The {other} Anthony Anderson

There’s so much more that meets the eye when it comes to Anthony {Jezreal} Anderson. I have no idea where to start with this phenomenal young man. Let’ see, he was born in Gary Indiana and resided in New Orleans, LA before settling in College Park Maryland. He attended Georgetown University where he started his activism. But don’t you dare call him an activist. “I don’t consider myself as activist like other individuals doing more,” he said. Doing more? I’m now sure what he could possibly mean by that. As I talked to him I wanted to jump through the phone and give him fist bump followed by the affirming “that’s what’s” as the millennials would say and do.  

He’s worked as a program coordinator for NMAC, a not for profit HIV and educational resources organization based in Washington, DC. In 2015 Upon learning that he was HIV positive he participated in a TED Talk to share his experience. in 2017, he worked for True Colors United’s National Youth Forum on homelessness. There he helped to create the True Access mobile app – a sustainable app for youth living with homelessness.  The tool helps to connects youth experiencing homelessness to affirming and safe services in their communities. Today Mr. Anderson is working as an Elementary inclusion specialist at Friendship Public Charter School in Washington DC. While this “other” Anthony Anderson has never ever been mistaken for his famous comedy counterpart of the same name, his amazing story will inspire you nonetheless.

PrideIndex (PI): Hello, Anthony, How are you today?

Anthony Jezreal Anderson (AJA):  Well, I can’t complain.  How are you?

PI: I’m doing pretty well. I’m working on Pride Index’s new format. We’ve recently changed hosts so a lot of my thumbnails and stories did not import correctly and some have disappeared. I have to go back through 10 years’ worth of stories.

AJA: Oh my God.

PI: It’s a lot of fun. And I say that the most sarcastic way imaginable. But no worries. I’ll get it done. I say that because while updating someone else’s story I came across your editorial piece. I want to say the right website. It was one of our Esteem honorees. It was on

AJA: Yes NMAC. Okay.

PI: I found your story to be very enlightening and fascinating so I reached to you. Tell me all about yourself. How did you become an activist? Or do you see yourself as an activist?

AJA:  I feel like the work that I’ve done in the past would probably be categorized as activism.  I don’t consider myself as activist like other individuals doing more are activist. It first started while I was in college in DC at Georgetown University. It started with the LGBTQ board at Georgetown. It was very white dominated. We didn’t feel represented as people of color.  A group of students felt the need to start our own club called Queer People of Color. It happened during my freshman year, when Ferguson happened. There was a lot of racial tension everywhere that’s when I saw a lot of leaders on my campus stand up and be vocal activist. I just couldn’t sit back and not do anything. So on my own campus, I did a set of activism. I became HIV positive in 2015. I did a TED Talk on my status because there was nobody talking about it. Nobody was talking about it {being HIV positive.] I wasn’t properly educated on it so thought if I wasn’t going to say it, who was going to say?  I took that leap out on faith, and I did a TED talk. And from that, I ended up taking a break from school after Trump was elected just because I felt like I needed to be in my community actually doing work. I hated being on campus, just listening to it. And so I ended up going out into the community. I did a fellowship for True Colors United. We created a sustainable app for youth living with homelessness. Later I worked at NMAC. I wrote about what I thought it meant to be black and gay in this time world. I sold my heart into that story. Now, I’m a teacher. I work in the education field.

PI:  You had quite a few things to share is there. I thought it was very courageous who you actually admit that you were positive and come out and just be open about it. Did you face any backlash or were you concerned that other people’s reaction to your revealing your status?

AJA: I felt a little bit nervous. When I did it felt like there was this freeing part of myself. I didn’t have to worry because all my friends finally knew.  I had told my family before that. But I think it kind of helped in the process a little bit.

PI: Okay, good for you. And, secondly, you mentioned that you took a break from school. Have you returned to school again? If not do you have plans, to do so?

AJA: Yeah, I returned after I took a semester off semester. I graduated.

PI: Okay, I see. That’s another good thing. What was your area of study at school?

AJA: African American Studies.

PI: So why did you choose that particular areas?

AJA: Originally I was an American Studies majors, because I loved learning history. American Studies is not just history, you learn sociology and so many different aspects of American culture from our country’s conception until now. I was infatuated with American history. I felt like the program was too whitewashed.  African American Studies was a more interesting program and it was very interdisciplinary so I felt it was the best option.  I could always go back to my original studies if needed. I took a yearlong class during a sophomore year and those were some formative times in my educational career.

