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Mississippi Mass Choir headlines 1st Annual Fort Wayne Gospel Summit

By Jim Fester


Fort Wayne Reader


On October 2, the Archey AIDS Foundation brings the Grammy-winning Mississippi Mass Choir to headline the first annual Gospel Summit.

Founded in 1988, the Mississippi Mass Choir has numerous awards and award nominations to their credit. They’ve toured the world, and were even invited to play for Pope John Paul II.

The concert is a benefit for the Archey AIDS Foundation, a Fort Wayne organization that, according to its founder Reverend Donald Archey, seeks to provide education to the youth and black minority in Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana on the prevention of HIV and STDs and to provide assistance to the youth and minorities with a history of substance abuse problems.

Archey, an associate pastor at New World Church, says he sees AIDS as more of an economic disease, brought about by lack of education, lack of health care services, and a still prevalent stigma that AIDS is a homosexual disease. “It is not a homosexual disease, it’s a sexually transmitted disease, and it seems people lower on the economic scale are being infected at a higher rate,” Archey says.

Archey says that he also has to fight a perception that, in the U.S. at least, we have AIDS and HIV managed. In the early 80s, when AIDS came to national attention, some experts predicted an epidemic that would devastate the country if people weren’t educated. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen here (many researchers credit widespread prevention initiatives). Archey says that has led to a false sense that it’s no longer a problem. He’s particularly frustrated that AIDS no longer seems to be at the top of any candidate’s political platform this election year. “You don’t seem to hear it on the agenda for a lot of people,” he says. “But there is no vaccine, there is no cure. As we come up to these elections, I say to those who are leaders, to step up to the plate and provide services in these (economically disadvantaged) areas, if we are truly to fight this disease. I know we’re worried about terrorism, but we have terrorists in HIV and AIDS right in our own communities killing thousands.”

A great deal of Archey’s work is aimed at educating young people about AIDS and prevention. “I was diagnosed with HIV in the early 80s, and I’m still alive,” he says. “I am a minister. I profess Jesus Christ as my savior. But I have made some bad decisions. The reason I am infected with HIV today is because of the choices I made in the past that were wrong. So if I can speak to the youth, and get the word out that you’re looking at a person walking around that has made tons of bad decisions, that might save someone that’s young from having sex.”

The Archey AIDS Foundation preaches abstinence for young people. However, Archey says he tries to be practical and deal with what he sees as the realities of the issue. “This is the year 2004,” he says. “Babies are having babies. I teach abstinence to those that have not had sex, but you must teach prevention to those that have had sex. I get a lot of heat for that, because I’m a minister, and people say ‘if you weren’t having sex, you wouldn’t be in the situation you’re in.’ And this is true. But this is the year 2004. Let’s save some lives. Just say no doesn’t work. You’ve got to mention prevention.”

Mississippi Mass Choir
Scottish Rite Center, 417 West Berry
October 2, 7 p.m.
$36 reserved lower level; $26 reserved seating upper level; $41 and $31 day of show.

For information on the Archey AIDS Foundation, contact Reverend Donald Archey at (260) 420-0330 or visit www.archeyaids.org.

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