Horizon at Home — Love, M



LOVE, M. playwright Clarinda Ross interviews “The Mother of the AIDS Quilt,” Gertrude “Gert” McMullin


View the Introduction: Start at 15:22
View the Play: Start at 30:53
View Post-Show Talk: Start at 2:00:30

In Partnership with BLACC & AIDS Healthcare Foundation

Recorded Live after the DEC 1 Premiere

in Partnership with rolling out Health IQ

Featuring actor, activist & star of OWN Network’s Greenleaf and Horizon Theatre’s Love, M., LAMMAN RUCKER

as well as…

  • Dr. Daniel Black, Author/Lecturer & Professor of African-American Studies at Clark Atlanta University
  • Dr. Shalondra Crawford, Renowned Los Angeles-based Psychologist
  • Daniel Driffin, HIV/AIDS Activist & Co-Founder of THRIVE SS and Chair Emeritus of The Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative (YBGLI)
Moderated by Patrick L. Riley,
Award-Winning Journalist/Celebrity Host

“Throughout the globe, the arts have been a powerful tool to express the various issues confronting our community. Horizon has a long history of sharing stories that educate and inspire audiences and we are pleased to join them in sharing the powerful stories in Love, M. as we continue to bring awareness around the array of social determinant’s that are connected to the increase in new HIV diagnosis and to reduce the stigma and shame that continues to plague Black Americans around sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV.”

Imara Canady, Chair, Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition (BLACC)

Love, M. is a story about Mothers, Sons and AIDS Activists in the early days of the AIDS crisis and will premiere on DEC 1, World AIDS Day.

Told through letters, Love, M. is the story of two mothers at the dawn of AIDS. Atlanta white socialite Deborah writes to her son, Chris, who is pursuing his dream of becoming an actor. Myrtle, a Black southern Baptist, writes to her son, Timothy, an idealistic young lawyer. With humor and humanity, and the AIDS Quilt as backdrop, Love, M. weaves the abiding threads of the healing power of love, as the characters piece their way towards acceptance.

Love, M. is based on extensive conversations with mothers from the last pandemic.  I wanted to understand those mothers and their stories before we lost them. Ultimately, I came home to a very personal story full of humor, humanity & the healing power of love, acceptance, and the thing we all crave – connection.”

Playwright Clarinda Ross

From Georgia to San Francisco, love is never simple, but it is always a force to be reckoned with. As audience members enjoy the play, they will pull back the complicated layers that make up a mother-son relationship. This idea of all-encompassing love, along with the history behind the AIDS Memorial Quilt, serves as a backdrop to a story that crosses states, beliefs, and generations.

What does it mean to love someone, for all their perceived faults and struggles? Love, M. explores this question with grace, dignity, and heart in powerful journey that will have you crying, laughing, and reaching out for the loved ones in your life.










In early June 1989, I was working at the Alley Theatre in Houston and my best friend from acting school and Atlanta, Christian Hesler, called me to say good-bye.  In that final phone call, we professed our love for one another and he made a simple request, “Will you visit my grave?”  “Of course I will, my darling.”  He died from AIDS at his parent’s home in Indiana on June 11, 1989.  His parents and I exchanged letters over the years and then the letters stopped after the birth of my youngest son who, coincidentally, was born on Christian’s birthday.  It took me twenty years but I finally got to Indiana to fulfill my promise. I also reconnected with his mother.  All those years later, and now a mother myself, I had a new-found empathy for Christian’s mother and for all mothers of people who died from AIDS.  Here they were getting older without the love and comfort of their sons. They were orphaned mothers. I embarked on a mission to interview these women about their experiences in the early days of AIDS when there were so many unknowns, so much fear and misinformation.  Some mothers wanted to talk to me, but many did not.  I am indebted to the sisters, the cousins, the nieces, and nephews who shared their loved ones with me. This play, much like the AIDS Memorial Quilt itself, has taken years to assemble and is stitched together with love. 

My heartfelt thanks to Horizon Theatre, Lisa Adler, Heidi Cline McKerley, Marguerite Hannah, Imara Canady, David Thomas, Michael Hidalgo, ART Station, The Writer’s Well, Sewanee Writer’s Conference, Mickey Birnbaum/UCR/PD Low-Residency MFA Creative Writing for Performance program, Adilah Barnes, The LA Women’s Theatre Festival, The Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative, Julie Rhoad, Roddy Williams, Gert McMullin, Ritchie Crownfield, The Name’s Project and to my friends and family who supported me during this process. 


LAMMAN RUCKER (Timothy) Best known as “Jacob Greenleaf” on OWN’s hit drama series, Greenleaf; the handsome “Sheriff Troy” in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married film sequel and “Will” on hit film/sitcom Meet The Browns; Rucker is maintaining a powerful small and large screen presence in films such as BET’s The Man in 3B and Black Coffee; UPtv’s Where is The Love as well as feature film Service to Man. Rucker will also be starring in upcoming feature films Terror Lake DriveAlbert & PaulCooking Up Christmas, and This Love Wins. Beyond film, his award-winning acting range has spanned Off-Broadway theater as well as television such as Black Angels Over TuskegeeHalf and Half, WEtv’s South of HellAs The World Turns and All My Children. A passionate activist, Rucker relentlessly advocates for social justice, community empowerment, health and more.   He is a spokesperson for several charitable efforts and community action initiatives including the American Heart Association, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Association of Black Cardiologists, The Black AIDS Institute, BMe Community, The Magic Johnson Foundation and his non-profit The Black Gents, an all-male ensemble of actors driven to resurrect the positive images of black males through thought-provoking high quality entertainment, youth empowerment initiatives and community service. 

