Reggie Hightower was a changemaker. While his name holds significance to so many people, his story was once a secret. To many folks in his community, the face of AIDS wasn’t Reggie’s. He was a father. He was deaf. He was a Black man from the South.
Reggie’s disability never stopped him from being physically active. He attended the Georgia School of The Deaf, excelled in track and volleyball, and was an excellent disco dancer. He worked as hard, if not harder, than everyone else, but Reggie would always be different—in more ways than one. Love can bloom despite our differences. Reggie adored Art, his partner and confidant. Art was white and Reggie was Black. Reggie was deaf and Art was hearing, but the love they shared was undeniable. The two would watch their favorite show, Dynasty, and enjoy a glass of wine and the comfort of being themselves, together.
In 1987, Reggie was admitted to the hospital for an intense fever. His family and Art, known to them only as his roommate, sat in fear as doctors tried their best to determine the cause. A handwritten note was slipped into Reggie’s hand with words no one is prepared for: “You Have AIDS.” Two weeks was all he had left with the people he loved. Just two weeks to be exactly who he was with everyone he loved.
Reggie’s memory lives on forever, proudly stitched between two shirts: One belonging to him and the other his devoted Art.
But Reggie Hightower is still here … because his legacy is sewn into a larger picture of this epidemic. The faces and the journeys may be different, but love continues to bloom when we honor every story and all our differences.
It's time to Change the Pattern in the fight to end HIV and AIDS in the Southern United States. Be a part of this new initiative!