Someone You Should Know: Dontá Morrison

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Dontá Morrison is a motivational speaker, author, licensed minister and an HIV/AIDS prevention specialist.  Morrison has assisted on research projects for several organizations including UCLA; In The Meantime Men’s Group and AIDS Project Los Angeles. Morrison can be seen giving commentary in “Faces of HIV,” a documentary that focuses on the plight of HIV/AIDS in the African American community.   His comedic, yet sensitive approach has made him one of the most sought after prevention educators.

PRIDEINDEX: Tell us about your background.

DONTA MORRISON: I’m a native of Los Angeles, California and have been working in the field of HIV/AIDS for over ten years. I graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Human Services and am a Program Coordinator with AIDS Project Los Angeles working with African American and Latino gay young men. I released my first novel “The End of the Rainbow” a little over a year ago and its follow up “Yesterday Clarified” came out earlier this year. I am excited about both books because they spark conversation about God, the church, and being gay: which are always controversial topics. I have been with my partner for over three years and I don’t foresee that ending anytime soon.

PI: Why did you choose to work in the social services specifically as a HIV/AIDS Prevention activist?

DM: I chose the field of HIV/AIDS for various reasons, the main one being the fact that I was diagnosed with HIV in 1999 and just like anyone who receives news of that magnitude, I was devastated. From that point on my life has never been the same and because I was so ignorant about the virus I decided to educate myself. After learning that my community –African Americans- was the hardest hit and the least educated, I decided to lend my voice and do what I could to aid in lowering the transmission.

PI: How would you describe the plight of HIV/AIDS in the black community today 30 years after the first cases were diagnosed?

DM: I would say that the Black community is getting better and trying to get more involved. I’m seeing more positive images and slowly but surely the Black gay community is being more “in-your-face” in urban cities as a whole and not just where gay-men congregate. I think once the barriers between gays and straights are completely broken we will be able to have more in-depth dialogue that can bring about understanding and change. I also believe that the church needs to get more vocal about the virus and walk away from the homophobic rhetoric. Historically the African American church has been the dispensary of information and if they understood the damage that occurs when they force gay men –many of whom are key leaders in the church- to stay closet, they would realize that their words are doing far more harm than good as it relates to HIV prevention. But all in all, the Black community is doing far more now than they were a decade ago; and for that I am grateful.

PI: Your motto is “HIV is a virus, not a sin,” what does that mean?

DM: Many in society –especially within the traditional church system- still view HIV as a “gay disease.” Unfortunately they hold on to the belief that it was sent from God to annihilate homosexual men and prove that the gay lifestyle is an abomination to God. HIV/AIDS is neither a gay disease nor a plague sent from above to eradicate same-gender-loving people.

PI: Tell us more about your work with In The Meantime Inc.

DM: I have had the pleasure of working both for and with In The Meantime Inc. As an employee I worked on a program for African American gay men 18 and over. The focus of the program was to help the men identify their strengths and weaknesses in a manner that could further aid them in life. It was a very enlightening experience because it shed light on how much we as Black gay men have in common, yet at the same time have extreme differences. Jeffrey King (Executive Director of In The Meantime, Inc.) has also been a great supporter of my work; buying copies of my books to be distributed to participants of the agency’s annual retreats and conferences.

PI: You’re a licensed minister; there are very few ministers at the forefront of LGBT rights. What would you say to win over more pastors to the LGBT rights cause?

DM: I tell a lot of my co-laborers in ministry who have issues with LGBT individuals to leave the bedroom and focus on the person. It is common that after someone discloses their sexual orientation that people instantly wonder what they do in the bedroom. They want to know “Who is the man and who is the woman?” and I think that because so much emphasis is focused on sex that the real person is lost in translation. I don’t try to convince anyone to believe how or what I believe, but I do ask that compassion be present when discussing such a sensitive issue: especially from within the pulpit. I have settled within myself that I may always be viewed as an abomination by those who have decided to live in the book of Leviticus (but only with the passages that don’t apply to them); and that is fine because everyone has to answer to God for what they believe and how they treat others. I don’t make their problem with me my problem. As long as I stay true to God and have an understanding from Him, I’m fine.

PI: Why did you choose to be a minister?

DM: This is a funny question and I actually laughed out loud. I definitely did not want to be a minister. If I could have it my way I would be as far from church as possible. However, God saw something in me that he could use and after years of running I grew tired and realized that it would be easier if I conceded to the call. Most ministers I know had other plans for their lives and existed in the polar opposite of ministry. In my opinion, clergy-members with a past are the best clergy because they are more relatable to the people they have been called to lead. That being said, God has blessed me with a gift to encourage and inspire anyone –regardless of gender or sexual orientation- who has been wounded and broken by the trials of life.

PI: You are an out author; have you ever experience any backlash from other ministers?

DM: Because of the nature of my writing many church-goers shun it. They feel my writing is too vulgar and erotic to be of any good. I won’t say that I have experienced direct back-lash but I am almost certain that none of my heterosexual friends of the cloth have read my books. I do wish more of my pastor friends would read my writings. Even though they are controversial in nature, the overall theme digs deep into how many closeted gay men feel in regards to their sexual desire for men and love for God.

PI: Talk about your role in the documentary, “Faces of HIV.”

DM: I was honored to have the opportunity to voice opinion in Faces of HIV. I think the DL phenomenon had a two-fold effect in the Black community. On one hand it made people talk more about HIV and the importance of protecting oneself. However, it added more stigmas to the already weighted shoulders of many gay men. There was a very thin line drawn between a man who cheats on his woman with a man, and those men who only sleep with men. I wanted to help break that ideology and show that HIV has many victims, many of whom often go unnoticed.

PI: What are you working on right now?

DM: Right now I have a lot of irons in the fire. I have a blog that I’m trying to create more of a buzz about. I also have two books running through my head that I am about to start writing. Lastly, a friend and I are working on a pitch for a show that we believe will be a nice break from all the over-the-top reality shows out there.

PI: What is your ultimate goal?

DM: My ultimate goal is to plant seeds of change that over time will grow into powerful trees. I also want to live a life that will make my eulogy easy for whoever does my funeral. I know that sounds morbid but sometimes it can be challenging to say good things about a bad person; and I refuse to put anyone under that kind of pressure.

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