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  WINDY CITY TIMES

LETTER Saying goodbye
2019-01-09

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Dear friends:

Dec. 28, 2018

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 says, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose. A time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to sow, a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to mourn, and a time to dance."

Twenty years ago, I called a few friends to ask them to help me actualize a dream that my best brister—brother and sister—Reggie Williams and I had been working on for 10 years. We wanted to start an organization to engage Black people in efforts to confront the AIDS epidemic in ways we had not previously been engaged.

We knew two things:

( 1 ) Black People were dying, and

( 2 ) Nobody could save us, but us.

Reggie and I knew when Black people understood the science of HIV—the epidemiology, the biomedical, and the behavioral—we would be better able to protect ourselves; more likely to get tested; more inclined to seek, adhere, and to stay on treatment; and less likely to engage in stigmatizing behavior.

With, as my grandmother used to say, [with] "neither a pot to piss in, nor a window to throw it out of," the Black AIDS Institute ( BAI ) was born. Like Lynn Manuel's Hamilton, we were "young, scrappy, and hungry." Our mission then, as it is now, was to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our communities by engaging and mobilizing leaders, institutions, and individuals in efforts to confront HIV/AIDS in local communities with global impact.

Our small band has expanded to chapters and affiliates in 20 cities and 17 states. The Black AIDS Institute has been involved in every HIV/AIDS advancement over the last 20 years. As the only national HIV/AIDS think tank in the United States focused exclusively on Black people, we disseminate information, interpret and make recommendations on public and private sector HIV policies, conduct training, offer technical assistance and capacity building, and provide advocacy mobilization from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view. This year, in partnership with St. Johns Well Child and Family Center, we started providing direct clinical care by launching A Clinic for Us, a network of comprehensive care clinics providing Black centric care, community-based health care.

This I know: In order for BAI to endure, we needed to plan for the future. A movement that does not prepare, embrace and insist on young leadership is destined to fail. An organization that does not prepare for succession is a hobby. A leader who assumes he or she is irreplaceable is a fraud.

That brings me to the point of this letter. I want to introduce you to BAI's next president and CEO, Ms. Raniyah Copeland. I can't imagine a better choice to lead the Institute into the future. Raniyah is beautiful, bold, brave and brilliant. She brings a vigor and vision to the AIDS movement that—given the current political environment—is desperately needed. Raniyah began working at BAI in April of 2008 as the training and capacity building coordinator. She worked her way up to a senior coordinator, a manager, and currently serves as the director of programs. There is no aspect of the organization that she does not know and understand. She is the right person at the right time for this job.

For the last 20 years, the Black AIDS Institute has provided me with an opportunity to try to make a difference. And, for that, I am eternally grateful. As I close this chapter of my life, and BAI starts the next chapter of its work, all I have to say is, "Thank you!"

In the meantime, please take care of yourselves and your blessings.

Yours in the struggle,

Phill Wilson

Founder

Black AIDS Institute


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