40 under 40 class of 2019Lees Summit , Missouri
Peer Educator/Public Health AdvocateMissouri HIV Justice Coalition
BOLD SOLUTION: Devin advocated on behalf of young black men (one in Missouri, the other in Arkansas), by activating a network of advocates and supporters across the country. In one instance, Devin created a slide that could be inserted into presentations at the 2018 U.S. Conference on AIDS, the largest annual HIV conference in the nation. The slide was shared throughout the HIV advocacy community, and as a result of Devin’s work, donations to a legal fund grew from a few hundred dollars to more than $3,000. He and the Missouri HIV Justice coalition testified on behalf of MO HB 166 to modernize the state’s HIV criminal statute.
Five Questions for Devin
1. What is one of the most interesting projects you have worked on in public health?
I am a founding member of a group called the Black United Leadership Initiative (BULI), which has educated and provided guidance to black advocates fighting against HIV criminalization. We developed a network with a range of experience addressing HIV criminalization at a community level, including participatory defense and engaging community in efforts to modernize HIV criminal laws.
2. What are the greatest challenges you face in your work?
The biggest challenges to providing quality healthcare and good public health interventions is ego. Those with power are often less informed about community needs and social determinants of more marginalized community members. This often looks like white gay men failing to engage or consider the needs of women or LGBTQ communities of color, or even medical professionals overvaluing their expert opinion and undervaluing the subject matter expertise of those who live with HIV.
3. What would success in public health look like to you?
Success in public health for people living with HIV, especially black gay men who are at highest risk, means ensuring that people living with HIV, and those most impacted, have a voice in public health. This can only be possible by addressing underlying systems of inequality and a willingness to work in solidarity with others, so that no one is left behind.
4. What’s a story of experience that keeps you going, even when you’re feeling challenged?
I have to look back over my lived experiences, remembering that my life is so much greater than just public health. I am a talented visual artist, I spent years playing trombone in marching band, I am a brilliant critical thinker and strategist, and I have learned many important life lessons and made great friends.
5. Describe yourself in three words.
Cunning, compassionate, noble.