Jonathan Perry has a story. It's a story that's been told on the national scale by "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and it's a story that's coming to UT's University Center tonight at 7:00 p.m.
Perry, an activist on issues concerning being "black and homosexual in America" since he contracted HIV almost thirteen years ago, will present on the issues of being a double minority.
According to the American Program Bureau, a global speaker and entertainment agency, Perry spiraled into a deep and life-threatening depression after discovering he was HIV positive.
The agency reported that Perry’s involvement in on-campus HIV education programs helped him overcome the depression and gave him the encouragement he needed to speak publicly about his life experiences.
After Perry shared his story with the campus at his alma mater of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C. in 2002, he began organizing forums on race and sexual orientation, which led him to found the first official LGBT organization at his alma mater, where Perry continued to grow in his activism.
His work became so noteworthy that it caught the attention of Winfrey. In 2004 he was featured on her show where he shared his story.
“I’m the type of person who keeps all of my skeletons on the front door. That way when someone goes rambling through my closets, all they will find are clothes,” said Perry to the APB.
Although it has been a hectic journey, Perry admitted to the APB that, if given the chance he wouldn’t go back again, because he feels like his story and his willingness to speak out has saved some people’s lives and has inspired them to hope and taught them take responsibility for their own lives.
The Black Cultural Programming Committee is sponsoring the event, and Rebecca Butcher, a sophomore in English and member of BCPC, is hoping Perry's presentation will spark dialogue on campus, specifically within the demographics that Perry is a part of.
"I think it's an important event for students dealing with the prospect of 'coming out,'" Butcher said. "Particularly in the black community, it's usually such a huge deal for homosexual men. I'm expecting this to start a good discussion among my peers about the subject of homophobia."
Marlon Johnson, graduate advisor for BCPC, is also looking forward to the event because he too feels it is a relevant issue that needs to be discussed on campus.
“The purpose of this program is to raise awareness about the issue of homophobia and to address the different viewpoints of homosexuality within the African-American community and within the general population," Johnson said. "Mr. Perry will discuss his experience and will speak against some of the lies and myths that surround the LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning and Allied) community of color.”