As a photographer I’m always on the hunt for amazing people to photograph and share their stories of triumph, success and even those stories of sadness and defeat. And as an activist I’m always encouraging people living with HIV to live their best life and to share their story in their own words., no matter how sad, heartbreaking, thrilling or exciting that story may be.
I think sometimes the only stories often put in front of us are the pretty and polished stories. But I like to share all stories because some folks living with HIV or AIDS are going through difficulties and hardships that are often not shared for one reason or another.
Real life stories are powerful testimonies which have the power to reach people where they are and possibly change their life.
Recently I was thinking of creating a series of stories about women living with HIV through photography. I had no idea when I would start it, but it was something I really wanted to do. Then, as if the universe heard me, I became in contact with Precious A. Jackson. Now, I’ve admire and respected her for a long time and she’s a huge inspiration to me, but we’d never been introduced. Even as I type this, I really can’t recall how we finally started speaking, but I’m so glad we are now.
Recently Precious released her book entitled “Revelation-Unveiling the Mask” When I tell you this book is powerful, raw, honest and covers everything - the good, the bad and all the ugly - I mean just that. Precious masterfully shares her story in a way that I’ve not seen from any other person who has shared their journey with HIV. However this book is far more than her journey with HIV. It is a raw, uncensored look into her life and Precious leaves nothing off the table.
Precious has been positive for 17 years and says the advice she can give to women living with HIV is “Don’t allow HIV to define you. HIV is just a small part of who you are”
In the book she covers some pretty intimate details and very private moments from your life. So I asked her what was the motivation and was she hesitant at all?
“I was hesitant to write the book because I was ashamed of my poor decision making and being a victim of domestic violence. I was talking to my good friend and brother Corey and we were discussing our life struggles and he was telling me about his experience with drug addiction and broke down a cliché they say in the rooms of Narcotic Anonymous “full flight from reality”. Once I understood what that phrase meant then I was able to discuss my personal struggle with domestic violence and how I was able to heal and recover.”
And recover she did. The book has been embraced and praised by everyone who has purchased it. In addition I had the honour of featuring Precious for a book signing at an art show I curated last month and everyone I’ve spoken to who had nothing but praise and great things to say about the book.
Adamant about bringing awareness to everyone, Precious has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, The Oprah Winfrey Show” BET News Special and Newsweek, Essence and Ebony Magazines. In 2008, she was given the opportunity to travel to Cape Town, South Africa with Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Sister Circle, a program of the Diva Foundation that helps to create a global connection and movement with other women whom were infected with HIV.
Precious says the words of the late Dr. Maya Angelou “Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage” provide inspiration to her along her journey to be of service to those living with HIV as well as those who are not.
What’s most impressive for me about Precious is how very humble, kind and approachable she is, how she used the adversity in her life as a blessing for others. She’s not interested in being a “HIV celebrity”, she simply wants to be of service. She’s hard working and is on the front lines, deep in the trenches in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Her heart is pure and her motivations are sincere. Then there’s that smile that makes anyone feel loved and welcome. Most of all she refused to allow HIV - a diagnosis, to stop her from being the truly amazing woman she is today.
It's women like Precious who embody what’s good in our world and just how powerful a personal story can truly be. It's women like Precious who encourage us, inspire us and yes, even demand that we all live our lives to the fullest without excuse. It's powerfully amazing stories like hers that we need to see and hear more about and it is women like her who will work until the work is done for people living with HIV. She is a mighty advocate and a fierce activist and someone I am both honored and proud to call my friend.
You can meet Precious in person and get a copy of her book at her next book signing on June 23rd from 7pm-9pm at the Carl Bean House located at 2146 W. Adams Blvd. Los Angeles CA. This event is presented by In The Meantime.