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HIV/AIDS Activist Patricia Green-Lee Dies

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By Chris Levister –

Longtime HIV/AIDS activist Patricia ‘Pat’ Ann Green-Lee died of a heart attack February 19, 2012. She was 65.

Green entered the activist world in the mid-1980’s, when HIV and AIDS were new terrifying and ravaging her Los Angeles community.

Her friends were dying. She was battling cocaine addiction. It seemed natural to focus on doing some good. An HIV positive son helped steel her resolve.

For more than two decades her tenacity, strong will and dedication brought HIV/AIDS awareness to generations of people stigmatized by deep seated myths about sex, disease, treatment and prevention.

In exposing the region’s HIV/AIDS failures, she stressed abstinence-only is good – but insisted education about condom use and needle exchange frowned upon by the government and many churches, is vital to saving lives.

“So many people were in denial …. The silence was thunderous, and the only way to stop that was to speak out,” Green told the Black Voice News in 2005.

“My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor and love,” said her daughter Sharon Celestine Smith of Rialto.

Feared and revered Green was as much at home scolding government officials about HIV/AIDS failures as she was handing out condoms to neighborhood kids.

“She would walk around her Rialto neighborhood with an armful of condoms,” recalls 23-year-old UCLA senior Casey C. Williams.

“If you were a sexually active teen, you were on her radar. If you did drugs or had an STD (sexually transmitted disease) she’d confront you. If you were hungry, or just needed some motherly love, Miss Pat’s door was always open,” said Williams.

“We’ve lost an extraordinary ally in the movement for full equality,” said Dr. V. Diane Woods, CEO and President of the African American Health Institute of San Bernardino County (AAHI-SBC).

“Pat a co-founding member of AAHI-SBC, fought stigma, fear, discrimination, homophobia, and negative perceptions about HIV testing. She battled socioeconomic issues associated with poverty and a lack of awareness of HIV status. She was fearless.”

Born to Richard Lee and Nancy Crosier, in Sylacauga, Alabama on October 6, 1946, Pat often talked about her impoverished childhood and the unrelenting struggle for social justice.

Her family drove 200 miles to get a tetanus shot after young Pat stepped on a rusty nail - only to be confronted by Jim Crow’s racial etiquette.

“The doctor looked me in the eye and said ‘little girl we don’t touch darkies’. He denied me treatment but handed me a powerful lesson: “Great pain and suffering are often the beginning of great enterprises,” Green said.

In 1962 she moved to California where she attended college and worked for the Job Corps. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Services, and multiple certifications in Substance Abuse and Domest ic Violence Counseling.

She volunteered with the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) and the parent organizations Women in Community Services (WCS).

In 1994, Green moved to San Bernardino County with a vision of helping others heal and curing a healthcare system that failed minorities and the poor.

Drug free for 12 years, in 2004 Green and her friend Linda Hart launched the non-profit organization Brothers and Sisters in Action (B.A.S.I.A.) providing HIV/AIDS and substance abuse education, client advocacy, prevention and intervention services to Black/African American and underserved communities in San Bernardino County.

Despite representing only 8.5 percent of the population in the county in 2005, African Americans accounted for 18 percent of the new HIV cases in that year. At a time when so many living with HIV/AIDS were invisible, Green defied naysayers boldly taking HIV awareness and prevention programs into Inland Black churches, schools, medical and government establishments.

Claiming, betrayal, mistrust, disastrous public leadership and a stunning lack of county government oversight, in 2010, Green mobilized HIV/AIDS activists, supporters and people living with AIDS and demanded that the SB County Board of Supervisors declare a ‘state of emergency’ in the African American community.

“To put it lightly she gave ‘em hell,” said longtime Los Angeles AIDS survivor and activist Carla Bailey. “She was immovably focused on the mission.”

In 2007 B.A.S.I.A. partnered with the city of Rialto on World AIDS Day to host the annual AIDS Walk. That year Senator Barbara Boxer recognized the organization on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

In 2007 Green received state Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod’s ‘Woman of the Year’ award.

“She was a pioneer in helping to bring an awareness of HIV and AIDS in the community. She devoted her life to fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS and its stigma, by encouraging people to get tested and educated. I have supported many of Patricia’s events because she worked to save lives and that is what we should remember and commend her for,” Senator McLeod said in a statement following her death.

“Pat educated and inspired people with a straightforward message of personal responsibility, respect and dignity for all,” said Stephanie Edwards, president of the California African American HIV/AIDS Coalition (CAAHAC).

Year after year she labored in the trenches with little or no money, recalls CAAHAC vice chairperson Nosente Uhuti.

“She regularly used her Social Security check to pay B.A.S.I.A phone bills, printing and other HIV/AIDS educat ion expenses. We’ve lost a true warrior.”

Green was the youngest of three sisters, Doris Smith of Long Beach and Margaret Tillman (deceased) and a half brother Richard Lee, Jr.

She is survived by six children (two minors) Robert Bernard Swain, Richard Gary Swain, Sharon Celestine Smith, Willie Charles Cummings, Joshua Ford and Kara Ford, seven grandchildren and a host of nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday, February 28 at 10:00 a.m. at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in San Bernardino.

A public viewing at the church is set for Monday, February 27 from 5:00-8:00 p.m.

For those who can, donate to the Patricia Green Lee Memorial Fund. Make Check(s) or Money Order(s) payable to: African American Health Institute c/o Kismet Evans, 357 West 2nd, Street, Suite #5, San Bernardino, CA 92401.

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