by Reggie Williams, Dec. 13, 1995

at the Rememberance Service for Essex Hemphill

at the COC Amsterdam (Gay and Lesbian Center)

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Goedenavond, dames and heren.

My name is Reggie Williams. I am an African American living with AIDS. I am the former Executive Director, and one of the co-founders of the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention, the only federally funded program in America that specifically is targeting Black Gay Men, and other Gay Men of Color.

I am not here tonite to mourn Essex, but to celebrate his life. To celebrate the richness he gave us all, especially Black Gay Men.

Essex was one of my heroes, my idols, but more than anything, my friend.

Essex's works inspired, motivated, and helped us look inside ourselves to be able to empower ourselves to rise above homophobia, racism, sexism, and classism. To stand tall and proud as Black Gay men.

His way with words, his poetry and prose, inspired, motivated and helped thousands of Black Gay men across America and the world.

His style of writing would make you think that he was speaking to you, or speaking for you, expressing feelings and emotions that some of us would dare not say.

E. Lynn Harris, a prominent Black Gay American writer of Gay fiction said upon hearing of Essex's death, "We've lost another great African American Gay writer, who contributed a lot, but could have contributed much more, if there had not been this disease, and if there had been more time".

Special moments with Essex.

Essex was a light upon our feet, lighting our way to self-empowerment and self-esteem

(read story)...

Even though Essex is no longer with us, he has left us a rich bounty that is timeless and ageless, and continues to inspire Black Gay Men. He left us a legacy that I know will continue to have a great impact on the future generations of Gays and Lesbians to come.

Essex Hemphill, my hero, my idol, my friend.

Essex Hemphill - Photo by Sara Jorde