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Jussie Smollett to Host 2018 Heroes in the Struggle Gala
BAI Announces 2018 Honorees

LOS ANGELES, Calif.— Black AIDS Institute Board Member Jussie Smollett is returning this year as event chair host for the 2018 Heroes in the Struggle Gala Reception and Awards Presentation.  The annual star-studded event benefits the Black AIDS Institute.  Smollett will serve as the chair and host of the event.  The multi-talented Smollett is an award-winning actor, singer, director, photographer currently portraying musician Jamal Lyon in the Fox network drama series Empire.

“I’ve been working with The Black AIDS Institute since I was fifteen years old”, says Smollett.  “Today, I am proud to be a member of the board and, for the second year, the chairman and host of our annual Heroes in the Struggle Gala.  This year is bittersweet for me.  Our Founder and my mentor, Phill Wilson is stepping down as President and CEO after 20 years of service to the Institute and over 35 years of service to the AIDS movement.  My goal and personal commitment is to honor Phill’s legacy by making sure the Institute and the new CEO have the resources needed to continue the amazing work we’ve been doing for the last 20 years.”

Each year the Black AIDS Institute inducts a select group of individuals and organizations that have made heroic contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Black America into the Heroes in the Struggle Hall of Fame at a Gala Reception and Awards Presentation.  This year’s honorees include actors Billy Porter (Pose, Kinky Boots, Angels in America); Atlanta based doctor, Dr. David Malebranche; and activist Gabriel Maldonado, executive director of TruEvolution in Riverside California.

This year’s theme is “Preparing for the Next Generation of the HIV/AIDS Response in Black America.”  The gala will take place on Saturday, December 1, 2018 (World AIDS Day) at the California African American Museum (CAAM), 600 State Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037.


Ledisi, is a R&B and jazz recording artist, songwriter and actress. A twelve-time Grammy Award nominee, Ledisi has released eight studio albums between 2000 and 2017. In 2000, Ledisi released her first album, titled Soulsinger: The Revival. In 2002, Ledisi released her second album, Feeling Orange but Sometimes Blue. The album won an award for “Outstanding Jazz Album” at the California Music Awards. In 2007, Ledisi signed a record deal with Verve Forecast and released her third album, titled Lost & Found, which sold almost 217,000 copies and earned her two Grammy nominations, including one for Best New Artist.





Gabriel Maldonado, MBA is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of TruEvolution serving the LGBTQ community in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Originally from Compton, California, he has been a community organizer for nearly fifteen years having first began working in the field as a community organizer with the Los Angeles Police Departments Teen Community Police Advisory Board addressing the gang violence resulting from racial tensions, poverty, and police distrust in the community.





Dr. David J. Malebranche, M.D., M.P.H. is Associate Professor of Medicine Director, Student Employee Health Services at Morehouse School of Medicine. He is a first generation Haitian-American. Dr. Malebranche was an assistant professor at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia until September 2012. In November 2012, he accepted an appointment as a primary care physician at the University of Pennsylvania’s Student Health Center.





Billy Porter is a stage performer, pop singer, film and television actor and vocal coach. Porter won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Lola in Kinky Boots at the 67th Tony Awards. For the role, Porter also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical.





Gabourey Sidibe is an actress who made her acting debut in the 2009 film Precious, a role that earned her the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead in addition to nominations for the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Actress. Her other film roles include Tower Heist (2011), White Bird in a Blizzard (2014), and Grimsby (2016). Since 2015, she stars in the Fox musical drama series Empire as Becky Williams.



Corporate hero

Essence is a monthly magazine for African-American women between the ages of 18 and 49. First published in 1970, it is the only magazine that focuses on reaching an audience of black women, revolves around the black woman experience, and has remained for a long period of time.







Phill Wilson is retiring at the end of December as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Black AIDS Institute, the only national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black people. Since its founding in 1999, the Institute’s mission has been to stop the AIDS pandemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV. The Institute interprets public and private sector HIV policies, conducts trainings, offers technical assistance, disseminates information and provides ad­vocacy from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view.



The late Kenneth Reynolds longtime publicist collaborated with a who’s who in music, including Whitney Houston, Labelle, Gladys Knight, Herbie Hancock, The Jacksons, Taj Mahal and Kool & the Gang. Reynolds, a native of Chicago, began working in the entertainment industry in his late teens as a page for the Merv Griffin Show in New York City. A later stint as global road manager for female trio Labelle (Patti LaBelle, Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx) opened the door to publicity and marketing posts with the Arista, PolyGram and CBS labels. After relocating to Los Angeles, he launched his own PR/marketing firm.






Nearly 100 individuals have been inducted into the Heroes in the Struggle Hall of Fame over the last 17 years.  It is a photographic tribute to HIV/AIDS allies; elected officials and policy makers, artists from television, film, stage and music, civil rights leaders, health-care providers, advocates and activists, and people living with HIV/AIDS.  Since its debut in 2002, the exhibit has traveled the world—raising awareness; challenging Black Americans, key thought leaders and institutions to get involved in their communities; and generating critical conversation about HIV stigma, testing, prevention, treatment, and care.


Founded in 1999, as the only national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black communities, the Black AIDS Institute’s mission is to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing traditional Black Leaders, Institutions, and individuals in efforts to confront HIV/AIDS.  BAI disseminates information, conducts trainings, offers technical and capacity building assistance, advocates for sound, inclusive, culturally responsive public & private sector health policies, delivers high quality comprehensive local primary care and treatment in Los Angeles, and provides advocacy and mobilization from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view.

Our motto is “Our People, Our Problem, Our Solution!”


Tickets and sponsorship packages are priced at various levels, from VIP packages to a limited number of community seats for as little as $75.  The event is completely underwritten by major donors and every penny raise goes directly into efforts to end the epidemic, help people get into care and stay in care, protect themselves from HIV infections, and advocate for sound HIV/AIDS policies.  For more information about purchasing tickets, becoming a sponsor, joining the host committee, or placing an advertisement in the program book, contact Wendell Miller, Black AIDS Institute, 213-353-3610, Ext. 105,


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