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 is a board-certified Internal Medicine physician with experience in men’s health, student health, racial inequities in medicine, LGBT health, and the prevention and treatment of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI). He is currently an Associate Professor of Medicine and the Medical Director of Student & Employee Health at Morehouse School of Medicine.

 

 

 

 

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 CircleAward 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.

 

 

 

 

 

SPECIAL TRIBUTES TO…

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.

 

 

Sonya Lockett

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Sonya Lockett “We’re treating a disease of the 21st century like it’s 1950,” she says. If anyone should know, it would be a woman who was raised in small-town America. Sonya Lockett grew up in Baton Rouge, La., a place she calls “fabulous,” and adds, “It’s very Southern with a big emphasis on family …

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Jerry Lopes

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Jerry Lopes Jerry Lopes is a hero in a very Herculean struggle. As a small number of corporations swallow up more and more of the world’s media outlets, the quest for coverage of the issues affecting the African Diaspora becomes an epic one. Enter the American Urban Radio Networks, the largest vehicle for reaching …

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Patrik-Ian Polk

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Patrik-Ian Polk As a Black director who is openly gay, Patrik-Ian Polk challenges stereotypes just by showing up for work. But Polk is not content just being a player in the Hollywood game. Polk is intent on being a player who makes a difference in the Black gay community. Not only does the Mississippi …

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Sandra Johnson

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Saundra Johnson Advocate Throughout her life, Saundra Johnson has never avoided the hard jobs. “I haven’t been a hotel maid yet,” she laughs. “But if it’s nasty, I’ve done it.” When the AIDS epidemic spread across America in the 1980s, her occupational direction began to take focus. “I saw the very first article on …

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Jesse Milan, Jr.

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Jesse Milan, Jr. “My whole life is focused on HIV/AIDS!” Those words are no understatement when it comes to Jesse Milan, Jr.. True, he’s been living with the virus for 25 years and counting, but HIV is more than just a part of his body. HIV is a part of his life’s work. An …

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Bev Smith

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Bev Smith “My audience is informed, educated and well-read. We’ve come a long way from, ‘If I stand next to someone with AIDS, can I get it?’” If there are people in America and the world who understand that AIDS doesn’t leap from person to person in a crowded room, in part, we can …

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Patricia Nalls

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Patricia Nails Imagine losing your husband to AIDS, then losing your three year-old child to AIDS six months later … then being the only woman on the entire planet with AIDS. That was Patricia Nalls’ reality in 1986 at the height of the hysteria-filled dark ages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. When doctors gave the …

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Tony R. Wafford

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Tony R. Wafford He’s not gay. Or a man who has sex with men. Or an IV drug user. None of that matters to this hero when it comes to HIV/AIDS. “Why do I have to be any of those things to realize people are dying and suffering?” asks Tony R. Wafford. “You can …

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Sylvie Drew-Ivie

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Sylvie Drew-Ivie The Caregiver A 55 year-old grandmother of five finds out her late husband was bisexual and infected her with HIV. An Ethiopian woman is feeling suicidal and climbs to the top of an apartment building, ready to end her AIDS-ravaged life. Their stories are at once unique and all too common for …

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Tavis Smiley

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Tavis Smiley Imagine having an articulate Black man always ready to enlighten your world at the flip of a switch. Now imagine that same man opening people’s minds about potentially overwhelming topics like HIV/AIDS. That’s what Tavis Smiley does for countless viewers and listeners who invite this hero into their homes, almost on a daily …

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Cookie Johnson

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Cookie Johnson Her story is one shared by countless Black women: her man tested positive for HIV/AIDS. But unlike most women, her man is world-famous with legions of loyal fans who all know: Magic Johnson has HIV. Cookie Johnson was in their living room when her husband walked in and broke the news. At …

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Dr. M. Keith Rawlins

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Dr. M. Keith Rawlins “When my children or grandchildren ask, ‘What did you do when people were dying of AIDS?’ I want to be able to say I did my best.” For Dr. M. Keith Rawlins, the call to action in the HIV/AIDS pandemic was both professional and personal. His daughter was born in …

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Dionne Warwick

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Dionne Warwick Over an illustrious four-decade career, Dionne Warwick has established herself as an international musical legend. As a performer, she has charmed audiences on every continent. As an activist, she has been a true pioneer in the struggle, and one of the first artists to lead the music industry in the fight against …

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Zackie Achmat

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Zackie Achmat Global Hero Abdurrazack Achmat has witnessed firsthand two of the most epic struggles of modern times, both of them in his native South Africa: the battle against apartheid in the latter part of the 20th century and the war against AIDS in the first part of the 21st century. Zackie, as he …

