This week I talked with Jai Rodriguez about Richmond Ermet Aid Foundation's event
HELP IS ON THE WAY 22 - On The Red Carpet "Idols & Icons" on Sunday August 21st which is Northern California's largest annual, star-studded concert and gala that benefits Meals on Wheels of San Francisco and AIDS Legal Referral Panel. This fabulous event will feature tributes to Stephen Sondheim, Carole King, David Bowie, Natalie Cole, Prince and more. Jai will be performing along with Constantine Maroulis, Kimberley Locke, LaToya London, Melinda Doolittle, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Donna McKechnie, Carole Cook, Michael Walters as Dame Edna, Branden James with James Clark, Paula West, Sally Struthers, Jason Brock, Sony Holland, Tristan Bourgade and the cast of "Beautiful." For over twenty years the Richmond / Ermet Aid Foundation has raised millions of dollars by producing Broadway quality entertainment events and galas to advance HIV treatments and support AIDS services until there is a cure. Recently REAF has expanded its fundraising focus to the Bay Area's growing demand for two new areas by providing food for the needy and programs that support homeless, disadvantaged and disenfranchised youth. I talked to Jai about this tremendous organization and his spin on our LGBT issues.
When asked what his personal commitment is to LGBT civil rights Rodriguez stated:
The phone blew up the other night because Bill Maher had referenced "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" as being one of the key shows that really subtly moved society forwards visually getting to know a group of gay people that they thought of as friends and therefore breaking down barriers shifting society to a more tolerant place. That was 13 years ago we did that show. My first job was in 'Rent' at a time where the show was the hottest ticket in town. It was our generation's 'Hamilton' if you will and because of that I played a (HIV) positive character, so I was brought on to the scene speaking up weekly in the show collecting money for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS really understanding the needs of our community, at that time when HIV medication was starting to become more advanced. I personally lost my aunt and a cousin. I was 16 years old and in high school and then I played a (HIV) positive character. I really kind of made myself say yes to almost everything I've been asked to do related to HIV and AIDS fundraising efforts. I think it's so important and outside of that 'Queer Eye' and then a much more broader political platform with so many of the issues to effect our community. Any time I'm working in any way publicly or interviewed immediately I'm asked about that hot topic, hot button, LGBT issue and whatever you say, you really do have to stand behind. I'm lucky to have a platform where I get to voice my opinions hopefully influencing others for being more kind to each other but also raising awareness for people even in our community that don't know that other people in our community still faces. So my commitment to activism in the community has always been twofold; one about raising awareness but also getting in there and really participating in physically affecting change. Whether that's creating my own fundraisers, being part of others, really putting just not only my name on a poster but getting a tactile way.
HELP IS ON THE WAY XXII is produced by the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation, founded by the late Barbara Richmond and Peggy Ermet in memory of their sons John Richmond and Doug Ermet who both lost their lives to AIDS. In 1995, the two women decided not to get mad but get even when they launched a musical AIDS benefit to honor their sons by raising funds for AIDS service organizations. To date REAF has raised well over $3 million dollars for AIDS services and beginning in 2015 expanded to support hunger programs and programs for homeless and underserved youth.
For Info & Tix: reaf-sf.org