The Responsibility of Our Greatness

Derek E. Spencer, CRNP Executive Director of the JACQUES Initiative Institute of Human Virology
University of Maryland School of Medicine

Dimmed lights, an open bar and sophisticated seating areas with sheer drapes surround me as I stand on a dance floor in an elite night club. I am here to be honored for my work in HIV. Before me stand a host of beautiful young black people, gathered to acknowledge World AIDS Day and the impact of HIV in our community.

I’m awestruck, and all around me I see greatness. On this night I enjoyed the gifts of rap artists, spoken word poets and comedians. I experienced the hospitality and excellence of the organizers and I’m overwhelmed with pride. In this moment, I am not only the father of my own two daughters, but the entire room. I speak to them with the passion of a loving father. We are in crisis...

• An estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 30 black women will be diagnosed with HIV infection in their lifetime. 1

Silence fills the nightclub. I have their undivided attention. I affirm their greatness and with as much eye contact as possible, I tell them they’re beautiful, immensely talented and full of promise. I ask them, “Which one of you thinks that you are average?” No one in that room raises a hand. They look intensely at this stranger who reminds them that greatness must be partnered with responsibility to foster its most positive, sustainable influence.

As we commemorate black history month and the accomplishments of the honorees of this 43rd annual NAACP Image Awards, we are reminded of men and women who understand the partnership of greatness and responsibility. Through both our
history and our honorees we see exemplified the courage, faith and
tenacity needed to overcome great obstacles. Their sacrifice teaches us that
we are not victims, but in fact have the opportunity and ability to be successful and overcome any challenge.

The theme for last year’s World AIDS Day is “Getting To Zero.” Zero Deaths, Zero New Infections and Zero Discrimination. This goal can be achieved by a great generation who takes ownership and believes that for HIV to end with Us — HIV must end with Me!

Each of us must be responsible for our part. We are not called to do everything, but we are called to do something. What is your something?

Talk about it, be about it. Be responsible. Be great!