Jonathan Perry is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University, a historically Black college in Charlotte, North Carolina and the first black, openly gay, HIV+ student at an HBCU to speak out, anywhere in the America.
A very outspoken student activist, Perry managed to organize forums on race and sexual orientation. In addition, he also founded Johnson C. Smith’s University’s first official, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) organization.
A native of Goldsboro, North Carolina, Perry contracted HIV in 2000 while visiting a friend on the West Coast.
"It took me a year to understand that I could very well die from this disease," Perry says, who has not been ill from the infection.
Getting involved in HIV-education programs on campus helped bring him out of the depression that almost took his life. He first told his story publicly in 2002 at an assembly of more than 150 Johnson C. Smith students.
Perry has been quoted in numerous news articles, magazines, and other publications. He has also been interviewed by Candace Gingrich. More recently, he was profiled by CNN.com, POZ Magazine, and The New York Times.
Jonathan’s activism eventually caught the attention of Oprah Winfrey, when in April 2004, she read his story on CNN.com and asked him to share his story on her show. He appeared on the show “Men Living on the Down Low” and was later featured on BET’s Open Mic and BET.com.
Now, Perry has turned his devastation into activism. In September 2004, he completed a three-month consulting contract with the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles, California.
Nelson Mandela said: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who are we to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around you. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others!” And that’s how Perry lives his life.
As one of America’s Emerging Activists, Perry recently delivered the keynote address for Harvard University’s first Unite Against AIDS Summit. He was also the first recipient of Unite Against AIDS Inspiration Award.
On his candidness about his HIV, Perry jokes: “I’m the type of person who keeps all of my skeletons on the front door. That way when [someone] goes rambling in my closets, all they’ll find are clothes.”
Ranking number three, POZ Magazine recently named Perry one of the six Superheroes of 2004. But even with public appreciation and criticism, Perry says that if he could go back in time, he would not change a thing. “The truth is, no, because lives have been and are being saved because of one individual’s willingness to step up and speak out. It’s no longer about Jonathan. It’s about inspiring a hope that is born of responsibility and teaching people to be responsible for their own lives.” For more information please visit www.apbspeakers.com.
Your Life…Your Responsibility
Unite Against AIDS Summit
The DownLow Discussion
HIV & HBCU’s
I have HIV
Women & AIDS
Attitude, Diversity, Inspirational, Lifestyle
The Lone Voice
BAI: Black Media Round Table
Thank you for all your help with getting Jonathan Perry here. He was wonderful and the campus really loved his presentation.
- The Women’s Center, Ramapo College of New Jersey
MTV Real World Cast Member, Diversity Consultant & Assistant Dean & Managing Director of Diversity & Inclusion Programs at Stanford University
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