Remembering HIV / AIDS Activist Hydeia Broadbent and Our Work Together

By Michael P Coleman

I’m getting old enough to notice that people far younger than me are dying. Some of them are leaving this earth having done far more to improve the world we live in than I’ve managed to do.

The recent death of HIV / AIDS activist Hydeia Broadbent checks both of those boxes. She was only 39 years old. She changed the world around her, and for a moment, I had a front-row seat.

I met and got to work with Broadbent almost 10 years ago, about two decades after the then six-year-old girl charmed the world, while simultaneously breaking its heart, on popular platforms like The Oprah Winfrey Show. She’d been adopted as a newborn after her biological mother abandoned her. Three years later, Broadbent tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS and the one that, at that time, was believed to deliver a certain death sentence.

When Broadbent and I crossed paths, I’d been charged with finding dynamic speakers for an annual women’s conference in Sacramento, California. I was surprised to get the assignment, as one thing I’ve never been is a woman, so I was determined to knock the ball out of the park and put my head to the grindstone. I eventually booked Broadbent, along with trailblazing sports broadcaster Jayne Kennedy, for 2014’s Exceptional Women Of Color conference. The pair of them helped secure a contract with the Sac Cultural Hub that endures to this day, so I owe Broadbent a debt of thanks for that, if nothing else.

Photo credit: Michael P Coleman / Coleman Communications

After having interviewed her by phone, I met Broadbent in person on September 24, 2014 when she got to town and helped to put the Hub on the national map. Our local Fox affiliate insisted on interviewing her. Having spent her life in front of TV cameras, it wasn’t a big deal for her, but it was for the Hub and for me. Recently, I discovered there’s a brief clip of me chatting with her in the Fox 40 b-roll for the segment.

As diminutive as Broadbent was — she stood barely five feet tall — she was an absolute force. A decade ago in Sacramento, she preached her message before a first standing room, and eventually standing ovation-charged audience.

And Broadbent was as forceful behind the mic as she was behind the scenes. During my talent-booking years, I don’t think I’ve ever signed anyone who so politely yet firmly demanded what they needed in an appearance rider. To this day, Broadbent was not one to be ignored.

I last spoke with Broadbent a handful of years later, just as COVID slowed the world down. Broadbent wasn’t deterred by a pesky virus. After all, she had stared another of them in the face for over two decades by that point, and she fought on.

With Broadbent’s death last week, a hole has been left in the world. On days like today, people often say things like “It’s a hole that can never be filled.” As beautiful as those words are, I know better than that. Those who do God’s work on this earth eventually have to pass the baton to someone else, as ashes must return to ashes, and dust to dust. Even Moses had to turn things over to Joshua.

That said, we’ll be waiting for God, or Spirit, or the universe, or whatever you want to call Her to send us another Hydeia Broadbent. I’m very thankful that I got to meet and work with the young lady, and she will be missed. I’ll be calling her name, right along with the other men and women who’ve crossed my path while they labored to improve the world around us a better place.

I’ll also continue to follow her lead, hoping to make her proud.

RIP, Hydeia Broadbent.


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