Black Brothers Esteem Member Spotlight: Michael Stoutmire
Michael Stoutmire is a long-time member of Black Brothers Esteem (BBE) and was nominated to be the BBE member highlighted this month. As part of our regular member spotlights, he agreed to share his perspectives and insights with the BBE Outreach Team about his life, community work, activism, volunteerism, and time with BBE.
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get involved with Black Brothers Esteem?
I am originally from Alabama. After college, Auburn University, I moved to Atlanta, Georgia to further my career in hotel management in 2011. This led to my relocation to San Francisco, where it all began. After I was diagnosed, I connected with others from “the south,” i.e. Alabama, Georgia, etc. and realized how grateful I was to be living with HIV in San Francisco. While I am fortunate that I have the support and access to social and medical services in the City and County of San Francisco, it is heart-breaking and unfortunate to know that people I know and love in “the south” that face some of the known disparities do not. But not only there, even here in San Francisco the same issues exist. I came to San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 2014 and I became a participant of Stonewall. BBE was suggested through that experience.
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.
I am a participant of Black Brothers Esteem where I am actively involved on the Steering Committee and the Outreach Team. In addition, I am a participate of the HIV Advocacy Network (HAN), a grassroots group of activists in the Bay Area fighting to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic and improve the lives of communities impacted by HIV. We advocate with causes like Equality for HIV, #EndTheEpidemicsCA, #FundETE which consist of increasing funding for the Syringe Exchange Supply Clearinghouse, PrEP navigation and retention, and purchasing hepatitis C test kits for community-based organizations.
What inspired you to get involved with outreach/community work?
Serving people and giving back has always been a passion for me. From providing outstanding customer service, to ensuring that a hotel guest had the best overnight experience or having a listening ear for a person who wants to be heard, I love to connect and serve. In 1989, NBC Universal launched “The more you know.” It’s a continued public service initiative that focused on what could be considered the most pressing social issues of our nation: health, diversity, education, community, and our environment. The main purpose and objective of this campaign was to obtain and share information that would improve lives. I am a firm believer that the lack of information and education, unnecessarily hinders and further contributes to the disparities that we are faced with. These include racial discrimination, incarceration, poverty, and lack of access to health care. I strongly feel that this opportunity will not only equipment me to share my experience and connect those in need with resources, but also to help me better understand the language and logistics of advocating more purposefully and effectively.
What are some insights that you have learned working with BBE and doing community-based work?
I have learned to meet a person where they are, make sure that my communication is clear and flexible, have a listening ear, and most importantly remain humble.
What are some tips or words of advice that you would share with the Outreach Team?
We are working towards a bigger cause and we have an individual voice that supports that cause.
Do you feel there is a particular part of outreach you gravitate towards?
Yes, I feel communication with people. And also for people [themselves]. I am big on advocacy and advocating for others. It’s a passion for me.
Has the advocacy work that you’ve done translated to other parts of your life?
Advocacy helps me to realize that it’s not just about me, and that we can’t do this alone. There’s a most pressing need for Outreach around the corner [in the future]. I went around the city during [shelter-in-place] and saw a lot of people in need… People need the help, you can see it in their eyes. Some things have even made me cry. People need compassion with whatever they are going through. And even though I’m not gonna risk my life to save people, I’m looking forward to giving, doing and saving more.
Anything else you would like us to know?
I have enjoyed my experience with BBE, I’ve made connections that have turned into great friendships. Most importantly, I got to serve community.