In a recent panel discussion for World AIDS Day, Earvin “Magic” Johnson joined Pastor Toure Roberts, sexologist Dr. Rachael Ross, TV personality Lala Anthony and author Demetria Lucas at New York’s Apollo Theater. The panel discussion was brought to a private audience by OraQuick’s new campaign “Life as we know it” and focused on the lack of knowledge when it comes to HIV and AIDS in the African American community. It’s an important discussion which seems to be swept under the rug as more and more African Americans become infected every day, with black women at the highest risk.
Twenty-two years ago, Magic Johnson became the face of HIV after being diagnosed. He was at the top of his game as one of the world’s most successful NBA players. He decided to come out on the Arsenio Hall Show with his story and his resignation from the NBA. Back then, HIV carried a huge stigma in the black community and even more so in professional sports because of lack of research and knowledge of the disease. Here are some highlights from the panel discussion.
On announcing he was HIV-positive:
“At that time, you couldn’t talk openly about HIV and AIDS like we can now. You had to whisper about it, or it had to be one on one, or in a back room to talk about it. My wife [Cookie] was scared because she knew the public had loved me before and now she was thinking that they would not. Cookie is a very private person and she knew that now our lives would be open. I’ve always tried to protect her from the media and so it was tough for her. God blessed us with some good news about seven or eight days later [after the diagnosis] that she was OK and the baby was OK, but it was a rough journey for that first three or four weeks because we didn’t know. I didn’t know what was going to happen because at that time AIDS was a death sentence and so…now everything has changed.”
And now, 22 years later, the couple faces another challenge as their son Earvin Johnson III, or EJ, came out of the closet publicly a few months ago. Although EJ came out to the family as a teen, his going public was still a challenge they had to face as a family.
On his son coming out:
“It’s really interesting to me when I hear people say, ‘I can’t go home and tell my parents.’ That blows me away. When my son EJ came out and said that he was gay, Cookie and I were like, ‘Hey, ain’t nothing changed. Go to school, go have your regular day. I love you and I’m gonna support you. I’m gonna be with you 150 percent.'”
“I don’t care what people think. Nobody is paying my bills. Cookie and I do not care about what everybody thinks about us. We love our son just like I love my son Andre and my daughter Elisa. Nothing is gonna change that. Nothing is going to change my mind about how I feel about my kid. I brought him into this world with my beautiful wife and so I love him.
“When I heard all the blogs start attacking and black Christians like, ‘Oh, what are Magic and Cookie doing?’ I don’t care what they think. The only person I care about is God and that’s it. My pastor is good. EJ knows that he can call Dad and Mom. I’m proud of my son, I’m proud of what he’s doing, and the man he’s become.
For the whole panel discussion, please visit www.whatsworthknowing.com/women for dates and times.
EJ will appear in a new reality show “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills”, premiering January 2014.