Charlene and I met at a very sad time in both of our lives. Womencare support group in Cincinnati was just forming. She was so frightened. Born in Louisville, Ky, Charlene lived in Cincinnati and founded a neighborhood group within the black community. She was a visiting nurse. She managed the kitchen at Caracole House for several years taking care of others with AIDS. Charlene had a keen sense of humor and a sharp sense of self. Not one to be filled with self-pity, she was there for everyone in the group.
Charlene and I were known as Ebony and Ivory. Fast friends. Forever friends. Slowly as AIDS took our friends, Jane Robinson, Nancy Ball, Lori Martin and many of our gay friends we became even closer. Then there were only two of us. Charlene and I as charter members of Womencare were one day just two. We knew the day would come when one would be standing by the other in death. That person is me.
She'd call and ask to go for 'chicken juice' and had me bring her pineapple sherbet and pineapple juice. We were always together. Laughter was our sword against sadness and the stigma of AIDS.
Charlene taught me courage to be who I am. To not let unkind words be an obstacle to remove the stigma. We did an HIV training film, we visited orphanages, schools, law enforcement and health department training venues to get the truth out about HIV/AIDS.
Charlene you were then and still remain the wind beneath my wings. I miss you as much today as I did the day they said you had flown away. May you rest peacefully in the arms of the Lord forever.