“God is love and love is for everyone” – Archbishop Carl Bean.
Archbishop Carl Bean passed away in Los Angeles on Tuesday, September 7, 2021. This was the passing of a legendary LGBTQ+ AIDS activist, founder of the Unity Fellowship Church in South Los Angeles, and visionary pioneer behind the Minority AIDS Project. His 1977 Motown hit “I Was Born This Way” became an anthem of LGBTQ+ empowerment in the late seventies and inspired Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
That’s how the world remembers Carl Bean.
Project Angel Food has a more personal connection. We remember him as a friend and as a partner in bringing life-saving meals to those with HIV/AIDS no matter where they lived and no matter what the color of their skin. His fierce commitment to the idea that love is for everyone and caring for people with AIDS aligned with our vision, values, and our call.
Robert Boller, Project Angel Food’s Director of Programs, has been with the organization for 24 years and offer this reflection:
So much of our history is oral history, hearing how our relationship with Archbishop Bean and Minority AIDS Project came about. Today, 76% of our clients are people of color, but that wasn’t always the case. It’s my understanding that when we were founded in 1989, many of our first clients were gay white males in Hollywood and West Hollywood. In 1994, with Ryan White CARE Act, we had to take a hard look at who we were serving and recognized a need to reach out to other communities, especially communities of color.
This is when Project Angel Food first partnered with Archbishop Carl Bean and Minority AIDS Project. The Minority AIDS Project was led by Carl Bean and operated out of his Unity Fellowship Church on Jefferson Boulevard between La Brea and Hauser. They helped us expand throughout South Los Angeles and all the way to Long Beach.
When I joined Project Angel Food in 1997, another church was acting as our distribution point for South Los Angeles, but with the death of that congregation’s AIDS minister in the early 2000’s, we needed to find a new home. That’s when we reunited with Archbishop Carl Bean, who has happy to take us in at Minority AIDS Project. Their community center became our South Los Angeles distribution center.
Here’s how it worked: our Project Angel Food staff driver would drop off meals at Minority AIDS Project, then a volunteer from that area, who we called “Mr. Chris,” would make deliveries to our clients from there. He rarely ever missed a delivery day for about 15 years; he said it was his personal mission.
One day the regular driver was out, so as the Dispatch Manager, I jumped into the field and took the meals to Unity Hall to meet Mister Chris. As I entered the hall, a big handsome, charismatic gentleman greeted me with a smile and a deep, “Hello and welcome.” I still hear that booming voice in my head that resonated with the power of love.
I returned his greeting and went about my business. When I saw Mr. Chris, he laughed and said, “I see you met the big boss.” That was how I came to meet Archbishop Carl Bean.
Project Angel Food, Los Angeles, and the world and lost an icon of the AIDS movement. He was instrumental in our growth into the inclusive agency we are today. And, his legacy of reminds us we are all worthy of love and hope – “Love IS for everyone.”
Robert Boller, Director of Program