Friends in the Struggle

Our promise is to remember...

Calu Lester

1951 - 1987

Black gay AIDS-activist, co-founder of the Third World AIDS Advisory Task Force

"Of all people that have ever had a major influence in my life, Calu was probably the most impactful. He was my neighbor, my friend, and my hero. A man full of compassion, humor and wit, his homespun, down-home, real folk-style was never overshadowed by his education, degrees or honors. As a 'country boy' from Paul's Valley, Oklahoma, Calu always had a sense that injustice in this world was wrong and that was the focus of his mission in life. (...)"

'Reflections of Calu Lester' presented by Reggie Williams May 23, 1993 during the AIDS Memorial Candlelight Vigil, San Francisco, CA

John Eric Teamer

April 26, 1941 - December 21, 1994

Co-founder of Black and White Men Together (BWMT) and first Board President of the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention (NTFAP) from 1988 - 1990.

He taught as an out gay and HIV-positive school teacher at Alamo Park High School (now Ida B. Wells High School), San Francisco.

In April 1991 he and Reggie celebrated their "90 years" together.

Marlon Riggs

February 3, 1957 - April 5, 1994

Black Gay filmmaker, who featured Reggie Williams in "No Regret", together with four other HIV-positive Black gay men (1992).

Films by Marlon Riggs:

> I Shall Not Be Removed The Life of Marlon Riggs

Producer/Director: Karen Everett, 58 minutes, 1996

> complementary feature video on the life and works of Marlon Riggs

> A Short Bibliography of Materials in the UC Berkeley Libraries

> Listening to the Heartbeat: Interview with Marlon Riggs, 1989

> Biography Marlon Riggs

> Marlon Riggs: Introduction to Standards, 1992

> The Museum of Broadcast Communications

Marlon Riggs Retrospective @ Schomburg Center - YouTube

Essex Hemphill

April 16, 1957 - November 4, 1995

"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'.


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


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."

Remarks by Reggie Williams, Dec. 13, 1995 at the Rememberance Service for Essex Hemphill at the COC Amsterdam (Gay and Lesbian Center)

From the archives: Reggie Williams about Essex Hemphill

Reggie was a guest at the local radio-program Global Perspective to pay tribute to this great poet and his beloved friend. He is joined by Jerry Haime reading a poem in this interview with Andre Reeder.

National Museum of African American History & Culture > Essex Hemphill

The Legacy Project Chicago > Essex Hemphill

Watch the poem "When My Brother Fell", for Joseph Beam (1954-1988), read by dr3dnaught.

Reggie and Kevin at the Farewell Banquet, San Francisco, Feb. 1994

Kevin G. Brooks

1958 - 1996

The Black Gay rapper MC KGB

MC KGB (Kevin G. Brooks) was a black gay rapper, with AIDS; he lived in Oakland until the time of his death in April of 1996. After his diagnosis in the late 80's, KGB went onto disability after having worked for many years for the AAA. He started DJ-ing at the Pendulum in the Castro, as well as making mix tapes of dance/R&B tunes. He also started volunteering with the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention, specifically, as an outreach worker with the BAHSES Program. Read more and listen >>

After four years of imprisonment Simon Nkoli visited the U.S. in 1989. Photo by J. Potratz, San Francisco, 1989

Simon Nkoli

26 November 1957 - 30 November 1998

South African Gay Black anti-apartheid and AIDS activist

The founder of South Africa's black gay movement, Simon Nkoli embodied its link with the anti-apartheid struggle. His prominent participation in the campaign for black freedom and his association with that movement's leaders were instrumental in gaining recognition for gay rights in his country. As an AIDS educator and organizer of South Africa's pride celebrations, he worked to unite black and white gay communities in a common cause. Read more >> PDF, 3 pages

>> South African History Online

>> 14 things you should know about Simon Nkoli

Amsterdam, Gay Games, August 1998. Photo by W. Schreiber

Simon and I - A Film by Beverley Palesa Ditsie and Nicky Newman, 52 minutes, South Africa (Steps for the Future Films)

Simon and I recounts the lives of two giants in the South African gay and lesbian liberation movement, Simon Nkoli and the film maker herself, Bev Ditsie. Read more >>