A memorial for beloved Metro member, Joan Valentina Harris, was held at in the sanctuary of Metro Baptist Church and online via Zoom on Monday, April 8, 2024 at 12:00 PM Eastern.  We thank all who attended and who contributed to the beautiful memory of Joan.  Full recorded memorial service can be accessed below.


Joan valentina harris (1952-2023)

Joan Valentina Harris was born on August 27, 1952, in Columbus, Georgia, to the late Effie L. Harris and Joseph Dyson. She passed away on November 19, 2023 in New York City.

From an early age, Joan harbored a passion for entertaining. Her theatrical journey began at Bowie Senior High School, where she portrayed Emily in their production of OUR TOWN. After high school, she pursued her passion at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland, majoring in Drama. When she arrived in New York City, she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, HB Studios and Simon Studios, among others.

Early in her career, Joan juggled various acting jobs, with more traditional “roles” including working in a dentist's office, as a sales clerk at Bloomingdale's, as a cater/waiter and as a supernumerary for the Metropolitan Opera. She even made and sold mini cheesecakes to the back stage crews of many Broadway houses. One of her cherished summer positions was as an official State of Maine Forest and Trail National Park Ranger.

Joan had always dedicated herself to service. In New York City—which became her beloved home for over five decades—that drive ramped up. From feeding the hungry at church and the Bowery Mission to feeding the homeless on the streets and subways. Joan was a volunteer with a capital V!

Joan also served on numerous committees in: AFTRA--American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AEA--Actors Equity Association and SAG--Screen Actors Guild, fighting for actors rights. She led many union Black History Month celebrations, served on the AFTRA NY Local Board and was a delegate to the AFTRA National Convention for years. Joan was a beloved member of Metro Baptist Church, where she served as a Trustee and was active in Metro’s Sanctuary Arts program through the Upstart Creatures Theater Company.

Throughout her life, Joan graced countless stages in numerous productions, in the city and regionally, and amassed a collection of stunning reviews for her performances. Some of her favorite roles were, Rose in Fences, Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, and Mrs. Muller in Doubt. Joan was a constant figure on “All My Children,” “As The World Turns,” and “Saturday Night Live.” Her TV/film work included, “The Sopranos,” “The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd,” and appearing opposite Hugh Grant in, Two Weeks Notice. Joan had always been involved with many theater companies, including New Century, Break-A-Leg, and later in her career, Stomping Ground and Pages. She had also been a resident professional theater artist for Cornell University and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts writing program.

Joan's legacy extends beyond her career achievements. She is survived by: her two loving sisters, Earlene Gary and Valerie Harris; her brother, Michael Harris; two caring aunts, Ruby Smith and Lizzie King; and six devoted nephews: Christopher Ray Jones; Christopher Gary; Phoenix Nebula; Anthony Harris; Matthew Harris; and Zachary Harris; several cousins, neighbors and friends, who will continue to treasure their time spent with Joan.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in celebration of Joan’s life to: THE LUPUS FOUNDATION OF AMERICA.