Actor and recording artist Jussie Smollett stands among three courageous individuals who have given tireless in the struggle against HIV/AIDS. The 2015 Heroes in the Struggle Gala reception and awards presentation at the Director's Guild of America will honor Smollett, star of FOX's hit TV show Empire, Vanessa Mills, Executive Director of Empower U Inc. in Miami, Florida, Gregorio Millett, Vice President and Director of Public Policy for amfAR, and Janssen Therapeutics, a leading virology company focusing on HIV and Hepatitis C. The evening will include a special tribute to Jussie Smollett by fellow Empire cast members Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Gabourey Sidibe, and producer, director Lee Daniels.
"We are honoring three remarkable individuals and an exceptional corporation who have made heroic contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS," said Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. This year's event will focus on Family and Black Lives Matter.
"We seem to have an epidemic of unarmed young Black men and boys being killed by police," says Wilson. "The bar for killing a Black male in America has gotten tragically low. Our righteous indignation over the complete disregard for Black lives cannot begin when we are dead in the streets. Black Lives have to matter when we notice the achievement gap between Black boys and other racial ethnic groups that start as early as the sixth grade. Black Lives have to matter when the unemployment rate for Black teenage boys in Chicago is over 50%. Black lives have to matter when nearly half of the new HIV cases in America are Black. 30% of Black gay and bisexual men in America are already infected with HIV and 60% of them don't know it. AIDS in America today is a Black disease. You can't believe Black lives matter and not be concerned about the HIV/AIDS pandemic in America. The Black AIDS Institute exists because Black Lives matter!"
The star studded event will be hosted by Brian J. White, who just completed a season on Scandal with Kerry Washington. Other presenters scheduled to appear are Jurnee Smollett-Bell (The Great Debaters), Elvis Nolasco (ABC's American Crime), Nelson Ellis (True Blood), TV and film director Anthony Hemmingway (The Newsroom, Shameless), Shanola Hampton (Showtime's Shameless), and Tracie Thoms (Annie, Veep). Musical guests include Angie Fisher, Mervyn Warren, and B. Slade. Others scheduled to attend include Vanessa Williams, Anna Maria Horsford, Rockmond Dunbar, Lamman Rucker, and Tasha Smith.
This year's Gala will be followed by an after party sponsored by Merck featuring The Charlene Moore Project in a tribute to Sylvester, with Lynn Fiddmont and Kim Yarbrough, hosted by Jackée.
A limited number of tickets are still available for the event. To order tickets go to BlackAIDS.org or www.HITS2015.EventBrite.com. Tickets start at $75.00.