Pioneering gay minister and AIDS activist Carl Bean dies

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Wave Staff and Wire Reports

LOS ANGELES — Motown recording artist turned pioneering gay minister and AIDS activist Carl Bean died Sept. 7 at the age of 77.

Bean was ordained as a minister in 1982, the year he founded the Unity Fellowship Church for openly gay and lesbian African Americans.

In 1992, Bean was consecrated as the first presiding bishop of the Unity Fellowship Church Movement, and became the first archbishop of the movement in 1999.

Under Bean’s leadership, the church’s Minority AIDS Project became the first nonprofit, community service agency founded and managed by people of color to educate and serve communities of color who continue to be disproportionately infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Bean was raised in Baltimore as a devout Christian, active in his church’s music ministry.

When he discovered that he was attracted to members of the same sex, he felt isolated with no one to soothe the sting of rejection by family and church members and he attempted suicide when he was 12 years old, then-Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson said in 2019 in connection with the dedication of the intersection of Jefferson Boulevard and Sycamore Avenue in the West Adams District as Archbishop Carl Bean Square.

Bean left his foster home in Baltimore at age 17 and took a bus to New York City to embark on a singing career. His recording career included, “I Was Born This Way,” recorded with the Sweet Inspirations, the first gay liberation dance club hit.

At the height of his recording career, he worked with Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, Miles Davis and Sammy Davis Jr.

Bean wrote his autobiography in 2010, “I Was Born This Way: A Gay Preacher’s Journey Through Gospel Music, Disco Stardom and a Ministry in Christ.”

Through his activism, Carl Bean pioneered how we treat, educate and advocate for one of the most significant health crises of our time, and he did it with a focus and passion for saving Black lives,” Wesson said in 2019.

He did this during a time when the resources and attention were focused on white gay men and not communities of color.”

Community activist Najee Ali also praised Bean.

Bishop Carl Bean was at the forefront in changing the paradigm in how Black people with HIV and AIDS were treated,” Ali said. “He did this at a time when the majority of attention and resources went to white Americans.

“In 1985 Bean founded the Minority Aids Project and it became the first community-based HIV/AIDS  organization established and managed by people of color in the United States,” Ali added. “Bean worked for decades to help equal the playing field to ensure equity in the distribution of HIV and AIDS resources to minority communities.”

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