- Faith & Family
Students from Alonzo Mourning, Hialeah and Miami Lakes Educational Center high schools participated in an eye-opening summit on Thursday, Feb. 7 that dealt with the harsh realities of HIV/AIDS. The event, sponsored by the 5000 Role Models of Excellence, was one of several local activities whose goal was to educate and empower Blacks on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day [Thursday]. The summit was held at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center. Role Models Robert Parker and Ed Harris served as MCs for the event. Students also learned about the latest innovations in health care from Lesli Cartaya, director of Marketing and Public Relations for Aventura Hospital. Speakers included J.D. Patterson, new director for the Miami Dade Police Department, and Dwight Jackson, funeral director for Richardson Mortuary. Role Model mentors later shared their experiences as part of a panel discussion.
“We must value our own lives or we will risk losing them way too soon,” Patterson said. “Your values also impact the choices that you will make. We don’t need any more young, Black males in jails or in hospital beds. I want to encourage you to make choices that will help you succeed, keep you free and in good health.”
Jackson used an empty coffin to emphasize his remarks.
“Young men often get caught up in situations that lead them to prison or to one of these caskets,” he said. “HIV may not kill you right away but it will change your life forever. This is serious. You have to be smart and protect yourselves at all times.”
One student talked about losing his uncle to an AIDS-related illness and said what hurt him most was “seeing how a strong man withered away to skin, bones and tubes all over his body. I don’t want to end up like that. He made some bad decisions and wasn’t careful with the women in his life. We can’t make that mistake.”
Other panelists that spoke honestly with the students and addressed their concerns included: representatives from the City of Miami police and fire departments; Dr. J. Arenas Chico, M.D., Broward Medical Center; Jerome McNeil, Nashan Photography; and D. Kevin McNeir, senior editor, The Miami Times.
By D. Kevin McNeir