joy Smith, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at New York’s Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, observing the effects of the AIDS crisis was pivotal in shaping her approach to healthcare reform. “I watched people with lived experiences take charge and shape the discourse about their own health care and their bodies,” she tells GO. In particular, Smith says, “I was struck when Black, queer communities stepped in and mobilized on behalf of our own communities, fight- ing systemic racism and sometimes even racism within the movement itself.” It’s not only about HIV, either: Smith has witnessed firsthand the abundant flaws in the larger healthcare system, especially where the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities are concerned. “Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t really work for anyone, let alone folx who’ve been marginalized, stigmatized, or cast aside because of our bod- ies, sexualities, gender identities, or abilities,” she says. For Smith, working in policy and advocacy is a constant balancing act. “The biggest challenge is… not losing sight of the smaller, really important incremental changes we make over time, but also not exhausting and losing oneself in the minutiae of a larger movement or goal,” she reflects. Even on her toughest days, however, Smith takes pride in her work of “creating and sustaining policies, funding, and systems that make healthcare work for every BODY.” As for those who’ve inspired her, Smith says, “I’ve stayed true to my values, and I hope some of my early mentors would be proud.” –LE

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