Nowhere can a more appropriate description of the Reverend Debra Hickman be found than on the social media site, LinkedIn. Motivational speaker and author, Fran Allen called Reverend Hickman a woman of extraordinary substance and unmatched commitment to helping people, creating hope, broadening horizons, and changing lives.
“[Reverend Hickman] is the heart and soul of ‘Sisters Together And Reaching, Inc. (STAR),” and her drive, energy, and dedication inspires people she will never know every single day,” Allen wrote.
“We are better and able to serve our constituency because of her work and willingness to work with us.”
Each year, Reverend Hickman’s STAR hosts the “Why Women Cry” series, which includes world-class speakers, critical content, artistic expressions, movement, and optimism to women in and around Baltimore. Because of the pandemic, the series is virtual this year, which Reverend Hickman says means that a broader audience of women could receive the incentives, resources, tools, products, and opportunities that support personal growth, mindfulness, health, and health business.
“Our bonding together will help others build lifelong positive relationships,” Reverend Hickman assured.
The virtual series runs every Wednesday at 10 a.m. through July 28, 2021.
“The entire conference experience is intentionally crafted to raise awareness on the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS transmission on Women and Girls and their intimate partners with various holistic health, economic, educational and behavioral health disparities in our African American and minority communities,” said Reverend Hickman.
Since it’s inception in November 2004, the conference has grown from 700 registrants to more than 2,200 women annually, making it the largest free women’s HIV conference on the East Coast.
“STAR has been around for 30 years and came into existence by having a deep desire to work with women with HIV and full-blown AIDS who had no place to go in the community to get the services they needed,” Reverend Hickman remarked. “When we founded the organization, it was to make certain that we could offer a haven where we could provide case management and make sure that women had good primary health care.
“We also wanted to make sure that we could help make preparations if the women passed away, that their children and their households could be taken care of.”
Located in the heart of Charm City, STAR has been a service provider of comprehensive care coordination and support services to thousands of individuals and families— creating healthy generational behaviors withstanding time. Randi Woods, a registered nurse who serves as the nonprofit’s senior director of community care coordination, noted that STAR services include, but aren’t limited to, preventative testing, health promotion prevention education, patient advocacy, and comprehensive, holistic care management.
“Through time, STAR has developed multiple collaborative partnerships with traditional and non-traditional partners to continue working effectively with high-risk communities addressing traditional and non-traditional aspects of living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases,” Woods said.
“Along with our partners, our future legacy of community engagement, prevention education, and community impact will serve as a pillar for every person serviced through our programs,” she said in an October 2020 Baltimore Times interview.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Reverend Hickman’s parents migrated from the South searching for work and more opportunities for their children. As the eldest of two children, she learned early on to handle business affairs as her parents had limited education.
“When Reverend Debbie started STAR, she was working a full-time job and was leading a very small team of women volunteers from churches around the city,” Woods recalled. “Since that time, she has remained committed to advocating for justice in healthcare for the men and women of Baltimore City.”
Reverend Hickman has served on the Mayors HIV Commission and is a two-time appointee by the White House Secretary of Health to serve on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Heath Resources Service Administration Advisory Council (CHAC). She also has worked as a consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Radio One will stream the “Why Women Cry” series on Facebook and YouTube.
“I really want people to take away from this that they need to understand that there is no purpose that is not fueled by passion,” Rev. Hickman asserted. “You cannot have purpose and passion without knowing how to stand up amid a pandemic and move forward.”
For more information about the “Why Women Cry” series, visit https://sisterstogetherandreaching.org/why-women-cry/.