Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Happy Birthday Phill Wilson

Today I was looking through AIDS news sources and found this wonderful story about an AIDS activist in the Black community here in Los Angeles. His name is Phill Wilson and, like me, he almost died in 1996. That's what drew my eye to his story. Where I wrote a musical about AIDS, Phill went to work and established the Black AIDS Institute focused squarely on the issues specific to the African American community -- issues which were being largely ignored. Phill seems like the kind of person who moves mountains with his sheer passion and drive. From the article:
“I found out that I was HIV-positive at 27 and I didn’t think 30 was an option,” says Wilson, who has full-blown AIDS. “So, to be 50 is amazing.”

Phill Wilson is an amazing person. He’s throwing a big birthday bash this Saturday in Los Angeles. And it’s not your typical birthday party.

“I don’t know what the traditional gift is for someone on their 50th birthday – let alone surviving for a quarter century with a life-threatening disease – but I do know what I want,” he said in the letter of invitation. “As you know, I have dedicated my life to the eradication of HIV/AIDS, particularly in Black communities. So as a birthday present to myself, I’ve committed to raising $250,000 for the AIDS organization nearest and dearest to my heart, the Black AIDS Institute.”

The Black AIDS Institute, founded in 1999 by Wilson, is the only HIV/AIDS think tank that focuses exclusively on AIDS among African-Americans. And its birth came out of a near-death experience.

“In 1996, I got very, very sick,” Wilson says. “My doctor basically had given me a matter of days to live. I was unconscious and I was in intensive care at Kaiser Permante. Everyone thought that I was going to die. When I came out of that, I could not work like I had been working, which is basically how I work today,” the workaholic explains.

“By 1999, there had been a lot of progress made in the Latino community and among women, but there had been very little progress made in mobilizing traditional Black institutions. It was clear to me that the only way to stop this epidemic in Black America was for our institutions to take ownership of the disease.”

More than anyone else, Phill Wilson has energized and mobilized the Black community, calling out gays and straights, encouraging Black churches to become more active, getting the Black Press to devote more coverage to AIDS, and persuading national civil rights leaders to take a more active role in fighting the epidemic.
Happy birthday, Phill. I hope we meet some day. And I also hope you raise more money than you ever dreamed of.

HERE IS HOW TO DONATE TO THE BLACK AIDS INSTITUTE. If you make a donation, be sure to donate in Phill's name.
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