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April 20, 2014

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LIFEBEAT Honors BET's Stephen Hill

Comments (12)

By Angela Bronner, AOL Black Voices

BET Metwork's Stephen HillStephen Hill, Executive Vice President of Entertainment and Music Programming at BET, is a man to whom controversy is no stranger.

Hello? This is the man who programs Entertainment and music at BET!

Yet, you might be surprised that not only was this Ivy-Leaguer a teacher in years past, but the former radio exec turned TV mogul also has been active in the fight against AIDS for many years.

For his work, he's being honored Tuesday, Dec. 4 by LIFEBeat, the Music Industry's charity against AIDS.

"We are going to have fun and in fun raise a lot of money so that we can continue our information distribution to the youth about AIDS," says Hill.

Tomorrow, the Brown grad will be feted by LIFEBeat's LIVE BEATS at New York's Highline Ballroom with special performances by Mary J. Blige, Kathy Sledge, Denise Rich and "you never know who else well be grabbing the mic!"

Hill, like many of us, came to the fight against AIDS because it touched his life in a very personal way.

For high school, Hill attended the exclusive boarding school, Groton School in Massachusetts and became fast friends with another African American from the city who also shared his passion for music.

"My best friend in Lloyd Keith Howlett, in 1989 he died of AIDS," says Hill. "It was absolutely devastating. The goal is to make it so that no one else ever loses their best friend."

Hill says that two young men used to come back from vacations with the latest music to share music (Hill from DC and Howlett from New York) and even performed The Sugar Hill Gang's hip hop classic, "Rapper's Delight."

"We'd have these great conversations about music and that's one thing we shared," Hill reminisces. "We even had little fake performances, and this is like when "Rapper's Delight" came out. We were the Sugar Hill Gang. I was Master G – yes, and he was Big Bank Hank!"

Hill is being honored not only for his individual work, but for BET's "Rap It Up" program which ran special programming this weekend in honor of World AIDS Day.

Rap It Up is a campaign that keeps it real for the young adults who most regularly tune into BET. The latest stats from the Centers for Disease Control show that those African Americans under the age of 25 make up 61% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses.

Hill's hometown on Washington DC has also been especially hit hard by HIV and AIDS, with a recently released report showing that DC has the highest rate of AIDS infection of any other city in the United States. One in 20 adults in Washington is infected by HIV. (source)

"I am just honored. I saw this an opportunity to both raise money and in the spirit – this is a way to mix performance, and raising money for AIDS and having fun, it's the kind of show that Lloyd would sit in the back and he would just giggle over."

I'm sure Lloyd is somewhere smiling and rocking to the eternal beat.

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