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For the past 30 years, Tony-nominated actress and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph has worked to raise HIV/AIDS awareness through the DIVA Foundation.

DIVA, which stands for Divinely Inspired Victoriously Aware, is a nonprofit organization Ralph founded in 1990 after losing so many of her friends to AIDS during a time when public awareness was much lower about the life-threatening disease.

Ralph witnessed many people turn their backs on people affected by AIDS.

“The community, everyone, people of all kinds of walks, faiths and beliefs just found it easy to turn their backs on people in need. The little church girl in me said, ‘We can do better than this – I can do better than this,'” Ralph said.

Ralph says she was ridiculed for starting a foundation that focused on this specific community.

“It was painful at times, you know, the way people would call you names, and say that you were stupid. ‘Why would you do this? It will hurt your career, it’s not worth it.’ And I could only think to myself that people are always worth it,” Ralph explained.

As the foundation grew, Ralph went on to create DIVAs Simply Singing, the main fundraising event for the DIVA Foundation.

“We support artistic activism, we support young artists who want to use their art to change what’s going on in the world. You just never know how your art can inspire people. HIV/AIDS affects us all and we are going to continue to raise awareness, one song at a time,” said Ralph.