Fort Greene

Reverend Joyce MacDonald

From being diagnosed with HIV in 1985, resulting from a long battle with heroin, to becoming an ordained minister at Church of the Open Door in 2009, Joyce has used her struggles that many may find embarrassing to drive her work in what she calls being a spiritual nurse at the Farragut Houses and the surrounding community.  

Her family moved to Farragut in 1951 where she grew up with parents that inspired her to love art, work hard and have an open and welcoming home to all in the neighborhood, all this while showing her relentless love through her wayward years.

These lessons drive her as she mentors women in the community and women coming back from prison. Through her Keep Your Pearls Girls ministry, she teaches them to be smart and safe while finding inner beauty and dignity. A minister, advocate and artist, Joyce wants everyone to know that they are precious and beautiful. She uses sculptures, painting, poetry and songs to help people find healing from the pains of their past.  Through her contagious joy whether she’s writing letters to prisoners (which she’s done for more than 18 years), visiting women in the shelters or sitting bedside with them in the hospital, Reverend McDonald helps women know they too can be a survivor.


“Whatever you’re going to be, you’re now becoming.”

“HIV is not the end, having no hope is.”

Portrait by

Rachel Martin

Rachel Martin is a Brooklyn-based photographer. She is currently working on a series about the connection between the American church and race. She has lived in Fort Greene since 2016. Insta: @rachelmartinphoto

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