DAY OF ACTION PARTNERS – (L-R) Rev. James M. Lawson, Gabriel Maldonaldo, Michael Weinstein, Claudia Spears, Dominique DiPrima, Hydeia Broadbent, Samantha Granberry and Holman UMC Pastor Kelvin Sauls.
(Photo courtesy of AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
A capacity crowd attended the ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ town hall.
The celebratory aura that usually accompanies Black History Month turned solemn on February 23, as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and Holman United Methodist Church united to present ‘A Day of Action’ in South Los Angeles.
Focusing on the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on African American and Latino communities, AHF and Holman UMC collaborated on a local launch of the national public awareness campaign, ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue.’
Church members, elected officials and civic leaders filled the sanctuary to kick-off the campaign at the 11 a.m. worship service led by Holman Pastor Kelvin Sauls. Following remarks by Mayor Eric Garcetti, NAACP—LA President Leon Jenkins, and AHF President Michael Weinstein, the audience was captivated by the powerful message from the keynote speaker, the Rev. Al Sharpton.
“Fifty years past the Civil Rights Act…and we’re still somehow confused into believing that civil rights is only for some of us, not all of us,” Sharpton declared.
“As we deal with HIV/AIDS as a civil right, I see the progressives out there, but where are the rest of them? Those for whom people fought and died so they could live in the suburbs…and walk through the gates of Ivy League schools…”
Confirming his commitment to Christian doctrine, he noted, “Jesus heals the sick. He did not judge the sick. The reason I fight for gays and lesbians, the reason why I stand by the afflicted, is because I want to be like Jesus.”
Following the service, a standing room only crowd packed the ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ town hall discussion. With KJLH broadcaster Dominique DiPrima moderating, the panelists shared insight and personal experiences with HIV/AIDS.
“Our ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ public awareness campaign is intended to open dialogue with stakeholders in the community, the public health arena, and faith-based groups as well as public officials about health disparities and the importance of universal access to HIV prevention and care and treatment,” said AHF President Weinstein.
Hydeia Broadbent, an HIV/AIDS activist and humanitarian, said, “I was diagnosed with AIDS at the age of three and they said I wouldn’t live past the age of five. I turn 30 this year.
“Let us think that this is our issue. The ‘H’ in HIV stands for ‘human,’ which means it can affect any one of us. It takes us to make a difference for our brothers and sisters,” she insisted.
The panel also included the Rev. Dr. Cecil ‘Chip’ Murray, senior fellow at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC and former pastor of First A.M.E. Church; the Rev. James M. Lawson, pastor emeritus at Holman UMC and veteran civil rights activist; Gabriel Maldonaldo, CEO of TruEvolution and In the Meantime Men’s HIV campaigner; Claudia Spears, mother of an HIV-positive individual and activist; and Samantha Granberry, senior director at AHF Worldwide.
Closing out the ‘Day of Action,’ the Holman Choir performed in the 54th Annual Concert of Negro Spirituals. Once again, the sanctuary was filled to hear the choir sing an array of musical selections reflecting African Americans history.
“Under the direction of William Campbell, Jr., this concert celebrated the power and purpose of the freedom song as an example of extraordinary imagination of what freedom and equality can look like,” said Pastor Sauls.
“Leveraging the vision of our ancestors articulated through song, the "Day of Action" was a call to provoke ongoing catalytic action towards robust and strategic collaboration between progressive faith and community organizations to sound the alarm on new and improved systems and schemes of discrimination and marginalization,” he added.