Monday, September 24, 2018

AIDS in Black- Heroes in the Struggle

by G'Bre (writer), Pico-Union, Los Angeles, November 22, 2006

The Black AIDS Institute held its 6th Annual “Heroes in the Struggle” gala on Thursday, November 16th at the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood. The night began with a reception and silent auction, with the requisite food, drink and mingling. It was a festive and energetic scene and the atmosphere became even more juiced with the pre-show entertainment that included TC Carson (of “Living Single” fame), Yvette Cason (who will be in the upcoming film version of “Dreamgirls”) and Cheryl Lynn.

Cheryl Lynn, the headliner, got the crowd lathered up by performing “If This World Were Mine”, the duet she recorded with the late Luther Vandross; then she tore the place down with a fierce rendition of her biggest hit “Got to be Real”.

The awards presentation followed in the main theatre, hosted by Loretta Devine-- who kept the mood light all night-- and former track great Carl Lewis. The event was sprinkled with celebrities including Leslie David Baker (Stanley from “The Office”) and Jimmy Jean-Louis (the mysterious brother that has not spoken yet in “Heroes”). Guests gave a recap of the last 25 years, the cultural milestones and the AIDS and HIV related milestones during this time-- from the discovery of AIDS in 1981 (and it’s original label, “gay cancer”) to the frightening statistics surrounding AIDS in Black communities today. The statistics were sobering and the personal stories of friends and family lost to the disease were poignant and touching.

At the forefront of the fight against AIDS are the nights’ honorees. The honorees, with their diverse and dynamic stories, illustrated the range of ways to get involved in the cause of fighting AIDS in Black communities. These honorees include Rashidah Abdul Khabeer, who has been on the ground with her organization “Circle of Care” organization in Philadelphia, giving treatment and loving care to HIV patients and education to the at-risk Black Philadelphia community. Another honoree, Michael Bernard Beckwith, founder of Culver City’s Agape Spiritual Center, was honored for his and his congregation’s work to volunteer and give financial assistance to AIDS related groups. The next Honoree was Duane Cramer, a photographer that has lent his talent to the Black AIDS Institute for its “Got AIDS” and “I’m Committed” public service announcements. Writer/director/producer Patrik-Ian Polk was honored for his portrayal of Black gay men living with AIDS, and living with those living with AIDS, first with his independent film “PUNKS,” and then “Noah’s Arc”, the first scripted show on MTV/Viacom’s gay niche network, Logo. Tony R. Wafford was honored for his work in the straight Black community. Wafford gave out condoms in barbershops, gave away free concert tickets to young folks who got tested, and did whatever it takes to raise the Black communities awareness of AIDS. The final honoree was Dionne Warwick who, in 1986, brought Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, and Elton John together to record “That’s What Friends are For”. The proceeds from the smash hit recording went to AIDS research and raised millions of dollars.

Throughout the evening, honorees and presenters shared bone chilling statistics about the disease. To date, an estimated 30 million people have died from AIDS and most of them have been black. African Americans now account for 54 percent of annual new infections, though they are just 13 percent of the population. Black women accounted for 72% of all new HIV/AIDS cases among women in the United States.

Despite the somber tone that the facts and figures brought on, the night was filled with hope and encouragement inspired by the honorees and their efforts. Honoree Tony Wafford summed it up best during his acceptance speech when he said “not let ‘the facts’ get in the way of ‘the truth’. “The truth,” was that despite the gloomy facts, the Black community has been through worse, most notably the horrors and holocaust caused by slavery. He was sure that Black people would get through this to, saying, “Let’s love each other and care for each other and we’ll be alright.”

About the Writer

G'Bre is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
Want to write articles too? Sign up & become a writer!

1 comments on AIDS in Black- Heroes in the Struggle

Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Credo on December 20, 2013 at 09:30 am

Excellent topic!


 Report abuse

Add A Comment!

Click here to signup or login.

Rate This Article

Your vote matters to us