Livingstone College and Southern University A& M College at Baton Rouge partnered on December 1, 2021 in recognition of World AIDS Day. The two HBCUs collaborated with various departments within the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church to engage in a national faith mobilization campaign of partnering HBCUs and faith-based institutions; a mission of grant sponsors InterFaith Youth Core and the Gilead COMPASS Initiative Faith Coordinating Center at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. As grant recipients of this initiative, both Livingstone and Southern University are tasked to take action in dismantling the HIV/AIDS stigma, modeling unconditional love and compassion to all persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, disseminating factual HIV/AIDS education, and engaging communities in HIV/AIDS testing services.
As the institutions strive to increase awareness of the epidemic specifically in the Southern region of the United States, another goal of implementing programming at the intersection of HIV and AIDS, and interfaith cooperation of the African American Catholic and Zion Methodist communities; commenced on December 1, 2021 at 12noon, EST in a virtual platform hosted by the Star of Zion. “We are prayerful our collective impact will lead to positive and necessary change; and we are eager to present a program that supports critical conversations and voices that meets the fierce urgency of now,” said devoted Roman Catholic Deadra James-Mackie of Southern University, who greeted virtual viewers with the occasion. Rev. Dr. Maurice A. Harden, pastor of Rush Metropolitan AME Zion Church in Raleigh, North Carolina served as the moderator for the event. Rev. Dr. Anthony N. Witherspoon, president of the International Ministers and Lay Association opened with prayer, while Kareem Altidor, an epidemiologist in infectious disease and a clinical research scientist of H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, presented essential information on HIV/AIDS for viewers’ understanding and interpretation. Altidor discussed the historical emergence of HIV/AIDs in the United States, and disaggregated statistics directly applicable to African American communities. Moreover, he discoursed current treatments available that prohibit the transmission of the disease, that will ultimately lead to the eradication of HIV/AIDS; a 2030 goal of the US’s Department of Health and Human Services.
A community response and personal touch of grace, mercy, and humanity was rendered by Rev. Harold Jordan of Third Creek AME Zion Church in Cleveland, North Carolina as he reminded viewers of the church’s past response to persons impacted by HIV/AIDS and challenged them to move forward in a more compassionate way. Similar sentiments were expressed by Livingstone College student Emile Dogbe-Gakpetor of Ghana, who too shared a message of love and compassion. Southern University’s junior and business major Lenecia Turner soothed audiences with a performance of Thank You by Walter Hawkins; and Livingstone College faculty, Da’Tarvia Parrish followed with sincere thanks to all of the program participants and viewers. She said, “We must uphold and advance human rights and in these efforts; we must fight all forms of stigma and discrimination.” Dr. Parrish commented the programming was “phenomenally fortifying,” in recognizing a global effort to combat a health crisis.
Rev. Dr. Eleazar Merriweather, director for the Department of Church Growth and Development closed with prayer, invocating for divine help, blessing and guidance, in our global effort to prevent diseases and improve the health status of humanity with mobilization and impact.