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The Unveiling of the Black AIDS Monument
By Special to the Sentinel
Published June 24, 2021

Los Angeles, California, Sunday, June 27, 2021.

It has been 40 years since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on June 5, 1981, which presented findings about a “strange new immunodeficiency disease” which was primarily associated with young, previously healthy, gay men. Forty years ago, it was thought that HIV/AIDS was primarily a “gay disease”, and as a matter of fact, it had been labeled “Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease(GRID).  No one could have been further from the truth.

Today, worldwide, after more than 76 million infections; over 33 million deaths and an estimated1.2 million people currently living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., we have all come to realize that this was never a “gay disease”.

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Those of us who have worked in the community since the inception of the HIV/AIDS pandemic are raising our voices today to honor the memory of the thousands of African Americans/Blacks who have died due to HIV/AIDS-related complications in the past 40 years in Los Angeles County.  We are also gathering today to honor and acknowledge the thousands of community activists, advocates, policy-makers and public health professionals who have given of their time and life to ensuring that the needs of the African American/Black HIV/AIDS- affected community were met, as well as, the HIV/AIDS affected community’s voice would be heard, whether in the Board Room at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Office; the Los Angeles County HIV/AIDS Commission meetings; or “behind closed doors”.  Jeffrey King, Executive Director of In the Mean Time Men’s Group, Inc., a local non-profit targeting African American gay and bisexual young men of color, was the impetus in advocating for the establishment of a “Black AIDS Monument” to be erected at the Carl Bean House in South Los Angeles.  He put out a call, in early 2021, to local community advocates who have been working in the HIV/AIDS arena in LA County for decades to come together to join a local planning committee in order to work in partnership to plan, coordinate, and install a Black AIDS Monument in South Los Angeles to not only commemorate the 40th Anniversary of AIDS being recognized in the U.S,  but to also commemorate the thousands of lives of African American/Black individuals who have died due to HIV/AIDS, as well as, to commemorate the thousands of African American/Black HIV/AIDS community advocates who have worked tirelessly to ensure the African American community obtained their fair share of public and private sector resources to support People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) and to save lives.

 

The Black AIDS Monument (BAM) is represented by a “tiered” Water Fountain and a Tekhenu with a Sankofa Bird at the apex of the Tekhenu.  The inscription on the Black AIDS Monument reads: “Pouring Into Each Other”, which has much significance for those of us who have survived the 40-year HIV/AIDS pandemic.  While “Pouring Into Each Other”, we only had each other to depend upon to get the job done, whether it was taking in someone who was homeless; going with someone to the doctor’s office because their family had abandoned them out of stigma, fear and homophobia; stopped by someone’s house to take them a meal because there was no food in their house; or put out a call for donations to help a family with burial costs for their loved one.  We “Poured into Each Other” over the past 40 years to ensure that as a people and a community, our voices would be heard and that we would work to eliminate the ever present HIV/AIDS-related homophobia, stigma, and racism which all lead to the disproportionate number of African Americans/Blacks dying of HIV/AIDS for the past 40 years.

The BAM in Los Angeles is standing tall to represent our hard work to fight, not only to end HIV/AIDS in our lifetime, but to acknowledge that we fought a brave fight and accomplished a lot over the past 40 years in terms of saving lives, impacting public policy, obtaining public and private sector funding, supporting individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS, and continuing to build coalitions whose mission is to move beyond “what is in it for me”.

The BAM unveiling is closed to the public due to the planning committee reaching full capacity on the number of individuals and guests who can attend the event in person.  However, we are asking you to join us on Facebook Live at the unveiling of the Black AIDS Monument at the Carl Bean House, 2146 West Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles, on Sunday, June 27, 2021, from 3 PM to 5 PM (PST).  The event can be viewed live on Facebook at the in the In Mean Time Men’s Group Inc.’s website.

Join us on Face Book Live to learn more about the history of the HIV/AIDS movement in the African American/Black Los Angeles community 40 years in the making, but more importantly, to view the Water Fountain and Tekhenu and Sankofa Bird erected in tribute to thousands of African American/Black lives lost to HIV/AIDS and to give recognition to the thousands of African American/Black lives still engaged in the struggle to defeat HIV/AIDS.

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For additional information about the BAM unveiling on Sunday, June 27, 2021 from 3 PM to 5 PM, Contact Jeffrey King, Executive Director, In The Meantime Men’s Group, Inc. at 323-251-7392

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