Many in the Black community have now come to realize that HIV/AIDS is devastating the community and it has become a national epidemic that needs the immediate attention of the entire community/country.
The Black AIDS Institute is like no other organization and it is dedicated to education and action relative to the deadly disease, ushering in an awareness of the state of AIDS in Black America. Phil Wilson is the founder and executive director of the institute and he has taken on the task of training and mobilizing the organization with a focus exclusively on Black people. For over two decades, he has been speaking out about this pandemic and has created pockets of awareness so that people can pay attention to the AIDS epidemic in our communities.
Last Thursday morning Wilson invited several well-known individuals to a press conference at KJLH radio station to share new findings of the institute’s report and to unveil a new PSA (public service announcement) campaign and a strategy for a One Million-test program. It must be noted that Wilson was diagnosed with AIDS 26 years ago and is the longest documented person living with the dreaded, deadly disease. Those who showed up included Rev. Al Sharpton, Hill Harper, Dr. Nicole McCann (for Bishop T. D. Jakes), Adel Lamar, Tony Wafford, Danny J. Bakewell Jr. and Stevie Wonder also made a brief appearance.
Later on Thursday evening, the Black AIDS Institute hosted its seventh annual ‘Heroes in the Struggle’ gala reception and awards presentation at the Walt Disney Concert Hall honoring Danny J. Bakewell Sr. & Jr. and the Bakewell Group, Julian Bond, Supervisor Yvonne Burke, George Curry, Hill Harper, Bishop T. D. Jakes Sr., Jesse Milan Jr. J.D., Tavis Smiley and Jurnee Smollett.
At the press conference, Wilson welcomed the guest and made some introductory remarks explaining the seriousness of AIDS in the Black community emphasizing, “AIDS continues to be a Black problem in America. As many as 50 percent of Black, gay men are infected. That figures appears to be higher than even in Africa,” where communities, villages and tribes are almost totally ravaged. In addition, Wilson provided a booklet entitled “Saving Ourselves” that gave statistical analysis about the state of AIDS in Black America 2008.
In his welcome-to-the-movement statement, Wilson stated, “I’m talking about believing in our own possibilities. I travel all over this country talking to Black folks. Whether its race-based performance gaps in schools, mobilizing against HIV/AIDS or participating in our democracy by voting, the answer is often the same: ‘What difference does it make?’ Many of us don’t believe our efforts matter. Still I am hopeful that change is on the way. Not because of who will be president, but because I am finally seeing Black folks believe they can end AIDS.”
The ‘Heroes’ reception was punctuated with singing, dancing and a silent auction after the guests and the honorees perused through the concert hall taking in the splendor of the exhibits. Wilson gave a sobering summing up of the constant battle to keep the AIDS crisis on the front burner of society’s agenda. He stated, “The solutions to ending this plague will be found within our own communities. To discover them, we must arm everyone with information. The creed of the Black AIDS is ‘Our People, Our Problem, Our Solution.’ With Heroes in the Struggle, one could easily add to that: our responsibility to honor the honorable among us who are helping to keep us alive. There are heroes among us.”