It is pretty hard to miss Rosie Perez these days, considering the fact that the outspoken actress currently serves as a regular on ABC talk program “The View.” Yet, prior to daytime work, when she was stealing eyes with impeccable dance moves with Spike Lee in the renowned classic “Do the Right Thing,” the Puerto Rican entertainer frequently made a cherishing landmark in HIV/AIDS activism.
Like so many in the late 1980s, Rosie Perez was unaware of the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. Her knowledge of the crisis would soon be redefined after noting personal acquaintances contracting the disease and the “[once-undivided] sexual lives” within New York City “slowly but surely” separating.
As early as 1991, Perez ventured as an AIDS activist, when she first lectured in local inner-New York City high schools about alarming statistics concerning the treacherous sexual disease and educated youths on safe-sex protection.
It would not be until mid-April 1993, following her feature in the theatrical “Untamed Heart,” that Perez would move more into the philanthropic scene by taking part in events like a 5-hour fundraiser AIDS Dance-a-thon, where proceeds would benefit several AIDS foundations, especially AIDS Project Los Angeles. Perez would go on to become a recurring donor for the event years to come, including a high-profiled 2004 feature with fellow philanthropist Lil’ Kim.
By 1995, Ms. Perez used her star power to educate national audiences of the AIDS epidemic through various media outlets, from radio guest spots on Hot 97 to televised co-hosting slots on ABC’s “In a New Light: Sex Unplugged.” The latter would prove essential with praise boasting from “POZ” magazine, of which the publication cited Perez’s contribution as the “most effective sex-ed […] ever aired by [prime time] commercial grids.”
But what would soon be even more significant came in May 1996 when the Latina megastar delivered an outspoken speech during the charitable event Central AIDS Walk. Throughout her oration, Perez achingly recollected a close friend dying of AIDS and went on to urge New York politicians to increase attention of the crisis.
With Perez’s address attracting headlines like “The New York Daily News,” the annual AIDS Walk would accumulate a staggering $5 million for the nonprofit Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC).
Three years following the success, Perez created even more buzz with her bold statement to “MTV,” in which the Nuyorican star denounced pop stars like Britney Spears for not using their “star power” as an advantage to voice greater awareness of the AIDS crisis, instead “wast[ing]” it upon meaningless nonsense.
As Rosie Perez’s philanthropic routines continued to grant her access within the multimedia stream, Perez’s estranged mother, Lydia, contacted “The New York Daily News” in July 2000, alleging that her daughter was not “returning her phone calls,” in the wake of her decreasing health caused by AIDS. The ignored phone call allegation was immediately shot down when Perez and her publicist confirmed that financial assistance offered to Lydia was accepted, yet strangely, assistance from Perez’s philanthropic allies was declined.
Despite her mother’s proposed claims, Rosie Perez attended the bedside of dying Lydia shortly before her passing.
From the aftermath of her mother’s death to a backfire of her April 2006 protest outside the United Nations building, the vibrant “In Loving Color” choreographer never steered away from her activism, instead, embarking further in enhancing her charitable causes.
A December 1, 2006 visual showcased such, where Rosie Perez served as a director and feature in the Spanish PSA “Join the Fight,” an advert aimed at the Latino community that disclosed a statistically increased rate of AIDS within men, specifically closeted gays who “hide” due to difficulty of acceptance. Six days following the televised release, Perez elaborated further on the growing matter during the annual Voices of Color Lecture at Hamilton College.
The tireless efforts yielded by Perez may have been at once “minimally news-covered,” but the AIDS activist would earn her dues beyond unpredictable measures.
Immense recognition occurred when President Barack Obama appointed Perez to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA). On February 1, 2010, Perez was officially sworn into office, securing her title to transmit information and tips to the president, alongside providing input for the National HIV/AIDS strategy.
Since her astounding honorific title, the hard-working Perez has never stopped raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, regardless of recent-age medical treatment and a showering of accolades (among them an annual Cielo Latino Award named after her). Utilizing her power on “The View” as the perfect platform to remind audiences of the dangers triggered by AIDS, Rosie Perez is among the brave working to put an end to an epidemic that holds 33 million global lives infected and that adds a new victim every 9.5 minutes within American grounds.
– Jefferson Varner IV
Sources: NY Daily News 1, POZ, Kismet Films, White House, Hamilton College, blackfilm.com, MTV, ‘Latin American’ Rhythm Magazine Spokesman, PR NewsWire, Los Angeles Times, NY Daily News 2