BBE Spotlight

Black Brothers Esteem Member Spotlight: Boxinette King

Boxinette is a longtime member of the Black Brothers Esteem (BBE) program and has done a great deal of community and volunteer work in the San Francisco  Bay Area. As part of our monthly member spotlight, he agreed to come and speak with the BBE Outreach Team to tell us about his life, volunteerism, and time with the BBE program.

Tell us a little about yourself. And how you first got you involved with Black Brothers Esteem?

Boxinette mentions first coming to San Francisco from Texas in 1987, leaving in 1988, and then returning in 1991. Leaning between New York and California, Boxinette ultimately fell on California because of the advancing education and developments surrounding the rising HIV epidemic, and San Francisco’s availability of and headway with the HIV/AIDS antiretroviral, AZT (azidothymidine.) Eventually volunteering for the Project Open Hand food bank which he volunteered with for a number of years. He would occasionally return to Texas to visit family and eventually had his mother come to live with him in 2004 and brother in 2006.

He states, that after spending so much time working with community, it: “…made me feel whole and warm, I’d been so busy giving to other families, but now I had my family.”

Boxinette was working with Ru, the founder of Project Open Hand and continued volunteering there and eventually met renown civil rights activist, Jesse Jackson. Boxinette marched with Jessie Jackson across the Golden Gate Bridge for the healthcare plan that eventually came to be known as Obamacare. Through this connection Boxinette then got a job working at Toolworks for people living with disabilities, helping them find work and cleaning office buildings from 1996-1998.

In the summer of 2004, Boxinette was introduced to BBE through a group outing to Great America in San Jose by a good friend who was also a BBE Founder. He notes really resonating with the group’s leaders at the time, Micah and Tony, and that he really enjoyed being able to volunteer for BBE in addition to continuing to volunteer for Project Open Hand and other community volunteerism.

Tell us about the outreach, community work, and volunteerism that you have done with BBE and some of the outreach, community work, volunteerism, and activism that you’ve done in general.

“Most has been with BBE…” Boxinette tells us “I was more dedicated beginning in 2005 to 2010.  Whatever was asked of us, I’d be there, [including] every year at Pride. And there was a small group [of volunteers] and I watched it grow. There was always something every month that BBE was invited to: Juneteenth, Pride, Martin Luther King Day, working with [Project] Open Hand, BBE worked with a lot of programs, and I went to a lot of events that BBE was invited to.”

Boxinette also mentions how at one point in 2005 the group supported members’ spirituality, having members select different (gay friendly) churches they wanted to attend or partner with for Black History month events, leaving resources on bulletin boards and completing community outreach.

“A lot of times when I felt lonely, I had a chance to give back, and feel grounded and connected by being involved with the group in this way. We always came together whatever level [people] were at, and we always tried to listen. People grew up, got jobs, to me it was important to help people find for themselves how to get to the next level for them.”

What inspired you to get involved with outreach/community work?

“When I left Texas in 1991 there was no education for HIV then it was still just straight up ‘AIDS’ –no HIV or other labels… So it was whether go to New York or come here. I got involved with Project Open Hand which brought me to SFAF, when doing work for the soup kitchen, and then I felt that it was really beautiful.”

It was Boxinette’s good friend, Martin, that first encouraged him to move to San Francisco, and Martin eventually told him to come to BBE. It was this friend, and the volunteer work that Boxinette had been doing that helped him realize that he was not alone, and that he could be part of the solution. Boxinette then recalls a friend that passed, who always tried to be there for others, who was also an inspiration.

He recalls that at that time feeling like:

“It’s not like you’re gonna die from AIDS, more likely to die from smoking, so it was a gift to be able to get the education around HIV. It was 1979 when I first heard about HIV and back then there was no cure. I was inspired to do more and more, so that things can happen. You know-same heart, body, mind, in the same world– just different day, but the sun is still shining.”

What are some insights that you have learned working with BBE and doing community-based work?

  • How to give back and that you can never out give god.
  • If it comes from a loving, caring place, people will feel that.
  • When you show someone that you are already whole- and you had it from within you. I learned how to make people see that for themselves; the jewels that they carry within them, that they couldn’t already see, and that brings a warm joy to my heart.

What are some tips or words of advice that you would share with the Outreach Team

“Keeping giving, keep being strong, keep following your dreams. A teacher told me ‘when you crossed that stage, when you got your diploma didn’t you feel accomplished and happy?’ I want to keep that feeling. The world will always have chaos and suffering, but we have to hold on to happiness.

The person you are when you first wake up and take a piss that is who you really are. When you leave home you are always taking on the world and being effected [by the world] wearing masks… we live in a world where nothing is perfect. We all go through things, and just know that everything will be alright, so be strong.”

Anything else you would like us to know?

“I’m just stacking on—I love what I’m doing, working with Black history and Kwanzaa through the whole year and décor. Everything right now is a blessing. Learning how to be patient, and it’s not just about me when you’re giving yourself to the community…

…And learning to be present and really listening to people- just listening- and not responding. Most people can answer their own questions, they can work it out with time.”

Thank you for sharing your heart and the inspiration and that you always bring, and your sense of humility. In the world where things are always changing; even BBE being around for 25 years, what is the importance of staying true to yourself and staying true to your heritage?

“When you believe in yourself and believe in your own power, you are truthful to yourself. You may’ve had an experience, but it’s just life, stay true to yourself…When I stop holding on to things, I let go and it doesn’t have power over me. I had an experience, the experience didn’t have me.”

About the author

Traye Turner

Traye is a native-Californian artist and Manager of Clinical Assistants for Black Health at SFAF. He has been working with the Black Brothers Esteem Program since 2017. Outside of his love for food, videogames, and art, he also coaches grade-schoolers in STEM and coding for videogame classes.