On Thursday, April 26, join in the fight against HIV/AIDS by enjoying a great meal for Dining Out For Life, an annual fundraising event where more than 100 local restaurants donate at least 25 percent of their sales to Saint Louis Effort for AIDS. All funds raised local, stay local.
One of the national spokespeople for this event is actress, author and humanitarian Pam Grier. Becoming famous in the early 70s after starring in numerous women-in-prison films such as Foxy Brown, her career revitalized in 1997 after her appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. She is also known for her portrayal of Kate ‘Kit’ Porter on Showtime’s The L Word.
We caught up with Grier to chat about Dining Out For Life and why LGBT rights are so important to her. Her charm and personality is exactly what this world needs more of.
Why are LGBT rights so important to you?
LGBT people are a part of humanity. I think of everyone as family. That’s always been important to me. Growing up as an African American/mix race through the Jim Crow laws and not being allowed to get on a bus with my mom to go to the supermarket and being discriminated by the sheer color of my skin is hurtful. The looks and comments of people judging you makes you think you’re less than human. Now that we have an awareness of the LGBT community, this is one of the most forceful movements besides the civil rights and women’s movement. Until everyone has freedom of life and happiness you have to be part of the fight.
After being on The L Word, did your perception on LGBT rights or issues change at all?
I always assume that everyone is being treated equally, and I didn’t realize how unfairly LGBT people were actually being treated. It wasn’t until I heard stories from my friends and colleagues about their troubles of adopting and people actually banning family members because they were born gay. Families just kick their loved ones out. That is very upsetting to me to hear those first hand stories.
It’s not a choice. I have no preconceived issues about anyone. I judge them as a human being first, it’s how I was brought up and raised. Everyone is basically a good person until found out otherwise. Even when we did some transgender story lines on the show, I never thought about judging people on their masculinity or femininity. People are people.
How long have you been a National Spokesperson for Dining Out For Life?
For me, every day is Dining Out For Life. I always think of how I can participate and help people. I go to tables in restaurants during Dining Out For Life and interrupted them with a pleasant smile and informed them of this fundraiser. In the long run, I want to enlighten them. Dining Out For Life benefits so many people across the country. In the effort to stop HIV/AIDS, you can’t do it alone. You simply can’t.
How did you initially get involved with Dining Out For Life?
I had a friend, one my hairstylists, who contracted HIV/AIDS and I don’t think there were any medical discoveries or therapies yet and he suffered. He passed away and he was ostracized. It really bothered me. HIV/AIDS was so unknown and I wanted to be part of the eradication, the purpose of problem solving and knowledge of this disease.
Have you lost anyone else close to you from HIV/AIDS?
You know, I’ve been thinking about that. I may have, but because HIV/AIDS had such a bad stigma and many kept their illness unknown, I’m not sure.
Does that make being a spokesperson difficult?
I feel I’m edgy enough! Dining Out For Life is constantly growing and when you think of how many restaurants there are participating; it’s just great.
Besides the fact that Dining Out For Life helps others, what else do you look forward to about this event?
It works. It’s successful. Dining Out For Life has been a sure thing every year. When it continues to grow that tells me that it’s working, people do care and they want to be a part of it. To support others and to know that thousands of people benefit is a very positive thing.
Do you have an absolute favorite meal?
I can only pick one? Right now I would say four cheese mac and cheese with lobster. Then I would say pizza. I love Italian foods. Fresh homemade pasta is wonderful to make. And I can’t forget red velvet pancakes! I’m more of a seasonal eater. There are certain foods I crave more in the winter than I would in summer.
Anything you would like to say to those who are not familiar with Dining Out For Life?
Just know that your money and donations benefit so many great services for people such as insurance, health benefits, counseling and behavioral health assistance. Just a few dollars can help tremendously. Every year we do this and it’s not wasted. It continues to grow each year. Your generosity will not be forgotten.
Dining Out For Life will take place Thursday, April 26th at over 110 restaurants across the Saint Louis Metro area. Join Vital VOICE as we celebrate Dining Out For Life Hiro Asian Kitchen. Click here for a complete list of participating restaurants.
(Interview Originally by Denny Patterson)