by Ruby Comer
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’m smitten with this petite cutie-pie who stands before me at tonight’s fundraiser for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Although she looks like a fashion model and could give Lupita Nyong’o a run for her money, I just want to mother her!
Tangie Terry, twenty-five, reaches out to educate LGBT youth on HIV through LeapOut. Founded by her friend, Gabriel Maldonado, and under the auspices of his non-profit organization, TruEvolution, their mission is to eliminate HIV/AIDS in America through education, mentorship programs, case management, and HIV testing.
The 5’1” spitfire hails from Compton, California, has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s Studies from the University of California at Riverside (UCR), and is developing her own NGO called Dear Uzuri. Her birth name is Tangela, “heavenly messenger.”
We mosey outside the Beverly Hills Peninsula Hotel and sit on the curb with drinks in hand. The pinkish-orange-streaked sky is aglow as the sun sets. We marvel at the wonder of Mother Nature. I’m drinking an Irish coffee and Tangie sips on apple juice.
Ruby Comer: So, darling, tell me about Dear Uzuri. What does the name mean?
Tangie Terry: “Uzuri” means beauty in Africa and it’s a movement designed to encourage women to properly heal from internalized pain and practice healthy communication.
What spurred you to do this? Does it come from your own pain?
Well, Ruby, I was raped when I was nineteen.
I’m…so…sorry, Tangie. How did it affect you?
I tried to commit suicide. I didn’t realize I was raped until I took a Women’s Studies course. At first it was consensual and then I said, “no.” The moment I said “no” it should have stopped. I was pretty naive. Once it sank in, though, I felt worthless and dirty. I didn’t want to live anymore. I went to counseling and moved on.
Kudos to you for getting your life back on. After the rape did you get tested?
Yes—and thankfully I’m HIV-negative. After that I started getting tested every few months. It’s funny. I don’t think I would have gotten tested if it weren’t for this scare. [She ponders.] Gee, how many people are walking this earth with that same mindset? There’s so much work to do! [Then she quickly exclaims.] There needs to be more testing trucks around….!
Holy smoke! Glad you said that. Say, do you currently have a beau?
No. I recently got out of a physically abusive relationship.
Good. When you date, how do you broach the subject of HIV?
You know, I really don’t. Now that I think about it, I’m going to start taking my future spouse with me to get tested! He’ll have no choice. This is a life-and-death matter, and it’s a requirement to be with me.
That’s the spirit, girl. When did you first hear about the epidemic?
I was around ten or eleven. The rapper Eazy-E and basketball star Magic Johnson were all over the news about contracting this virus. Unfortunately, Eazy-E’s life ended shortly after.
I remember well. Some ignorant people still think HIV is a gay disease….
This is silly because everyone has the capability of contracting this disease.
Have you lost anyone to AIDS?
Fortunately, no, but I have many HIV-positive friends, like Gabe [Gabriel Maldonado, founder of TruEvolution]. He was diagnosed one year ago. In this epidemic, he’s definitely a hero. He’s awesome and I’m honored that God allowed our paths to cross. Everyone needs a Gabe in their life.
How hunky-dorie. I’m sure he feels the same way about you. What motivates you to give to others?
The constant turmoil in the world keeps me moving. I am here to empower myself, as well as others.
[I accidentally spill a bit of drink on my Vera Wang scarlet cross-front Jersey gown. Tangie blots the stain with her napkin.] Oh, thank you. Clumsy me. By the by, I wanna know what you speak about at schools?
Well, it comes from the heart and I share with them my personal testimonies and encourage them to move past their own obstacles. I discuss self-love and healing from any kind of pain.
What do you want to leave with my readers, Tangie?
Get tested! Start reading and educating yourself. Surround yourself with others who discuss the epidemic to gain multiple perspectives, and by all means—start taking care of yourself!
For more information, visit: www.truevolution.org.
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from
the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at [email protected]