For the past 30 years, Tony nominated actress and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph has worked to raise HIV/ AIDS awareness through the DIVA Foundation.
DIVA, which stands for Divinely Inspired Victoriously Aware, is a non-profit organization Ralph founded after losing so many of her friends to AIDS during a time when few people knew anything about the life threatening disease.
Ralph witnessed so many people turn their backs on people affected by AIDS.
“The community, everyone, people of all kinds of walks, faiths and beliefs just found it easy to turn their backs on people in need. The little church girl in me said, we can do better than this – I can do better than this,” said Ralph.
Because of the ill treatment and stigma people with HIV/AIDS had to endure, Sheryl was often ridiculed for starting a foundation that focused on this specific community.
“It was painful at times, you know, the way people would call you names, and say that you were stupid, why would you do this? It will hurt your career, it’s not worth it. And I could only think to myself that people are always worth it,” Sheryl explained.
As the foundation grew, Sheryl went on to create DIVA’s Simply Singing, which is the main fundraising event for the DIVA foundation that uses the power of art to raise more awareness about HIV/AIDS and other social issues that affect the well-being of communities such as, poverty, cancer, hunger, and gun violence.
“We support artistic activism, we support young artists who want to use their art to change what’s going on in the world. You just never know how your art can inspire people. HIV/AIDS affects us all and we are going to continue to raise awareness, one song at a time,” said Ralph.