On the wonderful day of January 12, 1925, a precious baby girl, Ruth Mae Waters, was born to the late Elsie Parker and Leon Waters. Raised on Lowber St. in West Philadelphia with, thirteen other siblings, her father nicknamed her “baby Ruth.”Ruth graduated from high school in Philadelphia and then worked various jobs, including at Elite’s Pleating Company, where she worked with her sisters and daughters for many years.
After her first marriage, she met and married the late Francis Williams, and together they raised six beautiful children, the late William Thomas, the late Ruthie Benjamin, the late Frank Williams, as well as Francis Williams, Francine Womack, and Tina Williams. Ruth is also survived by brother, Walt Waters, sister Edith Brown, sister Viola Benjamin, sister Barbara Wilkins, and a host of grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Ruth was an active member of her neighborhood and community. She served as block captain for many years, ran a free lunch program and worked as a trainer with The Philadelphia AIDS Consortium, helping therapists and other professionals better understand how to serve the LGBT community. She was always willing to offer her support to anyone in need, and opened her home to many family and friends over the years. She will be remembered for her kindness, love, sense of humor, and as a mother to many.
Charlene is an icon and inspiration to an entire generation of girls and women from all cultural and racial communities, but particularly to those women of African American descent who have and are struggling for the right to express who they are. She stood up for transgender women in our community who daily face social and economic stigma, housing and job discrimination, random and planned violence, deep and strong hatred as well as intolerance, inequality and inhumanity.
Charlene came to Philadelphia in the early 1990’s and immediately began her work as a relentless advocate and community organizer in the general LGBT community in combating HIV/AIDS; and more specifically, in fighting for the rights of transgender individuals.
Charlene’s leadership in one of Philadelphia’s oldest, respected non-governmental nonprofit organizations responding to the AIDS epidemic, The Philadelphia AIDS Consortium (TPAC), began immediately. She was elected to serve on the Board of Directors and shortly thereafter as Vice Chairperson to the Board alongside Board President Luciano Orsini. She continued in myriad other positions at the Consortium for the next 15 years. Her signature contribution was in serving as Chair of TPAC’s Consumer Caucus which determined the spending priorities for tens of millions of state and Ryan White dollars in a conflict free, consumer driven process.
In addition, Ms. Moore served in the executive management role of Supervisor for TPAC’s national service program, the ACTS AmeriCorps program which operated 14 sites in 4 states. In later years Charlene served as the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director of TPAC, Mr. Yoshiaki Yamasaki.
Charlene was an active member and a Deacon in her church, The Unity Fellowship Church in Pihiladelphia, served on the City of Philadelphia’s Office of HIV Planning and was a participant and presenter at the University of Minnesota. She was instrumental in getting SEPTA to drop the gender markers on transpasses, which had long been a source of discrimination for many trans and gender variant people in the community.
Perhaps, the most enduring and important accomplishment Charlene made was founding, developing and growing The Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. Starting with the humble beginnings of half a dozen individuals working as TPAC’s consumer caucus with the purpose of finding the ways and means to help the Trans community by transforming that small caucus to become arguably the preeminent education and outreach forum for the Trans community in America. Next June because of Ms. Moore’s work and her partnership with Mazzoni Center, the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference will hold its 14th annual meeting at the Philadelphia Conference and Convention Center. What greater testament to Charlene Moore’s work and her story of hope, strength, stamina, love and transformation than for the Trans Conference to meet one block away from the office she worked in most of her occupational life on the 5th floor of the John F. Kennedy Behavioral Health Center.
More recently, together with community leaders and other professionals, Charlene created The Transformation group, which serves as the longest running open support group for Trans men and women in the area. She has long been a spiritual leader, mentor and inspiration to those in her faith community, the trans and gender variant community, the community of people combatting HIV/AIDS and the recovery community in Philadelphia and has touched many lives in her tireless work over the last 20 years.
TPAC’s Board of Director’s President, Luciano Orsini, memorialized Charlene’s work and life by eloquently noting “Charlene Moore was a tireless fighter to build tolerance, grow acceptance, strengthen social justice, guarantee human rights, promote human dignity and recognize equality among all people”