*As the nation’s oldest Black public health organization enters the next chapter of its advocacy and awareness effort, C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA), announced a new direction for NBLCA. As the organization celebrated its 25th anniversary, Fields noted that the organization will increasingly focus on disease prevention and health promotion by expanding its mission to address other health disparities and disease epidemics that together with HIV/AIDS, threaten the well-being of Black communities.
“These diseases, including viral hepatitis; diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers, coupled with high rates of poverty, housing insecurity, nutritional inadequacy, and lack of access to quality health care, among other factors, create a perfect storm that imperil the long-term survival of Black America,” said Fields.
With that, Fields issued a challenge to attendees at NBLCA’s 25th Anniversary Choose Life Awards Hall of Hope and Remembrance Benefit Reception on Thursday, June 7, 2012 at the smashingly beautiful 583 Park Avenue venue in New York City to join NBLCA in taking on these grave public health disparities “that are ravaging our communities,” remarked Fields. The elegant evening which was underwritten by Merck featured a cocktail reception, the 2012 Hall of Hope and Remembrance induction, dinner and dancing. Wendy Williams, host of “The Wendy Williams Show,” hosted the benefit.
In further celebration of the big 2-5, NBLCA inducted this year’s outstanding individuals committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS and critical health disparities, as well as an activist who died working to end these epidemics.
As some 300 distinguished black-tie guests from the health care field, arts, sports and entertainment industry and business community engagingly looked on, Anthony Rapp, an original cast member of the Tony Award-winning musical “Rent,” accepted the induction of the late Jonathan Larson into the 2012 Hall of Hope and Remembrance. Larson, composer and playwright of “Rent,” was inducted posthumously for spreading awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in today’s society through the musical.
Five-time Grammy Award winner and AIDS activist Dionne Warwick was inducted for her decades-long AIDS activism and efforts to heighten public awareness about the disease’s ravaging impact on the Black community.
Duane Cramer, celebrity fashion photographer and AIDS activist living with HIV, was inducted for his passionate activism and advocacy of HIV/AIDS awareness and education. Carla A. Harris, managing director, Morgan Stanley, was inducted for being a role model and agent of change to end health disparities in minority communities.
In a rare occasion, New York City’s top local news stations — WABC7, WCBS2/WLNY55 and WNBC4 — shared the stage to accept their induction into the 2012 Hall of Hope and Remembrance for drawing attention to the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS in New York City and their support of the NBLCA. Anchor Sandra Bookman and general manager Dave Davis accepted the induction for WABC 7; Dana Tyler for WCBS 2; and anchor Brian Thompson and general manager Michael Jack for WNBC 4.
“The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS is honored to recognize these esteemed individuals and news organizations at our annual benefit for their strong commitment and courage in helping to combat HIV/IDS and other health disparities in our local communities,” said a beaming Fields whose stylish strapless designer’s gown was the talk of the event and even got an A-m-e-n from her proud pastor and NBLCA chair, The Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, senior pastor, Abyssinian Baptist Church, NYC, that left her blushing with pride.
During the program, honorary dinner chair Tiki Barber donated a personally autographed football to be auctioned off to raise additional funds to support NBLCA’s mission to educate, organize, and empower Black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in their local communities.
In addition to Barber, legendary music producer Phil Ramone and Broadway actor Anthony Rapp also served as honorary dinner chairs. Rev. Dr. Floyd H. Flake, senior pastor, The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York, and Debra Fraser-Howze, NBLCA’s founder and senior vice president, government & external affairs, OraSure Technologies, Inc., served as dinner co-chairs.
Other special guests attending the benefit reception included: NYC Comptroller John C. Liu who presented NBLCA with a commendation to celebrate the revered organization’s quarter of a century anniversary; Rev. Horace L. Sheffield, chair, BLCA of Detroit; actor, model and philanthropist Kevin Navayne of “CSI: New York;” and actor Terence Bernie Hines of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Kudos to public relations specialist Shanta Bryant Gyan of SBG Communications who coordinated this stellar soiree. (Photos by Thos Robinson/Getty Images)
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.