In Memory of Dr. Primm

Dr. Beny J. Primm

The Healer, The Mentor and The Godfather of the Black AIDS Movement

Statement from Debra Fraser-Howze Founder/Former President, NBLCA Current Board Member

To the Board, friends and family of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. and the HIV/AIDS Community It is with a heavy heart that I write to tell you of the transition from this life of Dr. Beny J. Primm on Friday night. I followed his journey through this last illness and was informed at the time of his death.  ‎I am grateful to NBLCA for allowing me to write to you given my very special relationship with this remarkable man of vision, integrity and purpose whom I am honored to have had as a mentor for several decades.   Specifics on the arrangements for Dr. Primm’s home going are attached to this statement and will be held on Wednesday, October 21st at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. Viewing is from 9:00 am-11am and the Service starts promptly at 11:00a.m. Dr. Primm served as Vice Chair of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS for almost two decades. He was my constant advisor, a champion for people with HIV/AIDS, addictions and battered woman, and a revolutionizing spirit, presence and defender for those who had no voice. Dr. Primm changed the world as we know it for millions around the globe. Dr. Primm was sounding the alarm on AIDS to Black Leaders before we knew there was a problem in our community. Amazingly Dr. Primm received his medical degree from the University of Geneva in Switzerland and studied at the University of Heidelberg in Germany when medical schools in the U.S. often denied admission to African Americans. He learned the language as he completed his medical education. That is the sign of a remarkable mind and an extraordinary man. When visiting his home on the Vineyard you were met with a reminder of those times with a plaque over his kitchen that read simply “We Serve Colored Only” symbolizing a time of severe segregation when we were forced to eat at colored only restaurants. When many would have cowered by adversity I was always amazed by how he found a way to ascend and succeed. Dr. Primm served as an advisor on Addiction and Drug treatment and HIV/AIDS to U.S. Presidents Nixon and Bush and worked with the administrations of U.S. Presidents Clinton and Obama. He served as the founder and Executive Director of the ‎Addiction Research and Treatment Corporation in New York for more than 40 years and as President of the Urban Resource Institute that continues to support the developmentally disabled, substance abusers, battered women and their children and people with HIV/AIDS. His writings appear in some of the most prestigious medical and public health journals in the nation and he was widely sought after by experts worldwide for his lectures and speeches ‎until the time of his death. We will be able to enjoy the passion he had for writing through his recently released book, The Healer: A Doctor’s Crusade against Addiction and AIDS. Chronicled in the book is a history of the writing of the Minority AIDS Initiative, on which we spent nights and days with others to bring some small relief to African Americans and people of color on the front lines. Please indulge me on a personal note; I spent many summers on Martha’s Vineyard with Dr. Primm and his beautiful daughters Annelle, Martine and Jeanine who were always by his side. Children he raised as a single father and his long term partners Barbara and Ellena over the years. This summer I arrived at his invitation a day early to hear Dr. Calvin Butts as a visiting preacher in a local Martha’s Vineyard church. Lost and frustrated after the service, I struggled to find the reception held in the reverend’s honor, so I started back to the home I rented on the island. Then my cell phone rang.  It was Beny. “Debbie where are you?” Only Beny, Mayor Dinkins and my dad call me Debbie! Knowing he was not feeling his best, I said I was headed back to my house and he insisted that I come straight “home” to his house which was always home to many. He guided me back refusing to disconnect the line until I arrived in his front yard. Then he got in my car and guided me to the repast, all the time instructing me on my driving technique as only a father figure can. We met Dr. Sullivan and his wife Ginger at the door and many other Martha’s Vineyard regulars all giving kisses and hugs to one of the masters of the Island. I could barely navigate him through the room. We had brunch with many friends and he had a good day and as always I visited with him daily during my stay. His door was always open and I enjoyed watching people come in and sit at his knee for some wisdom while getting a signed copy of his new book. I loved hearing that wisdom, history and understanding of life. Letting no injustice stand yet letting nothing in life destroy him, he insisted we always get back up on our feet to fight another day. Uncle Beny, as my children knew him, was a wonderful family member to them. Uncle Beny always made sure the basketballs were blown up and the boys had everything they needed to enjoy their stay and the girls got in all the shopping they wanted., and he would always arrive on Pizza night with several boxes of the best on the island.  His special interest in my youngest son Clinton whom he would have stay with him and ride around the Island was a joy and a gift to see. As always there was a night that I cooked for us all. The last week of August this summer we ate with Mayor Ford of Tuskegee, Deborah Wafer of Gilead, Ellena and the kids. We had good fun and he loved it. ‎ Not sure I can return to the Vineyard this summer. I know that if I get lost there ever again no one will ever be able to get me “HOME” like Dr. Primm could, ever again. I want to thank so many of you who have reached out to me to express condolences because you all knew of our unique relationship but I ask that your Prayers be with his family who loved him beyond life and I have been so grateful to be a part of them.  I ask also that we all thank God we had this masterful leader in our lives for over 87 years.  See you all Wednesday. Debbie Fraser Howze   Funeral Arrangements for Dr. Beny J Primm Date: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 Location: Services will be held at the Abyssinian Baptist church in Harlem 132 Odell Clark Place, New York 10030, formerly (138th street between Lenox Ave. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd) Website:info@abyssinian.org, Telephone 212-862-7474 Times: Viewing from 9:00-11am, Services start promptly at 11am-12:30pm In Lieu of Flowers the family has asked that donations be made to: Mentoring In Medicine, Inc. 177a East Main Street #294 New Rochelle, NY 10801 Scholarships in Dr. Primms name will be awarded to African American male medical students, who are academic achievers, active in their communities, and working to increase health literacy and involvement of minorities in health careers. Please give generously -Debra