James "Juicy" Coleman
“We have set some paths and made some significant accomplishments in getting gay men accepted in this community.”
“The only way we're going to stem this epidemic is to create role models in older gay men for younger gay men to emulate.”
James Coleman, known as ‘Juicy’ since he ran for student president at McKinley Tech, has spent nearly 40 years creating good times for black lesbians and gays. An AIDS educator since the bleakest days of the epidemic, he is nearing the end of his second decade with Whitman-Walker Clinic, heading its education and prevention programs in Maryland.
In 1968, Coleman and a small group of friends at Howard University founded The Group of Washington, one of the first social clubs for African-American gays. Like most later social clubs in the segregated city, The Group organized house parties and held signature events in local hotels; the Group's signature event was the Cherry Blossom Festival and the Annual Scandal..
When the Metropolitan Socialites, another black gay social club, opened the Clubhouse in May 1975, Coleman, Aundrea Scott and others created a Memorial Day weekend themed dance marathon known as the Children's Hour. In the 1970s and 1980s, Children's Hour, with Coleman on the board managing the event, attained legendary status among the national black gay community drawing hundreds to DC for the weekend.
In the early 1990s, Coleman joined the Best of Washington (BOW), one of the most successful of the black social clubs, helping organize special events such as first Sunday tea dances at Chapter 3 in southeast DC and the annual Alice Awards (the black gay community awards program). Coleman now serves as the Best of Washington's president.
As the AIDS epidemic gripped Washington, DC's gay community in the late 1980s, Coleman gave up a career in computers to devote himself to AIDS education and prevention. Coleman recalls that “the AIDS epidemic brought [the good times] to a screeching halt.” He was one of the first graduates of the Inner City AIDS Network (ICAN) AIDS support training program. In 1991, Whitman-Walker Clinic hired him as an AIDS educator. Today he manages prevention and education programs in Maryland for the Clinic.
He still works to raise awareness of HIV and to prevent infection, while maintaining the advances that the gay community has made in wider society. Coleman sees the epidemic as a “leveler”, bringing disparate segments of the community to work together.