Dontá Morrison Is #13 of
Our Most Amazing HIV+ People of 2018 - Plus Magazine
Keeping the Faith
Once “ex-gay,” now openly gay HIV educator Dontá Morrison strives to inspire more inclusion in churches.
Stevie St. John
If people were more affirmed, they would do everything possible to have the healthiest life possible. That’s what Dontá (pronounced Dante) Morrison, forty-three, believes, and that’s why he works to affirm, educate and enlighten.
An HIV educator by trade and by passion, Morrison hopes to inspire young gay and bisexual men to make healthy decisions. And he strives to sway ministers to take a more inclusive view toward LGBT people and to get involved in the fight against HIV. Morrison’s work is deeply personal. Not only is he a gay, HIV-positive person of faith but he has been profoundly affected by the stigma he fights. In fact, it drove him to denounce his homosexuality and identify for some five years as ex-gay.
Dontá Morrison is a 45-year-old HIV-positive radio host of the The Dontá Show on BlogTalkRadio. Reality TV star Karamo Brown — with whom Morrison founded the organization 6in10 to fight HIV among black gay men — explains why he’s amazing:
Dontá Morrison is an example of strength, love, and thoughtful intention personified. As an HIV activist, minister, and educator, Dontá ensures that he uses all of his identities to start conversations around HIV in spaces that traditionally shy away from being part of the solution. Dontá once expressed, “I didn’t have a ‘me’ growing up — someone black, gay and open about their status who could give me guidance. If I would have had a ‘me’ I probably wouldn’t have contracted HIV. That’s why I go into these spaces — so people can see themselves and know that they can make healthier choices for their own life.”
Dontá has been HIV-positive for 18 years and publicly open about his status for 16. He knows that being open about his story can and has shaped the way others approach their own mental and physical health. Dontá shared with me, “being a mentor to young people, and showing them that living with HIV does not stop your life, has been continually my greatest accomplishment. When I see these young people get it… I am overwhelmed with joy and hope.”
I’ve never met someone who didn’t immediately feel comforted when meeting Dontá. You can feel the love and compassion radiating off of him. He lives his life in service of others — not for notoriety. He loves people unconditionally and knows he must do the work so that others can find that unconditional love in themselves. Dontá once shared with a congregation, “Sexuality isn’t black and white, it’s colorful and diverse — and it’s up to each of us to have more honest conversations about sexuality so that the people in our lives will feel more liberated to be honest about who they are, which in turn will lead them to be more responsible.”
I am personally inspired by how Dontá navigates his life with courage and honor to help find a solution to end the HIV epidemic. The work we do together with the organization we cofounded, 6in10.org, is just one more example of the work Dontá does for the community he loves.
— Karamo Brown is an actor and producer, known for being the first out gay black man on reality TV (MTV’s The Real World: Philadelphia) as well as starring on Dr. Drew on Call, and hosting Are You the One: Second Chances. He can also be seen on Netflix's new reboot of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, on which Karamo is the culture expert.
Dontá Morrison talks need for new African-American face of HIV
RC: Why is National Black HIV-AIDS Awareness Day so important?
DM: HIV is still an issue within the Black community. It’s important that we bring about awareness, especially amongst African-Americans. HIV is still overlooked by many as a problem and it’s still a relevant conversation that needs to be discussed. Although I think it should be talked about year-round, I’m glad that we have set aside a day during Black History Month to address the issue considering we [African-Americans] have the highest infection rates.
RC: What do you see as the determining factor to why African-Americans are still getting infected in such high numbers?
DM: There is still a lot of stigma surrounding HIV. There’s a lot of ignorance and miseducation surrounding the disease. Couple that stigma with the fear of just having the conversation about sex, sexuality, sexual behaviors and there are still blockages within the Black community. Until we’re able to have open and honest dialogue about what we like sexually and who we like to do it with, we’re going to constantly have higher rates of infection. We must get to a place where we openly discuss what we like—gay, straight, and bisexual—without fear of being judged or ostracized by the Black family and the Black church. There is still a lot of stigma regarding homosexuality and as long as that continues to be an issue, we can’t have the conversations that are so desperately needed.
RC: Why is frequent testing so important?
DM: Frequent testing is important especially if you’re not in a monogamous relationship or if you have multiple sex partners. So if a person has a lot of sexual partners or doesn’t have protected sex or doesn’t even know the status of their partners, it’s important to get tested and become part of their natural routine. If by chance, a person finds out that they’re are infected, it’s important to seek a healthcare provider and disclose your status to your partners. Always, always use a condom.
World AIDS Day; Normalizing the Conversation
Los Angeles-based HIV activist and photographer Louis 'Kengi' Carr wrote a dynamic piece about the work of Dontá Morrison and his organization 6in10 as it relates to providing HIV and sexual health information within the Black church.
I must be honest and say that I normally skip Word AIDS Day events because they all tend to be too sad and if I'm going to be honest, they also tend to be very boring. Maybe this is because I’m an activist and I hear the information all the time. It certainly isn’t because I don’t care. I just think there are far better ways to honor those we’ve lost than by crying, marching and lighting candles.
This year my friend Donta asked me if I would cover (photograph) a World AIDS Day event that he was doing at a Black church. Right away I was interested because I know Donta believes in preaching to the congregation instead of the choir. I’m all about taking the message of HIV and AIDS to those who need to hear most, instead of gathering with folks who already have the information.
I constantly hear such negative things about the Black church as it pertains to HIV and AIDS, but let’s just be perfectly clear, honest and speak truth to power by saying all churches, not just Black churches, need to do much better jobs at intelligently speaking and educating their members about HIV and AIDS.
Moreover, it’s very easy for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), our government and AIDS Service Organizations to point the finger and lay blame at the church's doorstep, especially Black churches, and even Black people in general, but then take absolutely no responsibility for their complete lack of engagement or involvement with the Black church or in Black neighborhoods where HIV and AIDS continues to go unchecked, unchallenged and unchanged.
In speaking with Donta about this event, I knew right away this was going to be like no other World AIDS Day event I had ever attended. In my heart, it just felt right or as my Ma use to say, “My spirit received it”