Pernessa C. Seele
By Jesse Brooks
“The National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS”, which began March 2, is a time for African American churches to become centers for AIDS education and compassionate care.
AIDS is destroying the Black Community. The stigma of AIDS continues to persist. Our religious institutions must lead the struggle in stopping the spread of AIDS and command more services and resources for people who are infected and affected.
The idea of a week of prayer in churches originated in 1989 when Pernessa C. Seele, CEO of The Balm In Gilead, started, The Harlem Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. It was so successful that it became known as “The Black Church Week of Prayer” which has continued till today.
Seele wanted a way to invite all believers to step forward beyond the walls that divide us into the circle of conscious prayer for the healing of AIDS. “Let us not allow the issues that divide us to prevent us from entering into a circle of prayer and education with all of our brothers and sisters”, she says, “Let us seek divine guidance for our own individual and congregational paths toward AIDS awareness, advocacy and service”.
The Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS was the nation’s first national HIV/AIDS mobilization campaign. It has reached more than 5 million African Americans.
The late Dr. Dorothy Height, Civil rights pioneer, spoke to President Barack Obama at the White House, “We need to be able to talk about HIV as we talk about jobs, as we talk about housing, as we talk about civil rights. We all have a responsibility to break the silence about this disease – to speak out about HIV, to know that our families and friends and churches are there to support us. And if someone talks to us about HIV, to listen, to learn, and to accept and help if we are called upon”.
On Friday, March 4, Oakland will participate in REAL TALK II, 6 to 9 pm, at Word Assembly Church with Bishop Keith Clark at 410 14th Street. And a youthful ‘Chat ‘n Chew’ program will be held 10:00am to 1:00pm, Saturday, March 5, at the Allen Temple Baptist Church Life Center, 8400 East 14th Street, Oakland with Reverend Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Jr. Both events will feature music, free refreshments.
The time is now to raise the visibility of HIV and AIDS. Let us confront and overcome the stigma that helps keep HIV alive in our communities. We need to talk openly about tough issues like homophobia and discrimination that prevent too many African-Americans from seeking HIV testing and treatment, and support from their friends and family. I invite the readers to join with me, especially those that can’t attend the events listed above, to offer daily noon prayers.