CITY HALL — A Harlem activist who is living with AIDS is one of six new appointees to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration Advisory Board.
Maria Davis, who carved out an important role in the New York hip-hop world as a promoter, was tapped to be one of the half-dozen members chosen from among community organizers and individuals from the private, public and nonprofit sectors, the mayor's office announced Thursday.
“As a person living with AIDS I have an ability to talk about what people with the virus actually need…and how to get people who have the virus out of the shadows,” Davis told DNAinfo.
“Silence kills us.”
Davis is known for cultivating the early start of Jay Z — and appeared on his debut album — and has also worked with other artists such as P Diddy and 50 Cent.
Her role as hip-hop impresario, however, morphed over the years into an outspoken and prominent voice in HIV/AIDS prevention and education after she tested positive for HIV in 1995, which transitioned to AIDS three years later.
Her nonprofit, Can’t Be Silenced, encourages individuals to get tested for HIV/AIDS and learn safe-sex practices. In 2006, Davis joined Harlem’s venerable First Corinthian Baptist Church as its HIV prevention czar.
“I tell people I’m living with AIDS, but you don’t have to, you have to get educated and you have to have a conversation,” she told DNAinfo last month in an article about her prevention work.
The other new members, who will be joining five members previously appointed by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, include:
- Guillermo Chacón, who will serve as chairman of the board and is the president of the Latino Commission on AIDS, where he has served in various roles since 1995
- Pamela Brier, who has worked in health care services in city for over 35 years, with a special focus on serving homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS
- Ericker Phillips-Onaga, chief program officer at Project Hospitality in Staten Island, where she's worked for more than 20 years in various roles serving individuals with HIV/AIDS
- Nydja Wages, president of Najore, LLC., a fashion design and retail company she started in 2011, who has served as a junior counselor at VIP Community Services, a methadone maintenance center in The Bronx
- Jawanza Williams, the LGBT youth organizer for VOCAL-NY, an organization focused on uplifting low-income individuals affected by HIV/AIDS, the drug war and mass incarceration
The board does not make policy but can offer recommendations that are relayed to the commissioner of the Department of Social Services, which in turn communicates with the mayor and the City Council regarding housing assistance, benefits and other services for people living with HIV or AIDS, the mayor’s office said.
“The individuals appointed today have garnered years of experience as community organizers and professionals in the public, private and nonprofit sectors and have effectively served and advocated for people with HIV/AIDS for many years," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
"I am confident they will continue to ensure that New Yorkers receive the services and support they need as we act to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York.”