One of my many freelance gigs is as editor-in-chief of the Black AIDS Weekly, a publication of the Black AIDS Institute, an organization headed by a remarkable man, its founder Phill Wilson. I met Phill in about 1997 and we've remained in touch ever since, typically because I track him down to say hello at an annual AIDS conference and periodically write and assign AIDS stories. (Some people don't want to be bothered with the disease, the stigma associated with it, how they think you do or don't get it, and/or their negative stereotypes about the people who have it. But I'm into helping people live healthier lives.)
Based on this friendly relationship, in 2005 Kai Wright, who manages many of the Institute's publications, invited me to write several articles about black women and AIDS. Because ending AIDS is such an important cause, I agreed to work for much less than my normal rate. Little did I know that my articles would comprise the entirety of the groundbreaking report "Getting Real: Black Women Taking Charge in the Fight Against AIDS," a journal that touched many people's lives and received an incredible amount of attention.
Three years after that, the Institute offered me the opportunity to take part in what turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life: working as a volunteer journalist at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. (If you can make it highly recommend attending this conference, if only to witness the entire world coalesce around one issue.) While there, I helped ghostwrite some of Phill's OpEd pieces. In the process we grew closer.
This year I received my cosmic reward for volunteering -- in the form of a great contract in the middle of the Great Recession: running Black AIDS Weekly. I wasn't looking for it; back then, I was just doing "the right thing." Yet cooperating with others is part of the natural order or God's human ecosystem.
The best part is knowing that this is much more than a freelance job -- Phill is one of the most amazing people I've ever met in my life! After watching him work 18 and 20 hour days in Mexico City without getting tense or talking down to anyone, I realized that I need to grow so that I become as "big" as he is. I'm honored to "have my feet under his table," as my pastor says of the opportunity to be mentored.
Check out these wonderful videos of Phill: the first, of him in more contemplative mood; the other, of his more typical public persona -- in this case at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.
The Contemplative Phill
Phill on Fire