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Jurnee Smollett

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Jurnee Smollett The power of one young girl’s dream. Hydeia Broadbent was an AIDS baby, having contracted the virus from her biological mother. By her fourth birthday, she wasn’t expected to live beyond another year. By her eighth birthday, she was sharing her story at speaking engagements such as the 1996 Republican National Convention, …

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Gloria Reuben

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Gloria Reuben “People who are HIV-positive are getting their lives back.” This honoree is certainly not missing. She played someone in the struggle in the most famous ER on television. More recently, she played a woman living with AIDS in need of Life Support, the story of fellow honoree Andrea Williams (played by Queen …

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Dr. Ron Simmons

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Dr. Ron Simmons A woman finds blood in her husband’s underwear but can’t find it within herself to bring it up to her husband. To Dr. Ron Simmons, this is just plain wrong, not to mention symptomatic of a community that has gone in the wrong direction for far too long. But Simmons sees …

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Rev. Rae C. Lewis-Thornton

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Rev. Rae C. Lewis-Thornton The Faithful Many people who come across Rae Lewis-Thornton might describe her as, educated, attractive, assertive and ambitious. Not the kind of person with HIV running through her veins. But in 1986, at the tender age of 23, Rae organized a blood drive as a way of educating people to …

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Beny Primm

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Beny Primm By the time the AIDS epidemic exploded into American life, Dr. Beny Primm had already spent decades combating the health problems that plague urban communities. He’d been working with drug abusers at New York City’s Harlem Hospital since the early 1960s, watching as addiction corroded his patients’ bodies and lives. “We had …

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A. Cornelius Baker

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} A. Cornelius Baker Imagine discovering something different about your body—a sore throat, a small lump, even something as simple as ashy skin—and believing it could be a sign of imminent death. That was the reality of those infected with AIDS in the early days of the epidemic. It was also the world in which …

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Kimberly Smith

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Kimberly Smith In an uncertain world, dark forces lurk in the shadows, ready to prey on unsuspecting people struggling with AIDS. Sometimes those dark forces lie in wait in places never imagined by an ordinary person. That’s why the world needs people like Dr. Kimberly Smith. “In the late 80s,” says the native of …

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Rev. Dr. Cecil L. Chip Murray

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Rev. Dr. Cecil Chip Murray What does the pastor of the oldest Black congregation in Los Angeles have to say to those African-Americans who still don’t believe that AIDS is a major threat to the community? “Denial is a river in Egypt. It could happen to any of us.” Under the leadership of Rev. …

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Sandra McDonald

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Sandra McDonald Like all too many Black AIDS activists, Sandra Singleton McDonald started off with almost no resources beyond the passion born from watching loved ones fall ill. Early in the epidemic, the Atlanta, Georgia native was moved by the carnage unfolding from this new virus, and began researching how she could help. She …

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Carl Bean

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Carl Bean Archbishop Rev. Carl Bean doesn’t mince his words, and about the following point, he is absolutely clear. “Love,” he explains, “saved my life.” Growing up in 1950s Baltimore, Maryland, Rev. Bean saw no reason to conceal the fact that he was gay. That decision sent him down a tough road, and at …

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Charles E. Blake

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Charles E. Blake Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. is a man of character, integrity and wisdom. And determination. Given his commitment to the struggle, it’s easy to image him as Charles Atlas, trying to lift up Africa on his shoulders. Blake is senior pastor of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ in …

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Sandra Evers-Manly

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My Image

{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Sandra Evers-Manly “I came from the Civil Rights Evers family in Mississippi. We were raised by the letter L. Love. Lift. Lead. Learn. Laugh. Listen with your heart,” says Sandra Evers-Manly. Loss is another word familiar to her. She’s a cousin of slain Civil Rights activist Medgar Evans and has had to say goodbye …

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Danny Glover

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{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Danny Glover What does the pastor of the oldest Black congregation in Los Angeles have to say to those African-Americans who still don’t believe that AIDS is a major threat to the community? “Denial is a river in Egypt. It could happen to any of us.” Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Cecil L. …

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Sheryl Lee Ralph

Posted in: HITS Bios

{artsexylightbox}{/artsexylightbox} Sheryl Lee Ralph It seems fitting, somehow, that Sheryl Lee Ralph’s vision for joining the fight against HIV/AIDS came to her in a dream. Her hit musical Dreamgirls opened in 1981, the same year that doctors identified the first cases of disease. And it was during her run as a “dreamgirl” when one of …

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