Longtime president and CEO retiring after 19 years
BY FREDDIE ALLEN
As part of a new strategic plan to prepare for the next generation of Black HIV/AIDS response, the Black AIDS Institute has announced the retirement of longtime president and CEO Phill Wilson.
Wilson launched the Black AIDS Institute in 1999 with a clear mantra (“Our People, Our Problem, Our Solution”) and mission, “to stop the AIDS pandemic in Black communities by engaging and mobilizing Black leaders, institutions and individuals in efforts to confront HIV from a uniquely and unapologetically Black point of view.
“In order for a movement to endure, there must be a plan for the future,” said Wilson, in a statement. “Stepping down as the President and CEO of the Institute, where I have had the privilege of serving for the last 19 years, is bittersweet for me. I have been involved in this fight for almost my entire adult life.”
The statement continued, “In 1983, when I started doing this work, none of us could have imagined this mysterious new disease, first identified at U.C.L.A. Medical Center, would become the defining health issue of our generation.
“We are at a turning point. Are we are going to build on the remarkable advances we have made over the last decade and continue to push forward and finally end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic or are we going to go back to the dark days of despair and death?”
‘Time is right’
In the statement, Wilson said that the California-based company is committed to doing everything in its power to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially in Black communities.
“The time is right. The organization has the infrastructure and capacity to do the changes set forth by the Board to prepare for a new generation of capacity building, advocacy, mobilization and service delivery,” said Wilson. “I am very proud of the work we have done over the last 19 years and of the organization’s commitment to new leadership. That commitment is more important now than ever before.”
Pursuing new executive leadership is a part of a larger effort on the part of the Institute to prepare for the next generation of HIV/AIDS response in Black communities.
Ahead of curve
From the African American HIV University (AAHU) and Black Treatment Advocates Network, to the ground-breaking State of AIDS in Black America reports and acknowledgements of Black excellence at the annual Heroes in The Struggle Awards Gala, the Institute has been relentless in its focus on Black communities.
The organization enlisted traditional Black institutions such as the NAACP, Black fraternities and sororities, Black journalists in mainstream media and Black-owned publications and others to commit to raising awareness, fighting stigma, increasing HIV/AIDS literacy and mobilizing Black people.
It launched the Black Hollywood Task Force on HIV, currently co-chaired by Jussie Smollett, star of Fox’s “Empire,” and veteran actress and humanitarian Vanessa Williams, to leverage the power of celebrity to amplify messages about prevention, testing, treatment and ending stigma. New ambassadors and supporters include Ledisi, Karamo Brown, Taraji P. Henson, Alfre Woodard and Van Jones.
“We have always been ahead of the curve in understanding HIV/AIDS and how it relates to the Black community,” says Grazell Howard, board chair. “This change is a continuation of that legacy.’’
Committed to serve
The search for new executive leadership is a part of a new strategic plan.
“Every day is Black AIDS Awareness day at the Black AIDS Institute,” says Raniyah Copeland, the Institute’s Director of Programs.
“Our staff are of the communities we serve. We are Black men and women. We are Black people living with HIV/AIDS or at high risk of infection. We live, work, pray and play in the communities we serve. We don’t need to do ‘outreach’ because we are there 24/7.”
Passing the mantle
“For those of us who have been doing the work and standing with Phill shoulder-to-shoulder for many years, it will be hard to imagine this work without him,” said board member David Munar, president and CEO of the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago,
“But this transition is not about Phill Wilson, it’s really about a mission, a vision, a commitment to mobilize a community, to leverage influence wherever we can, to eliminate AIDS and make this world a better place for people who are affected by HIV.
“This is an important moment,” says Munar. “Phill is passing the baton onto a newer generation. He’s leaving the organization on a strong footing so that it can continue to march forward.”
For more information, contact Blackaids.org. Freddie Allen is the Editor-In-Chief of the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com and a contributor to the Black AIDS Weekly. You can follow him on Twitter @freddieallenjr.