ITMT-Warriors in the Black HIV/AIDS Movement: Carrie Broadus

carrie broadus hires

Interview by Award-winning Journalist-Love TaShia Asanti

LA: Where did you enter the movement?

CW: I entered the movement at one year old—right after my maternal grandmother died saving another woman who was a victim of domestic violence. My grandmother was shot by the man who had been beating the woman. When my grandmother went to the ER, they re-routed her to another hospital because she was Black. She did not survive. This was my first experience with health disparities based on race and racism in the healthcare industry.

Fast forward to the 1980s. I read a newspaper story about gay white men dying from a disease called GRID. At church, I started seeing gay Black men disappearing from the choir. One week they were singing, clapping, and praising God; the next week we were organizing their funeral.

I saw my pastor, Archbishop Carl Bean, going to hospitals to be with patients who were dying alone because people were afraid the virus was airborne. It was then I decided to get involved. I didn’t know what I could do but knew I had to do something.

Another entry was while I was working as a bartender at the hottest Black gay club in Los Angeles, the Catch One. My friend Brett worked there too and was one of the top bartenders. One day I noticed he was so weak, he couldn’t walk from one end of the bar to the next. He died soon thereafter.

One of my buddies told me to stop greeting my male friends with a kiss on the lips like I always did, because they had that “shit.” That’s what we called HIV/AIDS back then.

LA: What did you observe at the height of the epidemic? What was its impact on you?

CW: Scientists finally announced that this was an STD, and that the disease was primarily transmitted by blood and bodily fluids exchanged during sex. Because of the type of sex gay men engaged in, they were at high risk for contracting the virus.

I started volunteering at Minority AIDS Project (MAP). MAP was the first organization in Southern California to offer HIV/AIDS services directly to the Black community.

Black gay men were at the forefront of the work around HIV/AIDS, but they weren’t the only ones. I remember Congresswoman Maxine Waters doing the first fundraiser. Jewel Thais-Williams and her wife, Rue, used their own money to build a house to support the growing number of women of color being infected.

There were people like Vera Owens, who left her job as a court reporter to help the bishop [at MAP]. A warrior named Christine Tripp wrote the first grants to get MAP funding. Frankie Lemon, a school teacher, taught English classes at MAP so we could write better grants. Some of the workers didn’t have jobs before working at MAP, but they were committed to doing what they could to end the epidemic. It was a painful time in my life and in our history. We still didn’t know fully what we were dealing with.

By now I was working at Con Air and the Catch One. When I got off work, I headed over to MAP to volunteer. Black men and now Black women were dying in astonishing numbers. The disease was global, and people of African descent were the hardest hit.

LA: What did you do? What did your role become?

CW: I focused on giving service and educating people who were at high risk. Deborah Roberson and I started the State Incarcerated Program in two motels that were converted to transitional housing for people in transition from the penal system. A lot of people were coming out of prison HIV positive.

I also took note that there were no images of Black people with HIV. Determined to change that, my niece and I took pictures that would become the first Black faces of HIV/AIDS. Then other people came forward and became willing to say, “This could be me.”

Ultimately, my role in the movement was to serve. It would take work but eventually I put order to my service. I believe in the scripture that speaks to the Ordering of Steps. By ordering my steps, I felt I was in alignment with God’s will.

After 10 years of volunteering, one day a man named Paul Davis called and told me, “We want you to come work for MAP.” I thought to myself, “It’s about time. I’ve been volunteering for 10 years!”

The day I started working for MAP, Paul, my supervisor, went on vacation. I was tasked with writing a grant for a transgender program. A colleague, Anna Vargas, had just gotten the first grant funded for MAP’s Needle Exchange Program. We had a lot of work to do but at least we had funding to support our work.

My service program would support homosexuals, heroin users, hetero women, and hemophiliacs. I attended various planning meetings and shared the MAP model. I can’t tell you how many times I went to City Hall and stood between those hallowed walls to do a presentation. I introduced our Harm Reduction model to the LAPD. I offered the needle exchange portion of the program as way to get them to accept our services. I figured by providing clean needles to intravenous drug users, we could slow the spread of HIV in the Black community.

We made a deal with the LAPD to clean up the neighborhood of dirty needles and distribute clean ones. We employed residents and set it up to give them five cents for every dirty needle turned in.

Then came the fight to direct funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment to the Black community. Some in the community felt there was an intentional effort to direct funding only to white-owned and led organizations. There was also concern that white people were being strategically positioned on grant review panels. It seemed like proposals from Black agencies were either underfunded or not funded at all.

Members of the community went to a California Senator with their concerns. U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters was called in, and after she got involved we started to see change.

Maxine held a meeting and invited all of the Black agencies. Mainstream leaders in the HIV/AIDS movement were also in attendance.

Black agencies formed the 2nd District AIDS Community Coalition. Soon thereafter, the city and county started doing what was called “lead agency” funding, where one agency would serve as lead and four or five agencies would get trickle-down money. That meant the Black community was still getting crumbs.

Eventually, Black HIV/AIDS agencies started getting funded independently. We were also able to organize across branches of service. We started to see a decrease in infection rates in the African American community. We also created a pipeline for services and a cultural model that spoke to the needs of people of African descent. Other organizations were created and launched such as Watts Health Foundation, AmASSI Center, and In the Meantime.

LA: What’s your perspective on where we are as a community around HIV/AIDS and ending the epidemic?

CW: After many years of volunteer service and professional work in the HIV/AIDS movement, I retired from a nine-to-five model. I started doing consulting work, and later, moved into virtual advocacy. I call this work, Healing for Change. I and my team use healing arts, meditation, sound bowls, and breathing to promote health and wellness in high-risk communities. We recognize that we are all suffering from the trauma of structural and systemic racism and sexism. The good news is, some of us are recovering. We also recognize the impact of racism on non-Black people. If you as a white person stood idly by, you were impacted too. It is our hope that by promoting healing, we can unite communities and service providers and win the battle against HIV and AIDS.

Love Ta’Shia Asanti is an award-winning activist, author of seven books and founder of the Healing Racism Academy and the I-Teach Love Institute. More about her work can be found at www.officialtashiaasanti.com.

Carrie Broadus is former executive director of the Women Alive agency and is part of the founding team of Minority AIDS Project. Carrie Broadus has spent over 40 years on the frontlines of the HIV/AIDS movement. For information about her work or to book her as a speaker, write to broadus.carrie@gmail.com.

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