By Chris Levister –
WANTED: Blissfully domestic uber mom, gracious granny, activist, role model, heart attack survivor, HIV-AIDS spokesperson, community organizer, mentor, toilet scrubber…
Who would sign up for that job? “I think it’s me!” says Pat Green- Lee eagerly raising her hand on this day for celebrating the women in our lives.
Surrounded by a gaggle of family, friends and neighbors she is busy doing what comes natural: ‘mothering’.
“A kid said to me this morning, ‘Happy Mother’s Day Miss Pat’. I said who are you? He said ‘don’t you remember telling me to always use a condom, pull up my sagging pants and be a responsible man’ that was 5 years ago,” recalls Green-Lee.
The young Rialto man is now a committed father attending college. Her trademark caring, no nonsense, outspoken and persistent style has earned her the title of Queen of Responsibility, a fitting accolade for a woman who can often be found patrolling her Rialto street handing out condoms and advice on avoiding substance abuse and unprotected sex to neighborhood children.
“I tell parents, if I see your kids doing something wrong, I’m gonna call them out. In the same vein if they are doing good things I’m gonna call them out as well.”
Green-Lee takes so much delight in showing off her mothering skills that it’s easy to see how as a single parent she’s raised four biological children, two adopted children and mothered count less neighborhood children.
“You can draw away from helping others, hesitate, or simply be too busy. Or you can grab the moment and commit yourself to a life of good works,” she said.
But life for this Rialto earth mother best known for her fight against the scourge of HIV-AIDS hasn’t always been a bed of roses.
“I was a square shy girl from Alabama who got caught up in the drug world. I spent a lot of nights on the street homeless. I did a lot of drugs. I let down myself, my family and friends but in 1991 God gave me a second chance,” she said.
“I tell children no matter how far down you go, as long as you’re breathing, you can come back up. Hold on! Hang on and Hug on.”
Ironically it was the many hugs and outpouring of community support that powered her through a heart attack in 2007.
“That was a wild year. I had a heart attack, State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod recognized me as Woman of the Year, and as a representative of the health advocacy group African-American Health Initiative (AAHI) I traveled to the Bahamas to promote awareness against the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
As co-founder and execut ive director of Brothers and Sister in Action (B.A.S.I.A), Green-Lee is a walking billboard in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS among African Americans who are at the highest risk for HIV infection.
At 64, she has a multi-faceted life. She gladly assumes the role of tireless mother and lauded health advocate after surviving drug addiction and raising an HIV infected son.
She hosts the annual HIV/AIDS Health Summit, yearly Inland Empire AIDS Walk and other regional and state events focused on education and prevention.
“When I helped launch B.A.S.I.A in 2003 it was almost impossible to find culturally sensitive resource information on what is one of the most dangerous epidemics in human history. African- American and Latino women make up more than half of the new cases in the U.S. At the end of 2007 there were an estimated 1.6 million people living with HIV infection, of which almost half (52%) were black/African American. Whi le blacks represent approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population, they continue to account for a higher proportion of cases at all stages of HIV/AIDS—from infection with HIV to death with AIDS— compared with members of other races and ethnicities.
Green-Lee says while HIV infected people are living longer thanks to worldwide awareness, high performance medications and greater access to treatment she fears the worst in these hard economic times.
“HIV/AIDS is no longer front page news. Agencies are struggling to get funding for treatment and education programs. My fear is a lot of people are sticking their heads in the sand hoping the crisis will go away. I’ve got some news - people are still dying at an alarming rate.”
Just last month, Green-Lee was forced to vacate the HIV/AIDS Resource Center located in the New Hope Family Life Center in San Bernardino.
“I could no longer afford the rent. Funding for HIV/AIDS education is all but dried up.” Green-Lee is now desperately looking for in-kind (donated) office space to continue BASIA’s mission of saving lives. “There’s a lot of unused space out there. I’m just praying that God will send me an angel. He knows my heart and the important work we do.”
“I don’t need Mother’s Day cards, diamonds or flowers to remind me that motherhood is what you make it. The most difficult step of any journey is the first.”
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