PI: So you used to work for NMAC and changed positions in either or February or March.

AJA: I left on April 1st.

PI: So it was as recent as April 1st so where do you work now? Or what is your area of employment?

AJA: So right now, I worked as an inclusivity fourth grade teacher’s assistant. I work with students who need extra help who have IPS, which are disabilities. I’m also in this program called Early Teachers so I’ll be in DC for the next four years. I will be earning my Master’s in Education from Johns Hopkins. And I’ll be utilizing that to get certification in special education and teaching. I’m excited for that next part of my life.

PI: That’s outstanding and very commendable. What were the deciding factors that made you decide to leave in NMAC and go into this education area?

AJA: At NMAC I felt like I was around passionate people. When you’re around passionate people it makes you question your own passion. When I graduated, I moved to New Orleans to be a teacher with Teach for America. I didn’t really like the program style. I didn’t feel like I was equipped to be a teacher. So I decided to leave. I thought I wanted to get into the HIV public health sector. It was a great opportunity {at NMAC}. I’ve learned so much.  I was able to write a good piece like what you’ve read. I do tend to write more but I never imagined myself working there too long. I’m grateful for that opportunity. I wanted to be a teacher and so when you feel compelled to do something, you do it.  So I quit the job. I was already accepted to this urban teachers program and that didn’t start until June. I just felt that it was time to go and so I put in my two weeks’ notice.  It worked out where I was starting my job teaching the day after leaving NMAC.

PI: Tell me something about yourself that nobody else knows, until now.

AJA: Something about myself, and nobody else knows. I want to be a writer. I love books and literature. That’s partly why I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to write books that kids could comprehend and understand. The only way to know that is to be in the school with them to see what they like. I think that’s why I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

PI: So nobody else knows that about you although you’ve already written something? (Laughs)

AJA: (Laughs) I think my close friends could know that since I wrote that article for NMAC. I’m an open book. I don’t like hiding anything about myself. I’m very open and honest with who I am, what I want to do and what I like to do.  I think people wouldn’t know that I’m a lot more fearful than I was when I first started my activism. There were so many negative things that happened when I was 21 after a while, that stuff became very draining. I’m now in a place where I’m learning to become that fearless person again.   

PI: What do you say is the biggest misconception about you? Or what you do?

AJA: I think other people think I’m sporadic that I do things just to them. In the beginning of my career, and in my Georgetown life, I was everywhere. I did a lot of different things. But I’m a very strategic person. There’s a reason behind it, even if it seems random. I’m a planner. I know where I want to be in 10 years from now.  I may not say it, but I do know.

PI: You mentioned something earlier that piqued my interest. You did a TED talk. Tell us tell me a little bit more about that. What was that experience like? And how did you come to participate in it?

AJA: After I found out my status, I started doing research. And I was just shocked at what the data was show. I was shocked at who HIV was affecting the most. It was affecting black men, gay men, men who have sex with men. And it also has impacted black women.  I was shocked because it seemed like nobody was talking about it. I didn’t know anybody who was positive? I didn’t know anything. There was an advertisement for a TED talk on my campus. I think that was in my junior year, so it was like a year after I was first diagnosed. And I hadn’t done much activism in this area. I felt like what I wanted to do more. So I apply for and got it, I did the TED Talk.  I did it because I felt like nobody else was talking about it. Nobody else in my age group, or who went to my school. I’m not a secretive person so I felt like by doing this I could help other people.

PI: What’s next for you on the horizon? What are you working on next?

AJA:  Right now I’m transitioning to education. I’ll be in that field for the next five years, maybe more. After that, I want to go to law school and get a law degree. Right now what I’m preparing to teach elementary school students.

PI: What is the one thing you want them to take away from your story and your experience?

AJA:  I’ve never done any of this stuff for myself. I decided to go to college, because I remember having no lights in the house. No nothing. I needed to do something for my family. That was very micro. But once I got to college, I saw the macro of the world, the bigger problems that needed to be solved.  I’ve never done anything for the money, acknowledgement, or praise. I want people to be thriving and healing especially black people.

Click here to view “Better communication to fight HIV stigma in the LGBT community | Anthony Anderson TEDx Georgetown”