Chad isn’t waiting for change. He’s helping build a healthier, inclusive Milwaukee for all of us.
Educating others is second nature for Chad. He’s a youth counselor, an African American health educator and LGBTQ community advocate. When he’s not working with organizations to improve people’s lives—or organizing concerts and events where kids can find prevention info, free condoms and support—he’s connecting with young people as a mentor and house father in MKE’s lively underground ball culture. So he’s had a lot of teachable moments. But there’s one that stands out from the rest.
It happened at one of his famous community concerts just two years ago. Chad was standing backstage with a popular rapper who was waiting for his turn in the spotlight. Together, they watched as a local entertainer finished an energetic performance. “The guy actually leans over to me and asks ‘Do you think I can get another mic? I don’t want all that AIDS stuff near my mouth.'” remembers Chad. “He thought that because this person was transgender, they’ve got to be sick.”
It feels amazing to be a part of somebody else's change.
That’s when Chad did something spontaneous. He whipped out his phone, flipped the camera into selfie mode, and posed with the rapper. As they looked at themselves on screen, Chad said, “This is what HIV looks like. It can happen to anyone, not just the LGBT. You could have HIV.”
It was a eye-opening moment for Chad and his musician friend. Just a few minutes later, that rapper would use the same microphone he’d been so worried about to congratulate the entertainer on their performance. And then he gave them a hug. Lesson learned.
Moments like that—moments that bring people from different walks of life together—are the reason Chad believes in building a community that connects and includes everyone.
“So many people aren’t up to date with HIV because it’s been stigmatized. A lot people think HIV is only for LGBTQ, and [the truth] is not reaching a broader community,” says Chad. To overcome that stigma and make sure everyone has access to the info and help they need, he works to create safe spaces where everyone can feel welcome.
“There are straight people and gay people who come to my house and laugh and talk and have fun,” says Chad. And that’s important, because “HIV is not just an LGBTQ thing. It’s an everybody thing.”