Dionne Warwick: Lending Her Voice



DIONNE WARWICK VINTAGE X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM “I’m a performer. The industry I am in has lost a multitude of talented people,” she said. “That’s when I had a very strong message sent to me to stop talking and start doing, and as a result of it, my advocacy started getting known throughout the country.”

These days, Warwick’s advocacy continues in communities like Harlem, site of her early gigs. The rates of HIV infection in some American cities rival those in sub-Saharan Africa, with young African-Americans hit particularly hard, according to the latest statistics for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Economics, nothing more than that,” said Warwick, when asked for her thoughts on the cause of the disproportionate impact. Still, she said that services have multiplied and improved over the years, and she encouraged young people to take responsibility, as she and other pioneering celebrities did 30 years ago.

“Prior to that, there was no place for African-Americans to go, which gave me even more strength to combat this thing,” she said. “[Today] there is help on every corner you turn. Take your butts in there and get some testing done and get some information.”

One thing she refused to do is blame the music industry. Performers’ involvement seems lacking today compared to 1985, but Warwick said responsibility should be shared.

“I really wish people would get a handle on that,” she said. “Although we do have a loud voice, and a multitude of audiences that we can relay information to, I think it’s the responsibility of mankind, period. Everybody has to play a part in this issue, as they do with cancer, as they do with heart disease, as they do with diabetes, as they do with any other devastating disease.”

Tags: HIV & AIDS