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PASSAGES: Earnest Hite
by Andrew Davis
2008-02-01

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Earnest Hite, Jr., a prevention coordinator with the organization known as Better Existence with HIV ( BEHIV ) —and a former columnist for BLACKlines and OUTlines ( now Windy City Times ) , passed away Jan. 14. He was 53.

Pictured: Earnest Hite, Jr. ( left ) with Darrell Gordon at a forum in 2007. Photo by Andrew Davis

Hite died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck after losing control of his vehicle and crashing into an oncoming garbage truck on U.S. Route 20 in Porter, Ind., according to The Beacon News.

Porter Police Chief Jamie Spanier told Windy City Times that ' [ a ] t the time of the crash, we had extremely bad weather with the roads being snow-covered and slick. Impact occurred in the garbage truck lane, with the passenger side rear quarter panel of [ Hite's vehicle ] hitting the front of the truck.'

Hite was transported to Porter Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Hite was born Aug. 24, 1954, in Urbana, Ill., the oldest child of Earnest, Sr. and Dorothy L. Patterson Hite.

Hite attended the Champaign, Ill., public schools and graduated from Centennial High School in 1972. He received an associate of arts degree from Parkland College and pursued additional studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago State University and National Louis University.

He worked for many years as an HIV/AIDS health educator and youth worker for community-based groups in east-central Illinois, metropolitan Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area.

He will be greatly missed by his mother, of Champaign; a sister, Karen Hite, of Champaign; and three brothers—Louis Hite, of Birmingham, Ala.; Darryl Hite of Rantoul; and Marvin Hite of Peoria. He was preceded in death by his father and grandparents.

Services were held Sat., Jan. 19, at Salem Baptist Church, 500 E. Park ( on the corner of 5th and Park ) , Champaign, Ill. The burial took place at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Champaign.

ADODI, an organization of which Hite was president during the years 2003-2005, will hold a tribute to him Sat., Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. at Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted.

Remembrances

The following individuals either e-mailed or talked with Windy City Times about Earnest Hite. Here are their thoughts:

—John Ryan, executive director of the 1989-1993 cable program The 10% Show, which featured Hite as a co-host: 'I first met Earnest Hite when my television program was seeking new members in 1990. ... We all found out how poetic it was that his name was Earnest because all our experience with him showed us what a very earnest person he was. Here's just one example: Earnest was a co-host with Sarah Siegel and we were shooting promos for an upcoming episode in front of the old Cook County Hospital. After the shoot a group of us was chatting and packing up equipment when Earnest returned with a scruffy man who was earlier hanging around the area in the distance. Earnest introduced us to the man whom he had just met himself. Earnest then matter-of-factly told us that he and his new acquaintance where going to a shelter to see if the man could receive city services there.

That was the kind of person Earnest was. He always wanted to help people. His positive attitude, intelligence and dedication were evident in all the different areas in which he worked. These areas included a support group for young, gay African-American men that he created here in Chicago. He was also an energetic AIDS community activist and organizer. I am sure there were even more community organizations that he worked with. I last ran into Earnest in Washington, D.C., where he was working on yet more social agency work.

Earnest Hite was a bright light in our community whom shall be missed deeply by everyone who knew him.'

—Sarah Siegel, Hite's co-star on the 1989-1993 cable program The 10% Show: 'The thing I loved about co-anchoring with Earnest is that he was so tall. [ Laughs ] However, I am sad to hear about [ Hite's passing ] . He was a wonderful force.'

[ From her blog, sarahsiegelstories.blogspot.com: ] 'Once, I crewed for a segment that Earnest did, featuring Robert Ford, the editor of a Chicago-based literary 'zine called Thing. We went to their apartment to do the videotaping. I can still see Robert Ford's face and body, sitting on his couch: If E. Lynn Harris had been writing then, Robert Ford would have seemed like an anti-character—he had a close-cropped, yet patchy beard and writerly-rumpled clothes over his lanky frame.

Earnest, with his well-kept beard and frequent smile, dignified presence and lucid questions, always was flattered by the camera. How ironic that I never saw his obituary all these years from AIDS and, instead, I had to read of his death in a car crash. God is odd.'

—Benny Montgomery, Jr., constituent services administrator for U.S. Rep. Danny Davis: 'Earnest Hite was an outspoken individual on HIV/AIDS issues as they related to all communities. His thoughts were always insightful and on point. His voice will be sadly missed, but my memories of Earnest will be one of my most precious keepsake.'

—Marc Loveless, activist: 'I [ knew ] Earnest prior to my coming to Chicago and when I got here after he moved to California we stayed in touch. He was the first director of residental serivces for the Kupona Network and I followed after he left that position and so I refered to him. I was so happy when he moved by back. He had a heart full [ of ] love and he deserved love and he sought love and was blessed enough to experience it. Joy is a word that could describe Earnest. Images of his smile and wit of his words are flooding my thoughts. ... I am personally hurt by his lost, but inspired the life he lived.'

—Darrell Gordon, activist: 'I knew him for 23 years and I remember him for his activities with the African-American [ LGBT ] community, [ like ] the Proud Black Gays and Lesbians. ... I think he was forthright, but also gentle, and he was a longtime survivor of HIV. [ His death ] was such a tragic end.'

—Eric Nelson, executive director of Better Existence Through HIV ( BEHIV ) : 'Earnest just had such complete knowledge of what needed to be done [ regarding ] the hoops you need to jump through the CDC and everybody else. ... [ He had ] that ability to put it all together, and it's not always the easiest thing to go from point A, implementing, to point B. He [ also ] had a great attitude, and was always smiling and laughing. He was just great to have around the office.'

—Michael O'Connor, co-founder and president emeritus of the Rocks Coordinating Committee: 'I personally will miss Earnest Hite! And, I and other members of the Rocks Coordinating Coomittee ( RCC ) join the many who are mourning the lost of a dear friend, brother, warrior and counselor, Earnest Hite. ... [ He ] worked tirelessly with so many organizations! He was a giving soul. We at RCC, like many other organizations,will miss Earnest Hites. Many are called but few are chosen—Earnest hites was definitely chosen!'

—Greg Sanchez, BEHIV educational outreach/prevention specialist: 'I am devastated by the loss of our Earnest. He was our fearless leader in [ the ] prevention department at BEHIV but, besides a manager, he was a mentor, a good friend and a great inspiration.

He was passionate about underserved communities, the African-American, Latino, deaf and hard of hearing, seniors, GLBTQ ... people in general.

His love was fluid, moving to and from professionalism and his integrity to serve people in a just way. He was an amazing manager, lifting us up, allowing us to explore our gifts and recognize them and there was no boxing in here, possability was endless. He was a good listener and advocate not just for HIV/AIDS and STDs issues but the rights of people, period. ... I will miss his laugh, his childlike spirit, his leadership, his jokes and his insight. I will Love and miss him immensely. He was a light amongst us.'

—Earl 'Peacock' Battles, activist: 'I pretty much grew up with him. ... [ Hite's death ] was a loss to this community, as well as his friends and family; he was at the height of HIV awareness for the Black community. ... He was very much into his community; he was always that way.'

—Maurice Franklin, activist: 'I'm saddened by the loss of our warrior and brother Earnest Hite. His smile was as radiant as his spirit. There was never a conversation that he and I had where he didn't talk about the high hopes he had for our community. He always had our back.'


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