An open discussion: HIV/AIDS epidemic
By Raymond Rachal
Recently at the Old Dillard Museum in Fort Lauderdale, Bobby R. Henry, Sr. of the Westside Gazette, Vitas Healthcare, and The World AIDS Museum & Education Center (WAM) joined together to bring the Black community in concert for one of the most important discussions for the Fort Lauderdale area – an open conversation about HIV/AIDS.
It’s no secret in the state of Florida that Miami/Dade ranks first in new cases of HIV with Broward County ranked second behind Dade County; but it seems to be no real open discussion about anything concerning the virus.
Well, with the help of the Westside Gazette, The World Aids Museum, and Vitas Healthcare and many others, an exhibit with poetry, slide-shows, photographs and art exhibits were put together to con-front the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Black community.
Along with the exhibit, a short film, Saving Grace: Confronting AIDS/HIV in the Black Community which documents stories of several people whose lives are deeply affected by HIV/AIDS premiered. Afterwards, five members of the HIV/AIDS community were honored with the Saving Grace Award for their contribution in the fight against HIV/AIDS: Melvin Wright, Patricia Fleurinord, Angela Pitts, Bessie Dennis and Andrew R. Hyde.
There was also a special surprise award for Yolonda Reed daughter of Mr. Henry.
Mr. Henry was greatly invested in this event and was very open with his experiences with the virus, as shown in Saving Grace: Confronting AIDS/HIV in the Black Community. “My affiliation or relationship with AIDS and HIV is the devastation that it has on my family. Not only is my daughter living with the virus; I’ve lost a brother to the virus and two aunts. I have a cousin that’s infected; a great niece that is infected and other relatives.”
With the contributions given to this event, he hopes to help the community move closer towards living with the virus and hopefully find a cure. He continues to state how he thinks the film will affect the Black community, “When I sat here and listened to the stories of the people who were talking about their lives, how they have been affected because of their infection or those who are not infected but are affected; when you begin to hear their stories you really begin to see humanity at its best not at its worst. The worst part about it is when you don’t do something, but we are able to address this and attempt to try to find a way to find some understanding to a situation that is trying to take us out.”
So it would only make sense that Henry of the Westside Gazette would partner up with CEO of WAM, Hugh G. Beswick, for such an event. WAM’s mission is to increase awareness and decrease the stigma of HIV/AIDS by Documenting, Remembering, Educating, Enlightening and Empowering. In doing so, they have put together a research center, support groups, educational programs, and exhibits – all in hopes to remembering, educating, enlightening and empowering those with the virus and without along with the Saving Grace exhibit adding to their mission.
The exhibit is currently on display at WAM, 1201 N.E. 26 St. Suite 111, Wilton Manors, Fla. (on N.W. corner at N.E. 14 Ave.), (954) 390-0550.