Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-04-18
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph talks HIV/AIDS activism, 'Divas'
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2012-11-27

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Sheryl Lee Ralph is known for her various roles in the realm of entertainment, including actress (TV's Moesha), singer and Broadway star (the original cast of Dreamgirls). However, she is also passionate about fighting HIV/AIDS, and has been so for decades.

Ralph recently talked with Windy City Times about "Sometimes I Cry," her one-woman play about HIV/AIDS; her upcoming show, "Divas Simply Singing;" and what's she's thankful for this holiday season.

Windy City Times: You were in Chicago recently.

Sheryl Lee Ralph: Oh, my God! Yes, I was in Chicago—and it was one of the greatest attendances for my one-woman show ever. There were over 500 people, and we at capacity! They must've stayed in their seats for a full hour after the show was over with questions; it was amazing.

I really hope the [University of Chicago, which hosted the show and a related HIV/AIDS conference] or somebody will find another place to do it and make it cost-effective. To see the people come out the way they did was amazing.

WCT: Let's talk about that show. It's called "Sometimes I Cry."

Sheryl Lee Ralph: Yes. "Sometimes I Cry" is all about real women and real stories about HIV/AIDS. But it's not just about that—for many of these women, there's a subplot about self-esteem, lack of information or awareness, issues of domestic violence. But it's all based upon real women.

WCT: So how did you get these stories from real women?

Sheryl Lee Ralph: It literally happened the summer of 2002. Phill Wilson, who founded the Black AIDS Institute, asked me if I would go on the road to cities where AIDS was not being talked about. While we did that, I just heard so many women with their own personal HIV/AIDS stories. It just shifted everything for me.

It was hard enough for me to go through the start of the AIDS epidemic. The number of friends I had lost— I made a public statement somewhere along the way that "If sex can be a death sentence for men, women cannot be too far behind." I was ridiculed for saying that; I was told I was a fool and that I should just stop it. Now, some 30 years later, over 50 percent of new HIV cases are women, [including] women of color.

Now, I'm going to say that if we're not careful, we're going to pass this disease on to our children—and it will not be nice.

WCT: Do you think there is one factor that contributes to this rise in infection rates more than any other?

Sheryl Lee Ralph: It's the same factor that plays in the rise of any disease: silence. Silence is the fertilizer [the disease] needs to grow. It's the same thing as when you're a binge eater and you think you're all alone and you're quiet about it. With breast cancer, there was a time when people would not say "breast" and "cancer" out loud. So many diseases grow in silence.

WCT: Back when we talked three years ago, we discussed complacency regarding HIV/AIDS. Do you still see it happening—for example, where people say it's OK if they get infected because they can take medication?

Sheryl Lee Ralph: I see so much going on, and it frightens me. As for medication, I've never, ever met somebody who said to me, "Ah—there's nothing wrong with me. I just take a pill and I'm fine." Trust me, this is not a back pain what you're going to take some ibuprofen for and get through it.

WCT: On World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), you have something planned that you do every year.

Sheryl Lee Ralph: I'm so shocked that I'm about to raise the curtain on the 22nd annual "Divas Simply Singing." If anybody had ever told me that it would be 22 years, I would've said, "You're crazy. There'll be a cure. There'll be something. There'd be no need for 'Divas Simply Singing.'"

But once again, the divas will take to the stage—the lights, the mic and the divas simply singing to the piano because we don't have enough money for a full band. [Laughs] It will be an incredible night.

WCT: Who will be performing besides yourself?

Sheryl Lee Ralph: Some of the most committed women ever because this year (American Airlines is our supporter) we didn't have tickets how we used to, so we had to fly people economy. You know what I'm saying, right? You tell some of these women they're flying economy, it separates the divas from the divas.

Performers will include Lalah Hathaway, Faith Evans, Oleta Adams, Tramaine Hawkins, Jenifer Lewis. Jamar Rogers from The Voice will be there—and he's HIV-positive. El DeBarge will also be singing, and El will be presented with the [AIDS] quilt for his brother, Bobby, who died of AIDS.

