MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation celebrated the 20th anniversary on Tuesday, November 27 at Guastavino’s in NYC.
The mission of the Staying Alive Foundation is to educate the youth on HIV and sexual/reproductive health and rights, while providing resources and knowledge about the fight against HIV globally.
This 20-year old organization hosted several campaigns since the inception and has joined with other advocates such as Swati Dlamini Mandela, and Alicia Keys, who each made appearances with Staying Alive partners and grantees.
The Knockturnal: For you, what is the full circle moment of Staying Alive Foundation’s 20th anniversary celebration?
Swati Dlamini Mandela: “I think that the full circle moment would be that we are celebrating my grandfather’s (Nelson Mandela) centenary this year. I saw the whole world commemorate him and celebrate him this year and so I think it’s fitting that Staying Alive is also 20 years this year! My grandfather stood for people’s rights and social justice and also trying to fight the stigma against HIV and AIDS. [My family] has been personally impacted. My uncle is 30 years late as the result of HIV/AIDS. So for me I think it is a full circle moment in the sense that we are celebrating my grandfather this year and we’re celebrating 20 years of Staying Alive. And those two would make him very proud and very happy because it is his centennial year and we are celebrating him!”
The Knockturnal: Why was it important for you to participate in the Staying Alive Foundation Gala and what are you looking forward to the most during your performance?
Elijah Rawk of Phony Ppl: “I think in general as young men in an urban city, we find ourselves out and about, time and time with somebody we may know or not know and I think we’ve all had both our scares and our experiences that just kind of puts us in the place to recognize that it’s important for everyone to have a good amount of education about sexuality as well as protection/resources and access to be able to keep themselves healthy and keep other people healthy.”
Bari Bass of Phony Ppl: “It’s definitely about awareness and taking care of each other overall. And we treat each other as family and if we all start to use the perspective of treating everyone like family, someone you ought to care for, this totally makes sense.”
Elbee Thrie of Phony Ppl: “I’m looking forward to connecting with the good people out there. I’ve seen a lot of empty seats during sound check and I know it’s going to be someone to [fill in] every one of those seats, so I’m looking forward to just connecting and looking people in the eyes. Definitely.”
Matt “Maffyuu” Byas of Phony Ppl: “What am I looking forward to? It’s going to be a lot of good food here, good drinks. And [I can feel] good energy, good vibes in the air. It’s an amazing cause — for everybody to get some much needed information and so I’m just looking forward to the whole night, honestly! It’s great! It feels good in here, man.”
Aja Grant of Phony Ppl: “Food. People. Playing for everybody. Just getting our voices out there, our sound out there. We just came off tour and this is like the first show that we’re doing that is not a rap show.”
Elbee Thrie of Phony Ppl: “Being in the presence of Alicia Keys. I hope Swizz Beats is in the house tonight. I would love to see Swizz Beats.”
The Knockturnal: As the Founder and Executive Director of the Grassroots Project and a Staying Alive Foundation grantee, can you share insight on your involvement with the Staying Alive Foundation and your organization?
Tyler Spencer: “I am a guarantee of the Staying Alive Foundation. I run an organization called the Grassroot Project and we recruit and train divisional one varsity athletes in Washington D.C. to teach sex education to middle school students, teenagers and their families. I started the organization because sadly we had a rate of 1 in 20 adult residents living with HIV. And I realized there was not a lot being done in terms of reaching out to young people at their level and providing education, dialogue, and services that can change the epidemic. And we’re now almost ten years old and we’re here tonight. Staying Alive was our first donor, and they’ve funded us for four years like they do with any guarantee. And so it’s awesome to come back and be able to share what we’ve been able to do from year one till now, almost year ten.”
The Knockturnal: As the Vice Chair of the Staying Alive board, can you talk about your particular approach to reaching the community?
Henry Luyombya: “My first connection with Staying Alive was back in the early 2000s. I was doing HIV prevention work in Uganda, and MTV identified me to go to South Africa and have a chat with Nelson Mandela and a few other people. I believe in collective empowerment and when we work together, we can all win! So that’s the approach I bring, all those years of lived experience, but also coming to New York to encourage people to talk about teamwork, collective empowerment, and working together to not only defeat HIV but also the stigma in this compilation.”
For more information on MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation, click here.