Gospel singer and three- time Stellar Award winner DeWayne Woods is not your ordinary gospel artist. He has used his music and his life as an instrument to spread God’s message of hope, salvation, healing, and redemption. This alone doesn’t set DeWayne Woods apart from the pack, but his innate ability to be transparent about his own personal struggles in public certainly does and is one of the many reasons his fans and critics alike are drawn to his music and his testimony.
While DeWayne’s music has been well received in Christian circles from his time with Donald Lawrence and The Tri-City Singers to his debut solo effort “Introducing DeWayne Woods & When Singers Meet”, it’s his personal testimony of being diagnosed with HIV in 1992 and being miraculously healed shortly thereafter that has been the topic of conversation around water coolers and black churches across America.
This bold assertion in the face of 26 years of the deadliest epidemic ever to hit American soil is all at once a hallelujah moment and a springboard for skepticism for those who have witnessed DeWayne give his testimony live or who may have heard it from others.
During Donald Lawrence and The Tri-City Singer’s farewell concert DeWayne courageously disclosed to a packed theater that he was infected with HIV in the early nineties and suffered greatly from the disease as well as from side effects from anti-retroviral drugs, until he decided to “Let Go” and let God have control.
“I decided that if I was going to preach about God being a healer then I wanted him to do it”, said Dewayne.
As Christians we believe God can heal any disease or affliction. The spiritual side of us wants to accept every word of DeWayne’s testimony, but the human side has not forgotten the millions of lives lost to HIV/AIDS.
So that leads me to my first question. What makes DeWayne Woods so special?
This question is in no way meant to be harsh although it may be perceived as such. But when you tell the world you’ve been cured of an incurable disease and there are still millions of people who are living with HIV then you should be prepared to tell the how, when, and where your miracle occurred and not just a sound bite to encourage the church to say “Amen”.
People who probably wouldn’t ordinarily visit a site like mine find themselves logging on daily after a google search on DeWayne Woods. Here’s just a sample of what they’re searching for:
1) DeWayne Woods healed from HIV
2) Is DeWayne Woods married?
3) DeWayne Woods gay
4) How did DeWayne Woods get HIV?
5) Does DeWayne Woods have AIDS?
These are all very valid questions for a gospel star that’s chosen to disclose his struggle with a disease that is still taboo in the black church and the black community. For the record I was scheduled to interview DeWayne Woods and even asked my readers to submit questions for our interview and after weeks of e-mails with his publicist Andrea R. Williams of Tehillah Entertainment and submitting my questions (something I never do) I was denied the interview only hours before it was scheduled to take place.
I have to commend DeWayne Woods for having the courage to stand before a black audience and admit he’s lived (living?) with HIV. Those three words are enough to spark gossip amongst Christian folk and bring shame on a black family for years. How many of us have gone to funerals of loved ones who have passed away from AIDS and the family has changed the cause of death to cancer? A friend of mine who has lived with HIV for over 8 years always says, “you’ll hear people say pray for me church I have cancer or diabetes, but you’ll never hear them say pray for me I have HIV”.
So that leads me to my next question. What is DeWayne Woods so afraid of?
One question that always pops up is whether or not he was presented to a medical review board and if his case was documented. Surely this is one for the books, right?
It seems that DeWayne is bent on telling his testimony on his terms and on his turf with little to no interaction from the media or his critics. One could assume he’s dodging the inevitable questions surrounding his sexuality or the marriage to a woman he oftens speaks of but is never seen in public with. We know an admission of homosexuality could potentially be the death of a gospel artist who works in an industry filled with closeted gay men and lesbians who subscribe to their own don’t ask don’t tell.
And we know from experience that the black community doesn’t have a history of embracing their LGBT brothers and sisters or accepting the fact that an artist who may have brought them closer to Christ through their music has a same –sex attraction. That would just be too much for some people to handle. We can forgive Kirk Franklin for his porn addiction but let him come out of the closet and I guarantee you all hell will break loose.
But to hear DeWayne’s testimony is riveting, whether it’s factual or not, (and I have my doubts) simply because it hasn’t been told before. And his intention to provoke a reaction is definitely working.
Just compare these two comments left on a video of DeWayne that I posted on YouTube.
“I must say thank you to the person who put this video on here. I was just diagnosed with HIV about 4 weeks ago and it’s been rough, but now I am truly convinced that God is truly a God of a second chance. These are the last days and healing is yours for the asking and I thank God for my healing!!!!! Will anybody agree with me for my healing?”
“If any one doubts this man's testimony then you doubt God. If you do not believe someone can be healed of HIV then you are saying that HIV is bigger than God. God through his son, Jesus performed many miracles. Many times people were cured in the Bible and these people sought doctors. The doctors could not do a thing for them but Jesus could.”
So there you have it. This debate on the authenticity of DeWayne Woods’ testimony is not likely to go away anytime soon. Maybe one day DeWayne will exert the same courage he had when he first gave his testimony that opened up the floodgate of speculation.
For every statement there is a follow up question, DeWayne can make the choice not to answer, but not making himself available to even entertain the possibility of such is cowardly. And this attribute doesn’t fall in line with the persona of DeWayne Woods. If I may, a word of advice taken directly from your signature song, just “Let Go”.