Michael S. Hinson, Jr., a leading Black LGBTQ, AIDS and homelessness activist in Philadelphia, died this morning at Penn Rittenhouse Hospice. He was 55.
Hinson grew up in South Carolina and moved to Philadelphia after high school. He was one of the first Black “buddies” for people with HIV disease at the Philadelphia AIDS Task Force and an early volunteer with BEBASHI, one of the first Black AIDS service organizations in the 1980s. He founded Colours Magazine and later was the first director of the Colours Organization and AIDS service agency. He was also a co-founder of Philadelphia Black Gay Pride.
In 2000, Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street appointed Michael as his liaison to the city LGBTQ+ communities and also as a policy advisor on issues ranging from child welfare to education to homelessness to public safety. During that time, Hinson helped build a coalition to ensure that gender identity became protected under the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance. He also served as an adjunct professor at Cheyney University.
A passionate advocate for people experiencing homelessness, in recent years Hinson served as the CEO of SELF, Inc., the city’s largest provider of emergency and transitional housing, which doubled in size under his leadership and included development of A Way Home, a transitional housing program for LGBTQ people.
In a June 2022 interview with PGN, Hinson talked about the work he was doing at SELF, Inc. and the importance of permanent housing.
“That’s the solution for so many things,” Hinson said, “health care, education, and employment are all things that are difficult to maintain without permanent housing. We fight every minute of every chance we get to fight for Black & Brown and LGBTQ people who continually bear the brunt of the discrimination that leads to housing issues.”
In a statement, SELF, Inc. Board Chair and former mayor W. Wilson Goode said, “Mike was a soldier and leader for righteousness, in the truest sense. A champion for marginalized communities, and a selfless public servant for many causes, Mike’s empowering voice and action helped elevate the work of SELF in the public policy leadership space — all while keeping the dignity and respect of people first. We grieve Mike’s passing, but we are better human beings because we shared his presence. We will miss his leadership, but he has left a legacy of passionate advocacy for us to share and follow.”
An earlier version of this article stated Michael Hinson was 53. He was 55.