Mrs. Gwendolyn Gilyard

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Memorial services for Mrs. Gwendolyn Benyard Gilyard formerly of Smithville, GA will be held on Saturday, July 9th at 11:00 AM at the New Hope A.M.E. Church in Smithville, GA with Rev. Leon Pace officiating, Burial will follow at the church cemetery.

Gwendolyn Benyard Gilyard was born April 27, 1938 in Smithville, Georgia to Lizzie Benyard (née Mitchell) and Booker Trent. She went to lower school in Smithville and Doerun, Georgia and attended Moultrie High for Negro Youth, graduating Class of ’56. Her academic & acting skills earned her full scholarship to Florida A&M University. With the FAMU Playmakers Guild she traveled to Africa and Europe, and graduated with a B.A. degree in English / Drama in 1960. After short stints teaching in Sanford, Florida and working in New York City, Gwen seized the opportunity to live & work in Accra, Ghana from 1964 - 1968. She joined the Board of Education soon after returning to New York, and taught elementary school in District 5, Harlem for over 25 years. Before retiring in 1996, Gwen earned a M.S. in Education at University of Bridgeport, Connecticut. “Akua” – her Ghanaian name – continued her interest in theater throughout her life, meeting husband Manuel Gilyard outside National Black Theater in Harlem. She put on many plays in her schools P.S. 200 & P.S. 129, held storytelling contests, and loved attending off-Broadway shows. After planning rites of passage ceremonies for each of her daughters, Gwen co-founded Sojourner Truth Adolescent Rites Society (STARS) with other mothers. Gwen co-authored “Transformation: A Rites of Passage Manual for African American Girls” in 1987, and spoke at seminars around the country for years after. “Adventures in a Country Place” was the next book Gwen published, continuing her love of writing and story-telling. An avid political activist, she continuously rallied for peace & justice. In her later years Gwen enjoyed being a member of Sankofa, Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, Ebony Society of Philatelic Expressions & Reflections, Story Corps, and Black Teachers Who Care at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem New York. On the evening of June 23, 2011, Gwen was released from her earthly shell to be with God.


She leaves to remember her fondly husband Manuel Gilyard of New York City; daughter Maisha (Thierry) Dejean of North Miami Beach, Florida; daughter Tulani Gilyard of Laurel, Maryland; stepdaughter Sheree (Martin) Hamblin of Hyattsville, Maryland; brother Roger Trent of Albany, Georgia; sisters-in-law Annabelle Gilyard of New York City, and Nancy Jenkins of Richmond, Virginia; stepmother Ola Trent of Albany; cousins Donna “Sis” French of Smithville; Rev. Idus Nunn, Jr. of the Bronx, New York, Jewel Lucas of Grand Island, Florida; and numerous beloved aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins from the Gilyard, Trent, Jenkins, Nunn, Bush families; as well as many cherished friends and neighbors.  

Gwen gilyard obit.doc