Meet 2012′s Richmonder of the Year
John Jessie at last December’s RVA Remembers event.
He stepped up to the plate in 2010 to fill the shoes of Tiffany Devereaux and take charge of the planning committee for Fun For A Cause, one of Richmond’s largest fundraising efforts within the LGBTQ community.
At the close of his first evening hosting as drag persona Natasha Carrington in 2011, he poignantly shared his own story of learning his HIV status years prior.
He graciously thanked Fan Free Clinic for “being there for him” and so many other members of the community.
GAYRVA.COM’s Richmonder of the Year for 2012 is John Jessie. His work advocating for AIDS and HIV awareness is unsurpassed. Over the course of two years, his leadership has helped raise over $28,000 for Fan Free Clinic and other LGBTQ organizations.
Watch the awards presentation and acceptance speech below from our 3D Birthday Bash:
Friend Tommy Waters explained how coming out about his HIV status was such a personal decision, but an impactful one for this community.
“If someone as big and popular as Natasha Carrington is coming out and living everyday and accomplishing so much, maybe they can accomplish something too.”
A nomination received from friend from Tina Doak echoed this sentiment.
“John Jessie showed the world that life doesn’t end when you find out you are HIV positive….That it really is even more of a reason to go out in the world and help others…”
Fan Free Clinic’c executive director Karen Legato described Jessie as the “head cheerleader” for the RVA Remembers event on World AIDS Day – where 400 umbrellas formed a red ribbon on Brown’s Island.
“The gift of John’s time, his life transparency and the funds raised through his efforts are invaluable to Fan Free Clinic and those we serve in the community. His work has helped us to continue to raise awareness that HIV is still prevalent in our community and that we must do everything we can to reduce stigma and get people tested and into treatment.”
“He encourages folks to: ‘know your status, get tested, love yourself,’” Legato adds.
During his acceptance speech on Friday night, Jessie shared his message of hope with the audience.
“When I found out I was HIV positive six years ago, it was never my mission to do anything more than live my life,” he said. ”When Tiffany Devereaux the founder of Fun For A Cause stepped down, something in my heart told me it was time to step forward.”
“It’s important for you to protect yourself and for you to protect the ones you love…I encourage you to go out, to get tested, to know your status and encourage those around you to get tested.”
“I am an HIV survivor, but I am not HIV. I am Natasha Carrington, I am John Jessie. At the end of the day, I take my wig off and I’m a boy in a dress. I’m proud of who I am and I encourage you to be proud of who you are.”
Kevin Clay is the editor and publisher of GAYRVA.COM. He is a Richmond native, loves the city and knows it's on the edge of greatness. Don't hold back RVA. You can follow Kevin on GAYRVA's Twitter or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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