That is part of another project I worked on last year. I was working with the AIDS Quilt and I found out that, out of the 55 miles, less than a mile was dedicated to people of color because they will not tell their truth. So I went all across this country—from Mississippi to Miami to New Orleans to Alabama to Atlanta—to get people to do quilts for their loved ones. We're going to present the quilt for Bobby DeBarge.

We've been here 22 years because we're committed—and we simply dared to care.

WCT: After all this time, what keeps you going?

Sheryl Lee Ralph: It's the fact that I don't want this to be my children's [problem] and the fact that, in the beginning, I lost some good friends who were kind men—somebody's son, somebody's father, somebody's lover. I refuse to let their memory just disappear.

Nobody saw what I saw. You had to see what I saw; I saw men disappear and look like they had been dragged out of concentration camps. Nobody saw when they couldn't walk—and how most [of whom I saw] were left to rot in their own shit. I saw it. I'll never forget it as long as I live.

I went to the hospital and a man had a sign at the foot of his bed that had in big red letters, "DON'T TOUCH." I saw that.

WCT: I talked with a writer who said he lost hundreds of friends in the '80s to AIDS. I can't even imagine what that's like.

Sheryl Lee Ralph: To me, the turning point was when I couldn't cross one more name off my phone book. It was that many. You would get sick and tired asking, "Whose memorial am I going to now?" It was awful.

WCT: Well, I want to switch gears with this last question. With the holiday season approaching, what are you thankful for?

Sheryl Lee Ralph: Oh, my God. I'm thankful that I have my family around me. My father passed away because of prostate cancer, so I'm telling men constantly to take the test. But I'm glad to have my family; I'm happy I have a husband who supports the kind of work I do. I'm happy that my children are aware of what's going on around them and that they care to be a part of what I'm doing. I am happy that we'll spread the word about HIV/AIDS with the 22nd annual "Divas Simply Singing."

To find out more about "Divas Simply Singing," visit www.thedivafoundation.org .


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Strawdog Theatre announces 31st Season, "Bravery" 2018-04-22 - CHICAGO - Strawdog Theatre Company and Artistic Directors Michael Dailey, Heath Hays and Anderson Lawfer are proud to announce the company's 31st Season, ...


Gay News

"Striking Out: A Gay Baseball Musical" through June 16 2018-04-22 - CHICAGO - April 20th, 2018 Striking Out: A Gay Baseball Musical is two act musical about the first straight baseball player in a ...


Gay News

Late Nite Catechism celebrates 25 years in Chicago 2018-04-20 - A Chicago original and international hit, Late Nite Catechism turns 25 in the city where it all started. A special anniversary ...


Gay News

Season of Concern hosts 'Cabaret for Care' 2018-04-18 - Season of Concern's 2018 annual benefit titled Cabaret for Care came to the Goodman Theatre on April 9. The evening had donors enjoying ...


Gay News

DANCE PROFILE Getting to know Lucky Plush dancer Aaron-Raheim White 2018-04-18 - How does one go from being a quiet young boy with an unstable home to being a successful Reiki master-teacher and MFA in ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Our Great Tchaikovsky 2018-04-18 - Playwright/Performer: Hershey Felder; Music: Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky At: Steppenwolf Theatre Upstairs, 1650 N. Halsted St. Tickets: 312-335-1650 or Steppenwolf.org; $55. Runs through: May ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW 33 to Nothing 2018-04-18 - Playwright/Composer: Grant James Varjas At: A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells St. Tickets: 312-943-8722; ARedOrchidTheatre.org; $30-$35. Runs through: May 27 ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Ghosts of War 2018-04-18 - Playwright: adapted by William Massolia, from the novel by Ryan Smithson. At: Griffin Theatre Company at The Den, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. ...


Gay News

Critics' Picks 2018-04-18 - The Gentleman Caller, Raven Theatre, extended through May 27. You can see this play because it's so literary or because it's so gol-durn ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Lettie 2018-04-18 - Playwright: Boo Killebrew At: Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: 773-871-3000; VictoryGardens.org; $15-$56. Runs through: May 6 Sometimes a ...


 



Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.