This is a reminder that it is real in the field. I have met Maria personally and she is an inspiration. Many of you may not be familiar with her modeling you may have heard her voice on Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt album
The oldest of six children, Maria always yearned for success. Growing up in the South Bronx, Mott Haven Projects, the foundation was laid to achieve her dreams. Maria Davis’ persistence, warmth, out-going and humorous personality attracted the people who gave her a shot at her dreams. She began her professional modeling career at the uncommon age of twenty-one in the early eighties–when black faces were rarely seen in magazines. But it was Maria’s true love of Black music that led her to her professional calling. She abandoned her successful modeling career to pursue a profession in the entertainment industry. Maria knew talent when she saw it and with the help of mentors became known as one of New York’s premiere promoters. With support from various record labels who provided her with new artists and her background in cinematography, she produced, directed and promoted her newly created music showcases M.A.D. Wednesday’s. The legendary M.A.D. Wednesday’s music showcases provided venues for signed and unsigned R&B and hip-hop artists and comedians who had no other performance options. Maria created an outlet for young people to express themselves artistically when community programs were being cut and young people had no where else to go to hone their skills.
In 1995 Maria’s life took a turn, she contracted the HIV virus unknowingly from her soon-to-be-husband. While in the hospital near death her spiritual calling was revealed to her. Maria knew that she had to devote her life to educating women, men and children about AIDS. For the first time Maria bore her soul about her personal crisis with AIDS in the book Souls of My Sisters.
Maria does not consider herself a victim, but an activist who speaks to thousands of people every year about HIV/AIDS awareness. She puts her convictions and her passion for life into action. She has participated every year, for the last seven years, in the rigorous 350 mile Boston to New York AIDS bicycle ride raising tens of thousands of dollars for AIDS research. Maria also raises funds for AIDS research by participating in the GMHC’s AIDS Walk New York. In addition to raising money for several AIDS organizations, Maria believes that volunteering her time in her own community is vital to communicating the message of AIDS awareness to people of color. Maria donates her time at several Manhattan and especially Harlem based organizations such as Terrance Cardinal Cooke Nursing Home’s AIDS ward, North General Hospital, Iris House, Project Return, the Minority Task Force on AIDS, Boys Harbor and Rivington House. Maria regularly speaks to educators, health care providers, ministers and social workers regarding HIV/AIDS awareness and sensitivity including being the key note speaker for the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. In addition she has spoken to several groups including the New York City Health Department, the College of New Rochelle at the Theological Seminary, Essex County College and New York University to name a few. Maria maintains that being grateful and giving to others is the only true way to fight HIV/AIDS and that is why she is not afraid to be the media spokesperson for several organizations such as Life Beat: The Music Industry Fights AIDS, BET Rap it Up Community Service outreach and a national spokesperson for World AIDS Day. Maria has appeared on numerous urban radio and television shows to get the message out to young people such as MTV, New York’s WBLS-FM, WKRS-FM, WLIB-FM, UPN 9 News, BET’s Teen Summit, 106th and Park and a day in the life of Maria Davis on BET’s “The Naked Truth 2.”
Maria has also been honored with numerous awards for her many contributions she has made to the AIDS community such as the 2002 New York Urban League Building Brick Award, the 2002 Women in Hip-Hop Award and 2002 Life Beat/Urban AID II Spirit Award, 2003 CBS Channel 2 Fulfilling the Dream Award, 2004 National Black Commission on AIDS Choose Life Award to name a few.
Maria has turned great personal adversity into an opportunity to teach and to share an important message with the world. She challenges everyone she meets to do the same.