People & Stories was thrilled when Rhonda Brooks and Candi Poinsette, of the YWCA, reached out to collaborate on an oral history project about the history of the GEMS. GEMS stands for “Girls Empowered Through Meaningful Support” and has existed in one form or another for over 40 years in White Plains. GEMS strives to assist girls in the White Plains community in becoming self-reliant, competent, caring and healthy. It does so by providing relevant engaging activities in the areas of cultural awareness, health and wellness, college and careers, and self-esteem.
Current members of GEMS met with alumni to learn about how the group started and evolved. Alvinia Smith, Laura Havis, and Jonette Mines were all early members who worked with Willa Waller–the woman credited with starting the group. They discuss the social factors that created the need for a program like GEMS in White Plains during the late 1960s and early 1970s. CeCe Belcher and Sydney Jenkins-Hall are more recent members who the GEMS also interviewed.
The recording below was edited and created in direct collaboration with the GEMS and represents the history they wanted others to hear. They attended a workshop at the library to learn about conducting oral histories and examined historical materials from the White Plains Collection to prepare for the interviews. You can find more information about the GEMS program on their website.