Rashidah Abdul-Khabeer (b. 1950) has spent most of her life in Philadelphia, where she grew up amidst the social change and political ferment of the 1950s and 1960s. She converted to Islam during college—having been raised in a Baptist church—and went on to become a nurse and infectious disease control specialist. In that capacity, she became aware of AIDS early on in the epidemic, and realized that the disease would take a particular toll on marginalized communities. She began to volunteer with Philadelphia AIDS groups, which were primarily oriented toward white gay men, and became frustrated with their apparent unwillingness to develop specific outreach and education efforts for African Americans. In 1985 she founded Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues (BEBASHI), one of the country's first black AIDS service organizations. Abdul-Khabeer (who at the time was known as Rashidah Hassan) gained national attention for her work with BEBASHI, and traveled the country attending conferences and educating others about AIDS in black communities. In 1994 she resigned as executive director of BEBASHI, and went on to work on HIV prevention projects for the Circle of Care at the Family Planning Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania. In this interview she discusses the relationship between her religious faith and her work in health and human services, her career as an AIDS activist, and current challenges in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Today BEBASHI continues its mission of improving the health of economically disadvantaged Philadelphians.
This interview was conducted by Dan Royles for the African American AIDS Activism Oral History Project on April 11, 2012. This interview was indexed using the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer by Maria Santiago in June 2016, thanks to generous support from the Chris Webber Memorial Fund.