LOS ANGELES—The Black AIDS Institute (BAI) has named Bruce Smail as its Deputy Director effective as of April 1. “I have been positive since February 10, 2003. Immediately after diagnosis, I wanted to incorporate HIV/AIDS in my advocacy,” says Smail. “I am very excited to join the Black AIDS Institute family.” He added, “I know as a Black man living with HIV, our voices are not always visible. I am visible and I give voice for my community because I know that it is not easy being open about sexual identity, or HIV status.”
The deputy director will provide leadership in program oversight, implementation and evaluation, financial and grants management, vision enhancement, and strategic planning for the organization. Smail will have primary responsibility for the day-to-day management and success of the organization’s national efforts as well as its Los Angeles HIV and clinical services.
BAI’s President and CEO, Raniyah Copeland, says, “We are excited to add a person to the team to help lead day-to-day operations whose work has mostly dealt with issues of diversity, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and people living with HIV.” She added, “Bruce has a wealth of executive management experience and is a critical team member who is going to help bring the vision of BAI to reality. He is adaptable, organized, and detailed focused.”
Smail’s career spans more than 28 years and includes work experiences in social justice, diversity, advocacy programs and services, higher education, university director leadership, and nonprofit executive leadership. He says, “As the former Chief Executive Officer of the Virgin Islands Community AIDS Resource and Education, and Executive Director of The MOCHA Center, I have worked with similar communities in the Virgin Islands and in Western New York.” He added, “This is my third position of leadership at an HIV/AIDS organization…Each of the organizations were founded by and served Black and Latinx communities.”
The legacy and impact of BAI attracted him to the position. “The opportunity to merge my passion and expertise with a leading HIV/AIDS organization focused on the Black community is what excites me the most about this position.”
In addition to his experience in the HIV/AIDS workforce, he has held positions in academia at University of California Davis, University of Colorado Boulder, and Colorado State University Fort Collins. “I have centered my career around fighting for social justice issues. Whether it was on college campuses or HIV/AIDS organizations, my efforts have been centered around LGBTQ+, people of color and people living with HIV/AIDS,” says Smail. “Creating opportunities for empowerment, nurturing future leaders, creating space for voices that are often silenced in various communities, and advocating for critical issues impacting LGBTQ+, POC, and HIV/AIDS communities have been critical for me personally and professionally.”
Smail, who grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, cites his mother, Juanita Smail, as one of his sheroes who instilled in him a love for education, history, and travel. “She was one of the first women to run for Senate on St. Croix. While she didn’t win on two attempts, she remained in politics and was the campaign manager for the Virgin Islands Delegate Melvin Evans who was the first elected Black governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” he says. She later served as the superintendent of the St. Croix School District.
Smail earned a Master of Arts in counseling and personnel services and a Bachelor of Arts in history from The College of New Jersey in Ewing, New Jersey.
Smail is looking forward to relocating to Los Angeles from the East Coast with his 12-year-old boxer, Mandela. “Now that I will be in Los Angeles, I get to add beach walks. As an island boy, I love the beach. SoCal has many beaches and I always find peace being close to the water.”
Smail believes his life experience, and a career that has been focused on diversity and social justice issues, has prepared him for this new role. “As a Black, bisexual, HIV positive, partially deaf, Caribbean man, I bring all of me—all of the time—to all of my environments. I refuse to separate or dissect who I am. I see the world from all these prisms.”
*Hygh is Senior Communications Manager for the Black AIDS Institute.