*Saturday, December 1, 2018 marked the 17th annual Heroes in the Struggle Gala. The event which took place at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles was hosted by Jussie Smollett, star of Fox’s hit tv series, Empire.
Smollett also serves as a board member and event chair for the Black AIDS Institute, an organization that he has been involved with since the tender age of 15. When speaking with Smollett, I asked him what got him involved at such a young age and he informed me that at 11 years old, he lost a family friend to the AIDS virus.
The Black AIDS Institute was founded in May of 1999 and is the only national HIV/AIDS organization focused exclusively on Black communities. Their motto is, “Our People, Our Problem, Our Solution.” The Black AIDS Institute also conducts trainings, offers technical assistance, gives information, and provides advocacy from a “unique and unapologetic Black point of view.”
Other stars in attendance to raise awareness for the organization was Jussie Smollett’s “Empire” co-host, Gabourey Sidibe, Ser’Darius Blain from the “Charmed” reboot, and Magic Johnson’s son, EJ Johnson to name a few. The man of the night seemed to be Phil Wilson, (former) President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute because that night he stepped down after dedicating 20 years of his life to that position. Jussie let me know that Phil Wilson has been a dear friend for many years that he has always been able to call on no matter what the issue may have been. One star who was notably absent? Jussie’s sister, Jurnee Smollett-Bell who was set to be his co-host, but had to skip out on after coming down with the flu. Jussie said he would not be bringing her, her husband, or her kids any soup but that he will love them from a distance.
For more information on the Black AIDS Institute, visit BlackAids.org. To see who hit the red carpet at the gala and what they had to say about the event, check out my interview above.