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Sheryl Lee Ralph presents the 19th Annual "Divas Simply Singing!"
Sheryl Lee Ralph
By Brandon I. Brooks Sentinel Entertainment Editor Sheryl Lee Ralph is coming to the rescue of the Women Alive Coalition for an unprecedented the fourth consecutive year. The 19th annual "Divas Simply Sings!" is set for October 10, 7:30p.m., at the Saban Theatre (formerly the Wilshire Theatre), 8440 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills.
The event will feature performances by Faith Evans, gospel diva Yolanda Adams, Brenda Russell, Loretta Devine, Jennifer Lewis, Yo Yo, Barbara Morrison, Frenchie Davis, N'dambi, San Harris, and more.
Presented by the DIVA (Driving Infectious Viruses Away) foundation, Sheryl Lee Ralph began "Divas Simply Singing!" to help raise awareness about HIV/AIDS after witnessing so many of her friends struck down by the disease when she was an original member of Broadway's, "Dreamgirls" cast back in 1981.
"Many of those men were my friends and I just found it unacceptable that they could die of stigma, shame and silence", Ralph said. "Awareness, that's why we started doing DIVA because in the beginning people wanted to see what these fluffy little pretty girls were going to do. What were these singers and dancers, what were they going to do about this devastating disease. So we got people's attention by just being DIVA's but over the years DIVA's has changed and we have gone from just a little spectacle to a movement".
Women are the fastest growing group with new HIV infections not only in America but around the world. Women Alive Coalition provides a variety of education, advocacy, and support services and programs for women who have been diagnosed with HIV / AIDS. It also offers the only heterosexual HIV Program Support group in Los Angles and a HIV / AIDS support hotline.
Over 19 years, Divas Simply Singing has raised more than $5 million dollars and has resulted in the creation of the Sister Circle in Africa, a program to combat HIV / AIDS in Africa.
Ralph says that, "If the disease was rising at such a rate and affecting women of African descent in America there must be a connection between hear and Africa" Ralph was inspired and took a group of infected and affected women from America to South Africa because at the time people who were infected could not come to America. Ralph is in support of a bill that she believes Congressman Barbara Lee is putting into action that will allow AIDS infected people to come to America.
Ralph and her husband, Senator Vincent Hughes from Pennsylvania created the website TestTogether.org, which encourages loving couples hear in America to get tested together.
"We saw President Obama, who at the time was Senator Obama and his first lady Michelle Obama, get tested together in Kenya and we thought to ourselves, wow how major if we could encourage loving couples hear in America to get tested together. And since the time of its inception, we have spread it out and we said look, couples, mothers take your daughters, fathers take your son, whoever take whomever but go on and get tested together".
Testtogether.org has really grown and people can log on, put their zip code and a number of places will come up where they can go get tested for STD's, STI's and many of them are free.
Ralphs commitment to fighting HIV / AIDS led her to develop the one-woman show entitled "Sometimes I Cry-The Live, Loves and Losses of Women with AIDS" (SometimesICry.org). Written and performed by Ralph the show was inspired by the real life stories of women infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
In recognition of hew work in the fight against HIV / AIDS, Ralph was recently recognized by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation with a prestigious Phoenix Award at the foundation's annual Phoenix Awards dinner, as part of the 2009 Annual Legislative Caucus.
"The thing about it is when you are doing grass roots work, you are having people volunteer and no matter what people tell you, volunteering is not something a lot of people do", Ralph said. "They talk about it a lot but a lot of people do not volunteer. A lot of times they want to volunteer when they think they are going to meet a few stars or they want to volunteer when they think it's easy. But few people volunteer and do the hard work and I found that it was easy to work with Women Alive because they were not oppose to toting that bar and lifting that bail. That's what you have to do when you are working with DIVA's.
Ticket prices for the 19th annual "Divas Simply Singing!" ranged from $25 to $250 and are tax deductable. For more information visit www.divassimplysinging.com or contact Women Alive at 323.965.1564.