Jane Shull at Philadelphia FIGHT doesn’t know me. She knew my brother Brett, though.
Brett had a lot of challenges. He died in 2009 at 38 after spending most of the previous 10 years homeless, addicted and living with HIV disease. He died because he was what they call a “non-compliant” client — he couldn’t be relied on to take his meds, show up for appointments or tell the truth to the doctors. He spent his adult life depressed and angry.
I accompanied my brother to various kinds of appointments at FIGHT over the three years he went there. Brett told me that when he was there, they got him to believe that maybe he could do something about all his problems. He was an ex-offender, and despite that, he felt that FIGHT treated him like a human being. When he was there, he said he found himself wanting to take his meds, wanting to show up for the support group, maybe evens wanting to stay alive. But when he went back to the streets, it just seemed too hard.
The Black and Brown Workers Collective, which seems to be made up of a small, unhappy group of former FIGHT workers, is out to get Jane Shull, the founder and director of FIGHT, fired. Despite the overt racism of many LGBT community leaders, they say that the woman who has dedicated her life to saving the lives of poor LGBT people of color is the biggest racist of all. Her 30 years of service on the frontlines means nothing, in their minds. Her day-in, day-out, showing up to do God’s work for longer than most of BBWC’s tiny membership has been alive, means nothing. Her commitment to do the right thing for people weaker than her — something BBWC seems to know nothing about — means nothing. Instead, BBWC denies history and the truth to continue a personal vendetta that is nothing but dangerous for the people who rely on FIGHT for their care.
I don’t know Jane Shull. She doesn’t know me. But she did know Brett. Even though she’s known so many Bretts, she probably doesn’t remember him. And it’s in Brett’s memory that I say to BBWC: Leave Jane Shull alone.