Jamar Rogers is best known for his position as a finalist on the popular NBC television show The Voice. On the show, Rogers was open and honest about his HIV-positive status and made no apologies for doing so.
"Originally, when I was auditioning for the show, being open about my status was the furthest thing from my mind," Rogers told Windy City Times. But after working with God's Love We Delivera charity in New York's City's West Village that delivers food to more than 4,000 people living with HIV and AIDSRogers knew he was not just another voice. "When you see real people infected and you work with themI just knew that I had to stand for something," he said.
With that, Rogers has joined the ranks of Magic Johnson and Greg Louganis as an outspoken face and role model of a person living with HIV. "I remember hearing a story of young man who found out he was infected with HIV and he took his own life by jumping from the George Washington Bridge," Rogers said. "It's easy to say 'Use a condom' but we need to go beyond preventative measures.
"We need to show people that just because you are HIV-positive does not mean that you have to die. We need to show them that they are worthy of love, that they are attractive and beautiful and that nothingnothing should keep you from your dream. That's why I was an advocate on The Voice and that's why I'm still an advocate."
Rogers is not one for great accolades or ego. His fan base is affectionately known as his "fam." Rogers said, "I don't want to be put on some pedestal. I want to be seen as your brother rather than your idol. We're on equal footing. "I've only been clean from meth of seven years. Exactly who do I think that I am that I can think that I am greater than any of my fans?"
While many pop stars speak about service, love and peace, Rogers has real experience. He added, "I cannot stress enough that you must serve your fellow man. You need to lose your self-absorption and live for others sometimes."
That spirit of service is bringing Rogers to Chicago for the Chicago AIDS Walk Sept. 30. Rogers is involved in numerous HIV and AIDS causes, but the AIDS Walk is one that is particularly moving for Rogers. "The AIDS Walk is visible," he said. "People, even those not participating, see it. I'm going to be performing in front of thousands of walkers and runners at Soldier Field. I can't think of better visibility than that."
Rogers is expected to perform for a full half-hour and will be singing two cover pieces followed by several of his own original songs. "I want Chicago to know, even if I'm singing some covers, I can still perform my ass off," he said. "You can quote me on that."
Currently, Rogers has a single available on iTunes called "Where Would I Be without You." Rogers said it's "a song, dedicated to my fam." He also has a free Amazon download currently available called "Far Way Off." Rogers explained, "I didn't want to have my fam paying for every single that I dropped. I wanted even those who don't have any money at all to be able to hear my music and own it for themselves." Rogers anticipates an album release sometime early next year. "I don't have an exact date but I decided to do this independently so I could control my music and my message," said Rogers.
Rogers also has a weekly blog about his past experience on The Voice along with commentary on the current contestants and their own experience on the show. "The blog is on www.TheInsider.com [or www.theinsider.com/contributor/jamar_rogers/index.html&; and really tries to tie my own personal experience on that show into what the current contestants are thinking, doing and how they are performing," Rogers said.
He is also involved in a second writing projectthat of his own story. The book, yet untitled, will be an autobiography or memoir on Rogers' life from his beginnings as the son of a single mother in New Orleans through his addiction to meth, his contraction of HIV and his recovery/rise.
Next for Rogers are numerous speaking engagements, including a speech at New York University Sept. 27. Although he cannot say how or in what capacity, Rogers plans to be back on television this fall. "I just want my fam to know that they need to look for me on TV again," he said. "I can't say where or when yet since I'm under a nondisclosure agreement, but I'll be there."
Jamar Rogers will be at the AIDS Run & Walk Chicago Sunday, Sept. 30, at Soldier Field; see http://afc.aidschicago.org/netcommunity/page.aspx?pid=1518.
He will also be at HIV/AIDS agency Test Positive Aware Network's (TPAN's) "The 25th Hour: Celebrating A Quarter-Century of Service" Thursday, Oct. 4, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.; see www.tpan.com/25hour.