FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2023
Contact: Danielle Miller, firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW ORLEANS — Tennis champion Arthur Ashe, and the only Black man to win the Wimbledon and the U.S. and Australian Opens, died of complications from AIDS in 1993. After being diagnosed with AIDS, Ashe spent the remainder of his life raising awareness about the disease. That sentiment remains for Dillard University’s tennis teams who paid tribute to Ashe during World AIDS Day by handcrafting a quilt to memorialize the groundbreaking athlete. The quilt display, which shows the names of other Brown and Black lives lost to the disease, is a call to action to disrupt systemic and social justice issues that impact health disparities.
Dillard University’s Minority Health and Health Equity Research Center (MHHERC), the Center for Racial Justice, the Office of the Chaplain and the School of Population and Health Sciences partnered with Change the Pattern, an initiative funded by the National AIDS Memorial, the Southern AIDS Coalition and Gilead Sciences to shed light on the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the state and the disparity among African Americans, to bring sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to Dillard and Southern University.
According to Dr. Michelle R. Smith, director of MHHERC, Louisiana has the fourth highest HIV diagnoses rate in the country and continues to impact Black communities. Smith explained that Change the Pattern’s initiative ties directly into the MHHERC’s mission by bringing awareness to chronic diseases and illnesses that have a disproportionate effect on Black people. “In order to improve the overall quality of health for racial and ethnic minorities, we must keep the community informed. Bringing these events to campus will motivate the community to take an active role in their health,” Smith said.
During the five-day exhibition to commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, students, faculty, staff and community members were engaged in interactive experiences such as quilt-making workshops, HIV testing, educational forums, and movie screenings for learning, sharing and fellowship.
Members of DU Pride, a student-led organization that focuses on LGBTQIA + advocacy, handcrafted a quilt in honor of Dillard University’s first Mister Blue and White, Kim Jernigan ‘96, who died of complications from AIDS. “I am proud to be a part of the quilt making workshop to honor a former member of the royal court. In a world where people are still condemned for their sexual orientation, it’s important that we have a safe space to learn and advocate for our health. Knowing that Kim made an impact in his community inspires me to continue to advocate for mine,” said Spencer Jones ‘23, current Mr. Dillard University and urban studies and public policy major.
Members of Change the Pattern presented Dr. Smith with a $5,000 check to continue her efforts with the MHHERC.
About Dillard University
Dillard University is a historically Black institution that cultivates leaders who live ethically, think and communicate precisely, and act courageously to make the world a better place. Located in New Orleans, Dillard is a private faith-based liberal arts university that offers 22 majors and two certificate programs. Ranked 5th on 2021 The New York Times Overall Mobility Index and 14th in 2022 by Academic Influence for Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship, Dillard’s call to future leaders is to Write Your Legacy. Find out more about Louisiana’s oldest HBCU by visiting www.dillard.edu.