COLOURS was established in 1991 as a magazine until becoming a nonprofit to respond to the lack of positive and progressive educational, advocacy, and support mechanisms for sexual minority people of color in the greater Philadelphia area. The failure of existing HIV/AIDS prevention efforts targeted to our community has lead us to make the development of serious, responsible, and accountable HIV prevention efforts for sexual minority men, youth, transgender people, and women of color—the leading priority of our organization.
COLOURS seeks to accomplish a variety of activities aimed at attacking the underpinnings of disempowerment and despair in our community—activities which improve information sharing, enhance self-esteem, and support and develop the talents, beauty, strength, and courage of sexual minority people of color. These activities include participating in community coalitions to advocate for the political and social agenda of sexual minority people of color, sponsorship of community forums on issues of concern to our community, and sponsorship of a series of Leadership Forums to clarify an agenda for sexual minority people of color to improve our leadership skills and plan tactics and strategies for pursuing our agenda over the coming period.
COLOURS sponsored seven regular support groups. The first of these groups was 40 Acres of Change (4AC), the only minority-run peer support group for sexual minority teens and young adults in the region. Our Men of COLOURS United was geared to black sexual minority males for information and mutual support. Our Ujima project for newly diagnosed sexual minority people of color was a “Rites of Passage” program for HIV positive individuals and attempted to help the individual by providing information and support for living healthy with HIV. Our COLOURS Positive Network Campaign project addressed the need for companionship of sexual minority people of color living with HIV. In June 1995, we began two new support programs. The first was designed by and for transgender people of color called Genders Within. The second was designed by and for sexual minority women of color named Womyn 4 Womyn.
As with all of our peer support programs, these groups addressed issues such as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, sexuality, family relationships, discrimination, peer pressure and other practical concerns related to their specific populations. In February of 1996, COLOURS initiated two additional support programs, Positive Brothers and A Brand New Day. Positive Brothers was geared toward sexual minority men of color living with HIV. A Brand New Day was a recovery group for people living with HIV/AIDs. COLOURS had also implemented a prevention case management program to provide ongoing and crisis intervention case management services targeting youth and young men who have sex with men.
With funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through The Philadelphia AIDS Consortium, COLOURS began sponsoring monthly HIV/AIDS education/prevention workshops in May 1995. With funding from the City of Philadelphia and The Department of Public Health, COLOURS began sponsoring “House Parties” in 1997. In 1999 two exciting support/discussion groups began: Twenty Times was a discussion group developed to empower the transition into adulthood for sexual minorities of color in their twenties and Sistah 2 Sistah, a discussion group for sexual minority women of color ages 16 to 24. In September 1999, COLOURS was awarded a four-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its innovative “Hot Tracks” HIV prevention phone line targeting men who have sex with men color.
COLOURS participates in a variety of AIDS-related networks, including the Sexual Minority Health Coalition, The National Minority AIDS Coalition, The Sexual Minority Youth Center, Greater Philadelphia Adolescent HIV Outreach Prevention/Education, The Philadelphia EMA HIV Commission (one of our Executive Directors had served as co-chair/commissioner), The Philadelphia AIDS Consortium (on whose board our Executive Director was seated) and the Philadelphia HIV Community Planning Group, for which our director has served as co-chairperson and is a current member. Members of our staff also participate on the LGBT Homeless Initiative, the Human Relations Commission Special Task Force for LGBT Issues and the Police Liaison Committee. Additionally, our Youth Services Coordinator was selected as a scholarship recipient for the Center of Disease Control HIV Prevention Leadership Institute class of 2000.
COLOURS officially became The COLOURS Organization, Inc. in November 1994 and was granted its federal income tax exempt status April 11, 1996.