St. Louis Activists and Artists to Discuss New Film, Intersection of Art and Activism

The Griot Museum of Black History will launch its Impact HIV/AIDS Initiative with the St. Louis screening of “Alternate Endings, Activist Risings,” a film by Visual AIDS, on Friday, November 30 at 7 p.m., at the Griot, 2505 St. Louis Ave.

Erise Williams, Jr., Inc., Opal M. Jones, and De Nichols will discuss the film and the intersection of art HIV/AIDS and activism. “Alternate Endings” highlights the impact of art in HIV/AIDS activism and advocacy today by commissioning compelling short videos from six community organizations and collectives—ACT UP NY, Positive Women’s Network, Sero Project, The SPOT, Tacoma Action Collective, and VOCAL NY. It represents a variety of organizational strategies, from direct action to grassroots service providers to nation-wide movement building, while considering the role of creative practices in activists’ responses to the ongoing AIDS crisis.

Erise Williams, Jr., is President and CEO of Erise Williams and Associates, Inc., a community-based non-profit agency addressing minority health disparities. The mission of the agency is to provide preventive health education, disease prevention, health promotion, and care services that address the health disparities of minorities in the St. Louis Bi-State region, with particular regard to African Americans Williams was the longtime director of the pioneering St. Louis-based organization Black Assisting Black Against AIDS (BABAA). BABAA is now a program of Williams and Associates, Inc.

Opal M. Jones is President and Chief Executive Officer of DOORWAYS, an interfaith non-profit organization in St. Louis, Missouri that provides housing and related supportive services to people living with HIV/AIDS. DOORWAYS assists over 3,100 individuals annually in 132 counties in Missouri and Illinois. Jones oversees this $9 million organization, which includes four housing programs and a 24-hour residential care facility. She serves as President of the National AIDS Housing Coalition in Washington D.C., where she meets with other national leaders, legislators and government officials about HIV/AIDS policies. She also serves on several advisory committees including the Missouri Housing Trust Fund, the St. Louis Regional Health Commission and Eagle Bank.

De Nichols is Director and Principal Designer of Civic Creatives, an impact design studio that seeks creative and artistic solutions to social problems. Nichols is the visioning artist of the Mirror Casket, a sculpture and performance created as protest art during the 2014 Ferguson unrest that is now in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture. She is a 2018 Fellow with the Regional Arts Commission and was named a 2017 Citizen Artist Fellow of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

The Griot’s “Impact HIV/AIDS,” is a community awareness arts and culture initiative that will use exhibition, storytelling, visual art, mapping, oral interviews and other forms of expression to explore the ongoing relationship between HIV/AIDS and the St. Louis Region’s African-American community. The initiative will examine the myths and stereotypes of HIV/AIDS and give witness to the truths of those impacted by the disease.

Our goal is to create a powerful and empowering catalyst for change. Areas of discussion will include homelessness, stigma, criminalization, and insurance. Programs will explore the value and significance of knowing one’s status and emphasize the importance of taking preventative measures. It will celebrate people living with HIV/AIDS, remember those who have died, and recognize service providers and care givers.

Members of the “Impact HIV/AIDS” planning team include representatives of Empower Missouri; the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis; Washington University Libraries; Washington University Center for the Humanities; Washington University Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies; CHIPS; Department of Health, City of St. Louis; Civil Rights Enforcement Agency, City of St. Louis; Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri; BodyMindSpiritConnect; University of Kansas; Project ARK; What Would an HIV Doula Do?; Erise Williams & Associates; and the St. Louis LGBT History Project.

Additional public events are planned for February 2019 for National Black AIDS/HIV Day and May 2019 to commemorate the life of St. Louisan Robert Rayford, an African American teenager, who was one of the earliest known victims of AIDS in the United States. The 2019 Initiative will culminate with an exhibition of historical art posters and other memorabilia collected from the community. For additional information, visit the website or follow The Griot on Facebook.

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