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AIDS at 30 – Jewel and Rue Thais-Williams

AIDS at 30 – Jewel and Rue Thais-Williams

by Karen Ocamb on June 2, 2011

Jewel and Rue Thais-Williams meet with Hillary Clinton as the presidential candidate's wife came to AIDS Project Los Angeles in 1991 to discuss an AIDS "Manhatten Project." Jewel was on the APLA board. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Jewel’s Catch One Disco, the oldest Black gay disco in the world, serves as more than a social dancing establishment. Owned and run by Jewel Thais-Williams, the Catch serves as a community center for Black LGBTs in Los Angeles and a separate headquarters for In The Meantime Men, an important Black Gay Men’s health and wellness organization headed by Jeffrey King.

During the height of the AIDS crisis, Jewel, who has a BA in History from UCLA, became like a mother and counselor for many young Black gay men who became HIV positive and died of AIDS. She co-founded and became a board member of the Unity Fellowship Church, The Minority AIDS Project, AIDS Project Los Angeles, UCLA’s Lambda Alumni Assoc., Rue’s House, Ladies Concerned, and Imani Unidos, a food pantry in South Los Angeles. She hosted many APLA fundraisers at the Catch, as well as a record-release party for Madonna.

Jewel also pressed the connection between substance abuse and addiction with unprotected high risk sex that lead to HIV infection.

Jewel Thais-Willaims with Kathy Watt, Executive Director of the Van Ness Recovery House, and politico Bob Burke (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

But among Jewel and her wife Rue’s most precious contribution was founding and being the sole funders of Rue’s House, the first safe shelter for women and children with HIV/AIDS. Though AIDS was still scary in the national consciousness in the early 1990s, the neighbors protected the house in South Los Angeles during the LA riots after the Rodney King verdict.  The House also drew attention to the plight of AIDS orphans in America after the mothers died. When the miraculous combination drug therapies started saving lives, Jewel and Rue transformed the house into a transitional living house for people recovering from drugs and alcohol.

Rue Thais-Williams with HIV/AIDS patient at Rue's House in 1991 (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Rue Thais-Williams with baby whose mother has HIV/AIDS at Rue's House (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Angry and concerned about the health disparities suffered and endured by people of color, Jewel decided to go back to school to learn how to offer alternative care. She graduated from Samra University with an MSOM degree after extensive studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine and received her Acupuncture license from the State of California in 1999.  She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Village Health Foundation that runs essentially a “free” alternative clinic in a building next door to the Catch on Pico Boulevard in the mid-Wilshire District of LA.

Black AIDS Institute Founder Phill Wilson, Rue Thais-Williams, Jewel Thais-Williams (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Here’s a tribute video to Jewel when she was honored by the LA Gay & Lesbian Center:

{ 3 trackbacks }

Box Turtle Bulletin » Thirty Years
June 6, 2011 at 11:22 AM
Jewel Thais-Williams’ Village Health Foundation Needs Support « HIV Drug & Alcohol Task Force
December 26, 2012 at 9:46 AM
Jewel Thais-Williams’ Village Health Foundation Needs Support
December 29, 2012 at 12:20 PM

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