When Karim Abay was contemplating whether to join the Center as a new board member, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti helped seal the deal.
“I met the mayor at a fundraiser for the first time and mentioned that I was thinking about joining the board,” recalled Abay (pronounced uh-BY). “Mayor Garcetti said, ‘There’s nothing to think about. You need to join the Center.’”
Now, as a new board member, Abay is already leaving an indelible impression. “When Center staff members and clients meet me for the first time, their eyes light up because they know I’ve got their backs—and that brings me great joy and motivation,” explained Abay. “I’m ready to get to work!”
Before joining the Center, Abay served as associate publisher of Nylon and jetted to both coasts every other week in order to manage the publication for more than a decade. (The magazine’s launch parties were held in Los Angeles; the magazine’s editorial and art designs were done in New York.) Abay would later become Senior Vice President at Paper magazine.
But his first jobs were less glamorous— yet just as fulfilling—in the nonprofit sector. In 1995, he worked as an intake counselor at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in New York at a time when protease inhibitors hadn’t been approved yet to prolong the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS.
“Some of them were losing their vision. Some of them had Kaposi sarcoma. And yet in the face of adversity, many of them chose to shine in their lives,” recalled Abay. “Their sheer bravery inspired me.”
After his stint at GMHC, Abay continued to work on behalf of the LGBT movement as part of the Human Rights Campaign and for eight years as a board member of the Hetrick Martin Institute, which provides support and programming for LGBTQ youth. Abay hopes to continue his work for the LGBT community as part of the Center.
“As an out black man, I am seizing this opportunity to erase the challenges and the stigma affecting gay and bisexual men of color,” said Abay, who was raised in Akron, Ohio, by an African American father and a German mother. “Right now, black and Latino gay and bi men are experiencing the highest rates of HIV infection in the country. The Center has been making great strides in protecting these marginalized communities, and I want to be part of that continued effort.”