ISAIAH – A VOICE FOR THE FUTURE
Isaiah R. Wilson Interview
By Teresa Sweigart
Isaiah Wilson knew he was different from a very young age, but it was not till middle school that he shared that he was gay with his brothers and aunts. In his younger years, Isaiah, has had many traumatic experiences. Being different in a very religious family in the south is not easy.
It was not till his sophomore year in college that Isaiah told his parents that he was gay. It took time for his parents to except that news of their son being gay. “My parents are my biggest supporters after my diagnosis as HIV positive.”
Going to the doctor for a routine checkup was anything but when he learned that he was HIV positive. With this diagnosis, “I became stronger as a person and more determined, dedicated advocate for the civil and human rights of people like myself – both black and gay.”
Before working with National Black Justice Coalition, Isaiah worked for nearly five years on Capitol Hill in the Office of former Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ). During his time with the Congressman, Isaiah worked on several issues important to both class and marginalized communities, which provided him with a vast knowledge of public policy challenges facing decision-makers. As Rep. Rothman’s chief aide on the Judiciary and LGBT issues, he drafted several pieces of legislation, including the original Juror Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit attorneys from striking potential federal jurors on the account of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Isaiah became involved with the National Black Justice Coalition when he was in the organizations program for Emerging leaders for ages 18 -30 years old. After completing the program, he was hired in 2014 as the External Affairs Manager.
I asked Isaiah what he does as the External Affairs Manager for NBJC, “I have been with other black men and transgender women who have recently been informed of their positive status and do not see any hope in the future. Lack of knowledge in the community about HIV/AIDS continue to bring stigma and fear to those effected with the diagnosis.” Therefore, the work that the National Black Justice Coalition is leading is so essential. “The only way we end HIV in the black community is when we intentionally focus on the empowerment of the black family, which is imperative to our healing and path forward.”
During his time with NBJC, Isaiah has served in several leadership capacities as a member of both the Congressional Black Associates and the Congressional LGBT Staff Association.
The NBJC was founded in 2003, is a national organizational comprised of committed and capable activities working to advance the health, wellness, and dignity of all black people with a focus on channeling the voices and mobilizing the collective power of black LGBT people and our allies. The Coalition envisions a world where all people are fully-empowered to participate safety, openly, and honestly in family, faith, and community regardless of race, class, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
The National Black Justice Coalition, a leading black civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of black LGBT people and strengthening the bonds and bridging the gaps between the movements for racial justice and LGBT equality. As an institutional priority, the NBJC has accepted the charge to lead an effort to address and improve the health and wellness of the black LGBT population.
The NBJC works in all black communities, but have a focus on those that are most marginalized. We want all black people to have access to jobs, housing, and healthcare without fear of discrimination. We also desire a country where black people are informed about, and central to, the implementation of public policies life the Affordable Care Act and the Update 2020 National HIV/AIDS Strategy (Elton John AIDS Foundation, Grantee Spotlight: National Black Justice Coalition). In executing this mission, we recognize that our most important work remains in the family. We know that progress on issues like overcoming stigma and lack of family acceptance are critical toward achieving individual and community empowerment.
The need for the NBJC is stronger than ever. Without authentic, meaningful representation and active participation from the black LGBT community, the LGBT equality movement cannot be positioned effectively within the broader civil rights context that it deserves. Ending HIV/AIDS in our community is a central component of our work to empower black LGBT people and our families. I am optimistic that our future is bright and our generation will live to see the end of the HIV epidemic in our nation and world (Elton John AIDS Foundation, Grantee Spotlight: National Black Justice Coalition).
Elton John AIDS Foundation, Grantee Spotlight: National Black Justice Coalition
National Black Justice Coalition.org http://nbjc.org/