On December 1st, World Aids Day, members of the Black and Latino community gathered in Los Angeles to recognize gay and bisexual men of color. The “Shades of Red” Gala was hosted by HealthyHim, the community organization of APLA Health Los Angeles that promotes awareness, sex education, and safe spaces for young LGBTQ men. In attendance were prominent figures like California assemblyman Mike A. Gipson, Ivan Daniel III, and mother of the late HIV activist Kevin Spears. The event was held at the APLA Health Education Center in Baldwin Hills. Luxe was on the scene to bear witness to the truly special evening.
The night started early as the young members of HealthyHim prepped for guests, mixing the “mocktails” and setting out information pamphlets. The large communal space, located on the second floor of the education center, was lit by glowing red bulbs along the walkways. Local food vendors set up in a smaller, nearby workroom. A red carpet press area received guests at the front door, and as the invitation instructed, attendees arrived clad in various shades of red – the universally recognized color of the HIV/AIDS awareness movement. Leader Dontá Morrison opened the festivities once everyone arrived, then introduced a moving spoken word piece by member Dueal Andrews about a young man who contracts HIV. After the performance, the floor was given to fellow leader Spencer Collins who presided over the awards ceremony.
As various activists, community organizers, and friends of APLA Health took the stage, a spirit of unity overcame the crowd. In the air was an overwhelming feeling of positivity, encouragement, and love. In communities of color, LGBTQ issues are sometimes not as openly discussed or acknowledged. As HealthyHim leader and HIV positive activist Spencer Collins so well put it, “As we hear about HIV and AIDS in our community, and we run across those who are HIV positive, remember that they too have a story. We don’t know what that story is, but it’s very important that we start to share some of this information.” And in an evening filled with a little pomp and circumstance, there was most certainly, above all, bravery.