World AIDS Day Gala Hosted by Collegiate Women of Color

“Today is not the only day we should talk about AIDS, I’m here to give you knowledge. This is the story of someone who has lived with HIV for twenty-seven years," said Kia LaBeija in Hofstra’s Multipurpose Room on Friday, December 1, 2017.

Last Friday, Hofstra’s Collegiate Women of Color hosted a World AIDS Day Benefit Gala which featured a variety of musical performances in addition to guest speaker Kia LaBeija, a New York City-based visual artist, dancer, and HIV/AIDS activist. In between performances throughout the night, members of the Collegiate Women of Color spoke to the crowd with facts behind the ongoing crisis due to HIV/AIDS and statistics regarding victims of the AIDS condition and HIV.

Image courtesy of Pixabay 

“I have enjoyed making Hofstra a safer place for women of color who feel left out of many spaces,” said Nandi Piper, Hofstra senior and President of Collegiate Women of Color, who helped plan the event.

Collegiate Women of Color at Hofstra is an organization founded in 2000 that is dedicated to giving women of color a platform where their voices are heard and issues are discussed.

"Every detail of our World AIDS Day Gala was planned by myself and my lovely Executive Board: Brianna McGee, Shannon Prevatt, Deja Sanderlin, and Naiomy Fermin,” Piper said, “Other Hofstra organizations: Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc, and Caribbean Students Association also aided in planning and promoting our event.” 

Proceeds from the gala were donated to the Albany Damien Center, which provides resources for individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS.

Performers included musical duo TV Yellow, poet and Hofstra alum Phonetic Wisdom, rapper The Wave, Hofstra student and violinist Rebecca Saint Paul, rap duo Faulty Uncommon, and IMANI, a Hofstra dance group.

Refreshments were provided during an intermission, as well as free condoms. The audience danced and sang along to the various performances, and all eyes were on LaBeija as she delivered her highly anticipated speech about being an HIV Positive, queer woman of color.

“In 1993, my mother got a cold that wouldn’t go away,” she said to the crowd, “She was tested, my father was tested, and I was tested. The results all came back positive for HIV. There is a difference between HIV and AIDS, and it is important that we all know this. HIV is a virus, and AIDS happens over time.”

Image courtesy of Pixabay

“My mother tried to take a holistic route and she died. Today, I speak her name.”

LaBeija was born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, graduated from The New School and became involved with New York City’s ballroom community, an underground LGBT subculture.

“We really don’t know how my mother got AIDS, she was raped in 1985, but we really don’t know. There is so much about AIDS that we still don’t know,” she said, “but if only she knew she could’ve taken one pill today instead of having to take thirteen back then.”

LaBeija, as well as CWC members Nandi Piper, Tatiana Montez, and Shannon Prevatt, gave facts about HIV/AIDs to the audience, such as the fact that an estimated 36.7 million individuals worldwide were infected with HIV in 2016, including 1.8 million children. Another fact shared was that HIV affects more people of lower socioeconomic status at a disproportionately high rate.

“Living with HIV is often seen as being dirty, or unclean or unpretty,” LaBeija said as she finished her speech, “but I certainly don’t feel dirty or unclean, and definitely don’t feel unpretty.” “We all must learn more about HIV/ AIDS, and gain more knowledge,” she said, “Yes, it is a part of me, but I never let it define me.”


Cover Photo Credit: Marissa Matozzo