We had the good fortune of connecting with Dana Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dana, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I had been doing HIV/AIDS work for the American Red Cross and later the Health Department. For years I watch my collogues and friends die from this deadly virus and that minority communities were dying at a high-rate due to lack of access to care and treatment services and ignorance of not knowing about HIV and how it was transmitted. Myself and three other collogues of mine decided to start an agency that would not only address access to care and treatment services, but one that would be culturally responsive and linguistically appropriate to the needs of our community. I wanted to educate, support and guide people to the factual information that they needed to reduce their risk of HIV and other STDs so that they could live a long healthy and happy life. One that would be free of becoming infected with HIV and the ability to pass on factual information that would keep their families and friends safe.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
So, I’ve been doing HIV/AIDS work for over 30 years. As I mentioned, I developed a passion for the work in the mid 80’s as a community health and education specialist. I never thought that I would evolve into a National and International trainer with the opportunity to training in other countries on the issues of HIV. At the time I started doing this work there was such stigma, but I didn’t let others dictate who I was or what I wanted to do to address this issue. When you watch enough people die from a disease you will either step up and do something about it or not. I chose to step-up. As a black women, no one from our community wanted to deal with or even talk about HIV/AIDS. Now even though there were plenty of women doing this work (often behind the scenes) taking care of family, many were not talking about it in the open because of the stigma it caused. It literally caused people to lose their friends, family members and church. I guess I was just one of the many women who said enough is enough we have to do something our communities future is at stake. And as a result. I got tapped to do more education in the community then all over the country and eventually I became a Master Level trainer for the Centers for Disease Control. I think I got into this work just in the nick of time. There was very little push back because there was such a need for someone to do this most important work.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Well everyone want to go to the St. Louis Arch. Its a must. St. Louis Blues museum. We have a lot of famous blues, jazz and hip hop musicians from this area. Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, Miles Davis, Nelly, Fontella Bass to name a few. Another spot is Forest Park. It one of the most beautiful places to go in the city and they have live concerts in the fall and summer. Botanical Gardens is another great place to walk through. On another note. Food is where its at here in the Lou. Everyone what to get ribs. I personally like Red’s Barbeque In Ferguson. Others like Pappy’s or Sugar Fire. Now for fish and shrimp nobody can resist Cappuccino “Playboys” lounge. Its located in our hood in the Baden area and they have great fried food. Wings, different types of fish, pork chop sandwiches and a nice “what we call” set up. You get a bottle, cups of ice and whatever juice or soda on the side. My other spot is 3 of a kind. You aren’t ready for these STL drinks. They are strong (LOL). There are a few more places like Signature Room and the Marquee Lounge, great food and drinks as well. Finally the U City Loop is famous for it eclectic shops, restaurants and night life. Concerts at the Pageant are diverse and excellent sound system. There are Hookah lounges , ice cream shops and lots to do in strip. Frankly there are great restaurants all over the city not matter your craving there is something for you.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Of course when you are running a business, there is no one persons that makes the dream work. But since I have the opportunity to give some shoutout, Let me start by saying first and foremost GODs grace and endurance. My family of course for allowing me to be committed to this very important work. And really all the mentors, coaches, friends and my CDC partners who have really invested in me to learn, grow, make mistakes, encourage, guide me and provided the necessary hand holding that was needed to be success in this work that I have such a passion for.