A legend, a legacy: remembering Simone Joyaux
Updated: May 7
About 15 years ago I had an "aha moment" that connected the activist part of my life to my fundraiser brain. It was in Montreal at an AFP event and Simone was the guest speaker. She talked about why people give, how personal a decision it is, how it's related to our values. Then she told a personal story. She said that she and Tom often donated to HIV/AIDs related causes. Because of that they were sometimes targeted by hospitals for support for healthcare. She said she didn't count healthcare as one of her personal causes of choice. So when she was asked why she gave to HIV/AIDS related causes she said, "It's not about healthcare. It's actually a political statement." They supported causes which advocated for LGBTQ rights and she felt strongly that support for research and care had been put aside because it had been relegated a "gay disease". The lesson I learned, and took to heart, passing it on through my work, was not to make assumptions. Find out why your donors give. Go deeper.
Many years later when I had the good fortune of talking to Simone, one-on-one on zoom calls over a series of what she called "play dates" we dived deeply into this issue. HIV/AIDS was political for me too, because I came from South Africa which remains the epicenter of the HIV epidemic in the world. Much of that is due to social inequality - poverty, gender-based violence, a severe lack of education and adequate healthcare. I feel strongly enough about it that a charity which supports families of those who've died as a result of HIV/ AIDs in South Africa is in my Will. Simone was so curious about my upbringing and activism in apartheid South Africa. I was so curious about her upbringing and activism in America. We bonded. We laughed and lamented about the state of the world, especially during the last few years. We planned to present together once COVID was over.
Simone, I am one of the many people you enlightened and lifted up during your fierce existence - you are a legend. You had so much vitality. Such a reminder of how ephemeral life on earth is and how quickly it can be snatched away from you, and from us, from those we leave behind. As they say in South Africa, "Hamba Kahle, Simone." Go well. Your legacy continues.