Philly Fight’s 20th Anniversary of AIDS Education Month
As Pride month hits Philadelphia, the AIDS Service organization Philadelphia FIGHT celebrates their 20th anniversary of their AIDS Education Month with a roster of free events through June 29. The schedule includes an awards ceremony, stepping showcase, faith leaders summit, prison health care conference, a prevention and outreach summit, a hip-hop event, a cookout, a gospel concert and even a ball.
"For the 20th Anniversary we have an exciting lineup. From our three major summits to Hip Hop for Philly to the new Step Up for AIDS event, there is something for everyone," said Juliet Fink Yates, Philadelphia FIGHT’s Director of Education. "And, even if you can’t make it out but you have a group that needs some basic HIV/AIDS education, we’ll come out to you because we provide over 100 community presentations during the month of June. There are so many ways to get involved!"
On June 3, the month kicked off with an opening reception and awards ceremony at the Independence Visitors Center. This year’s Honorary Chair is Representative Brian Sims. Co-chairs are Melissa Weiler Gerber, Executive Director, Family Planning Council, and Bishop Audrey Bronson, Sanctuary Church of the Open Door.
Master of Ceremonies is Bishop Ernest McNear, vice-president of the Philadelphia FIGHT Board of Directors, and speakers include Philadelphia Fight Executive Director Jane Shull and Luis J. Montaner, D.V.M., M.Sc., D.Phil. of The Wistar Institute. The Philadelphia FIGHT Gospel Choir performed.
FIGHT’s Shull presented the 2014 Kiyoshi Kuromiya award to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, a French virologist and director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Division at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the co-discovery of HIV.
Step Up Against AIDS
The events continue on June 5 with a day of HIV testing and performing starting at 5 p.m. at the Temple University Performing Arts Center, 1837 N. Broad Street. The first Philadelphia FIGHT Stepping Showcase will use stepping, a long and rich tradition in African-based communities and African American fraternities and sororities, to educate, promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, motivate, and reinforce values of accountability, teamwork, discipline, and commitment to ending the AIDS epidemic.
"We are thrilled to be coordinating Step Up Against AIDS: the 1st Philadelphia FIGHT Stepping Showcase," said Megan Threats, MS, Public Services and Reference Librarian. "Stepping is a rich tradition in African-based communities and among African American fraternities and sororities, organizations that were founded on principles of service, scholarship, civil rights, and friendship. We hope to use this tradition to educate, and promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, motivate, and reinforce values of accountability, teamwork, discipline and commitment to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic."
Acts include Blue Assassin Step Squad of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity,Inc. (B.A.S.S.), The Delta Pi Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Just Greg, Cyree Jarelle Johnson, JR Morris, Project Positive and The Beta Gamma Chapter Step Team of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Special guests include host DJ Diamond Kuts, the first and only female mixer to have a slot on Philadelphia radio, and DJ Fr8train, the official DJ of Step Up Against AIDS. From an early age, DJ Fr8train had a passion for music, playing the drums, piano, and violin. He has played for Meek Mill, Sister Souljah, Winter Ramos, The Barclays Center, and a host of college and private events.
From Conferences to Summits
Philly FIGHT’s month of education includes numerous conferences, as well. On June 7, invited religious representatives will come together for the Fourth Annual Faith Leaders and Community Summit, to help spread HIV awareness and prevention from the pulpit.
The keynote speaker is The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. The afternoon plenary speaker is Tangy Major, an AIDS activist, gospel artist, guidance counselor and motivational speaker. Her life story was made into the award-winning 2004 documentary film "Tangy’s Song!: A Documentary of Faith, Hope, and Love" for Black Entertainment Television.
The purpose of the Faith Leaders and Community Summit is to actively involve the faith community in the journey towards ending the AIDS epidemic. Through a wide variety of workshops and presentations, the summit’s goal is to equip faith and community leaders with the tools to promote HIV prevention, testing, and linkage to their daily work.
"The summit will engage the local faith community to keep individuals who are HIV-positive and those who are at high risk both physically and spiritually healthy," said Dr. Calenthia Dowdy, Director of Faith Initiatives at Philadelphia FIGHT. "The research around healing is compelling. It confirms what many of us instinctively knew: that physical healing and spiritual wellness go hand in hand. People who are connected and active in their faith community heal faster and live longer. At Philadelphia FIGHT we have the medications needed to heal the bodies of those living with HIV, but we can’t heal their souls."
On June 10, they will tackle the problem of incarceration and return to the community with Beyond the Walls: Prison Health and Reentry Summit, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. New York Times bestselling author Michelle Alexander is the keynote speaker.
On Wednesday, June 18, more than 1,000 people come together at the Convention Center for the Prevention and Outreach Summit, linking those who are positive with life-saving treatments. Learn how the HIV epidemic intersects with related issues including mental health, homelessness, drug use, sex work, and more.
Guest speakers include opening plenary speaker Dr. Farid Esack, formerly a National Commissioner on Gender Equality appointed by President Nelson Mandela. He is an active member of Positive Muslims, an organization working with Muslims who are HIV-positive. Also speaking is Paul Kawata, the Executive Director of the National Minority AIDS Council, the premier organization dedicated to building leadership in communities of color to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS.
And on June 24, the activist minded will come together at the Friends Center on Cherry Street to discuss Movement for Change; this year’s event focuses on immigration, both locally and nationally.
Educational presentations in various communities throughout the city, special events for target populations, and major outreach to encourage all Philadelphians to get tested for HIV also take place during AIDS Education Month. More than 10,000 individuals are directly reached by Philadelphia FIGHT’s efforts every June.
Parties and Balls!
There will also be a full roster of social events. On June 14, hundreds come together for the Legendary Crystal Ball at The University of the Arts, where they can vogue and battle for top prizes. This event, hosted by Philadelphia FIGHTS and COLOURS is one of the region’s most recognized house/ballroom community events that integrates HIV prevention with electrified talent, creativity and artistry.
On June 27, National HIV Testing Day, their annual Hip-Hop for Philly concert features Wale. Philadelphia FIGHT and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia seek to motivate 2,000 young people to get tested for HIV by offering a free Hip Hop Concert on National HIV Testing Day. Individuals between the ages of 13 and 24 will receive a ticket if they get a free HIV test at a variety of participating locations throughout the city. Visit www.fight.org/hiphop for more information.
On June 28, the community gathers for an old-fashioned cookout from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Fairmount Park, featuring a speaker jam, DJ, dancing, and games for kids of all ages.
And at the end of the moth, Marvin Sapp will sing at the Gospel Concert on June 29 at Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ. All events are free of charge.
Philadelphia FIGHT is a comprehensive AIDS service organization providing state-of-the art, culturally competent primary care to low income members of the community, HIV specialty care, consumer education, advocacy, social services, and outreach to people living with HIV and those who are at high risk, including family members, communities with high rates of HIV, formerly incarcerated persons, and young people at risk, along with access to the most advanced clinical research in HIV treatment and prevention.
To register for any AEM event or for more information, call 215-985-4448 x 200 or visit www.aidseducationmonth.org.