Elder Green

Tucked away on Jefferson Boulevard, behind an unassuming brick-painted facade, is an oasis for the Black community. The doors to Minority AIDS Project (MAP) opened in 1985 in response to the AIDS epidemic’s decimation of communities of color. In 1988, Elder Green joined Unity Fellowship, the church manufactured out of MAP’s office space. Involvement in the church and HIV activism shaped Elder Green’s young adulthood.

“I first learned about AIDS from a friend who was a dancer on the television show, Fame,” Elder Green stated. Elder Green continued, “he danced with Debbie Allen across the country and developed AIDS in 1987. I was so heartbroken. At the time, I was an associate minister at the historic First AME Church Los Angeles under Cecil Murray.”

When you step into First AME Church through the main doors, on the back wall, you stand in awe of a dramatic mural of the history of people of African descent and the obstacles we have overcome. In the ‘80s, the greatest obstacle to hit the Black community was AIDS.

“It wasn’t just my friend that died. His partner passed away. So many people were dying. Then, I started hearing about AIDS. That’s what brought me to the Minority AIDS Project.”

In 1988, when Elder Green joined Unity Fellowship, World AIDS Day was first observed by the World Health Organization. In December of 1988, Sylvester, the queen of disco, and Joseph Beam, the acclaimed writer, both died of AIDS-related illnesses. The number of known AIDS-related deaths in the US during that year was 4,855. In the same year, funding for national, regional, and community-based organizations started.

“AIDS impacted my life in the sense that I lost so many friends. I’ve been in ministry for over thirty years as an ordained clergyperson. I officiated a lot of funerals. Personally, it impacted me because I tested positive for HIV in 1995.”

In 1994, Elder Green joined the leadership team at Unity Fellowship.

“The biggest difference between attending First AME vs. Unity Fellowship was acceptance of who you are fully as it relates to diversity and human sexuality.”

Though the nature of First AME was not outwardly accepting of the LGBT community, Elder Green served as the church’s coordinator for the HIV and AIDS Education and Outreach Program in the late ‘80s. He created a prevention training for high school students and young adults, and the attendees educated their peers. The church also invited Archbishop Bean to discuss how members could help support the LGBT community. In the ‘90s, First AME led the charge among five other churches for condom distribution to highlight World AIDS Day.

“The program that gave me the greatest joy to be affiliated with was The Buddy System at Minority AIDS Project. I helped people in their daily life, brought them food, and talked to them about their lived experience with AIDS. I volunteered for The Buddy System for a year, then became a Client Board Member at MAP.”

Elder Green will return to that sanctuary where his life’s work metamorphosed. In January 2024, he will be the co-director of MAP and will continue to advocate for people living with HIV and AIDS.

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