In celebration of Black History Month, SAGE Metro Detroit asked our community’s Black LGBT elders to share their stories. Follow this series through February at SAGEMetroDetroit.org.

What initially kept Cornelius Wilson from coming out was a common concern shared by young gay men of all colors during the ’80s and ’90s. “The preconceived thought that if anybody knew, there would be some serious repercussions,” says Cornelius, board treasurer for SAGE Metro Detroit. “I really wasn’t out until my mid to late thirties.”

Cornelius has more than 20 years of expertise in human services as a staunch advocate of HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. That advocacy began with the founding of the Men of Color Motivational Group.

He adds, “As I got older and started working with the HIV community, it kind of gave me a sense of comfort.”

Cornelius has served as a project director for the supportive housing agency, Travelers Aid Society of Metropolitan Detroit (TASMD). He’s worked as a senior case manager at Target Population Services (TaPS, Inc.) for persons in recovery seeking recovery support services. And he’s been a program director for Guiding Light Sober Living, Inc., an agency established to provide for the special needs of housing and recovery management, as well as other supportive services, for men living with and/or at high risk of contracting HIV.

But Cornelius humbly insists that he’s not an activist. Or, at least, he never intended to be. “People call me an activist, but I think I am an activist by default,” he says. “I wasn’t doing it to be an activist. Once I was OK with who I was, it really didn’t matter what other folks thought.”

In addition to his work with SAGE Metro Detroit, Cornelius currently serves as board member and finance committee co-chair for the Detroit planning body of the Southeast Michigan HIV/AIDS Council (SEMHAC). He is also the committee chairman for planning the annual SAGE Metro Detroit LGBTQ Older Adult Summit and the Hotter Than July LGBTQ Annual Gathering conference.