TERRY BURRELL (Myrtle) is an actor and playwright whose extensive Broadway credits include Three Penny Opera, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Swinging on a Star, Into the Woods, Honky Tonk Nights, Dreamgirls, Just So StoriesEubie!, and Show Boat.  She wrote and starred in ETHEL, a tribute to Ethel Waters which was produced at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Walnut Street Theatre.  Her National Tour credits include CopacabanaBubbling Brown Sugar, The Wiz and Show Boat. She is currently appearing in A Very Terry Christmas at the Alliance Theatre, where she has been seen regularly in shows such as Ever AfterAngry Raucous And Shamelessly GorgeousJar The FloorCinderella And Fella, and Sophisticated Ladies.     She has previously been see at Horizon Theatre as the leading role in ‘Da Kink in My Hair.   Other regional and NYC credits include:  Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar And GrillCandideCrownsMan Of La ManchaUp From Paradise, , Ain’t Misbehavin’A Christmas CarolOklahoma!The Women Of Brewster PlaceThunder Knocking At The DoorCinderellaSmokey Joes CaféTime And Again,  Brownie PointsMahaliaBoys From SyracuseSheila’s Day, and The Roommate. Terry has performed in concert with the Duke Ellington Orchestra Venice and at the Oslo Norway Jazz Festival and Portland Oregon Jazz Festival.  

CLARINDA ROSS (Deborah) started her acting career at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and became well-known for her one-woman show From My Grandmother’s Grandmother Unto Me, which was filmed for TV by PBS and just had its thirtieth production.  Now based in LA, she worked for many years in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Alliance Theatre, Horizon Theatre, Theatrical Outfit, Theatre in the Square, ART Station, and the Atlanta Shakespeare Company.  Clarinda recently received her MFA in Creative Writing for Performance from the University of California at Riverside where she was the recipient of the Barbara Seranella Scholarship for Excellence in Creative Writing. Her plays have been produced across the country and are published by Applause Theatre Books, The Coachella Review, and The Kenyon Review.  She was born in Georgia, grew up in Boone, North Carolina, and has B.A. in Theatre from Appalachian State.  Ms. Ross is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association having served as a National Council for many years. She is a Los Angeles delegate for SAG-AFTRA, and a Southern California Ambassador for the Dramatists Guild of America.  

CHRIS HECKE (Chris) is delighted to return to the Horizon after starring in this season’s virtual production of Completeness by Tony Award-winning playwright Itamar Moses. Chris is a Regional Actor and a proud Immigrant from Brazil. He holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Arkansas. Since moving to the US at the age of 18, Chris has been blessed to work from Atlanta, to Fayetteville, to Greenville, to Gainesville. Since making Atlanta his professional home-base in 2016, his favorite theater credits include: Hotspur (Henry IV Pt.1), Edmund the Bastard (King Lear), and Berowne (Love’s Labours Lost) at the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern; stints in Shakespeare in Love and My Father’s War at Theatre Squared; and Pablo (Native Gardens) at Aurora Theatre. He has been a featured actor in Horizon’s New South Young Playwrights Festival 2018-2020.

HEIDI McKERLEY (Director) is a Horizon Artistic Associate who has been directing for Horizon for over two decades, including most of Horizon’s musicals, most recently the acclaimed Once and the virtual production of Completeness. She has been fortunate to work with most professional theatres in Atlanta during her thirty-two years of living here; including the Alliance Theatre, Horizon Theatre, Serenbe Playhouse, Georgia Shakespeare, Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern, Aurora Theatre, Theatrical Outfit, Georgia Ensemble Theatre, Actor’s Express, Atlanta Lyric Theatre, Theatre Emory, Dad’s Garage, Jewish Theatre of the South, Theatre in the Square, Push Push Theatre, and as a guest artist for the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, Berry College, Kennesaw State University, Lagrange Lyric, and the University of Georgia. Heidi has been nominated for thirteen Suzi Bass Awards, and won Best Director of a Musical in 2011 for Avenue Q.  Heidi was the Founding Producing Artistic Director of Soul-stice Repertory Ensemble, offering thirty-one theatrical classics at 7 Stages in eleven years. Regionally, Heidi has worked for the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia and the Oasis Theatre and Hippodrome State Theatre in Florida. 


Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition (BLACC), formerly known as the AHF Black AIDS Crisis Taskforce, is an initiative of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) developed to create a coalition of African-American cultural influencers and health advocates who will promote sexual health and revolutionize outreach to the African-American community on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. For more information visit: aidshealth.org/affinity

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is a global nonprofit organization providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy to over 1.5 million people in 43 countries. They are currently the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the U.S. For more information about their work and mission, visit: aidshealth.org/

A Black publisher for over 20 years, rolling out is the go-to urban lifestyle news source in entertainment, politics, and entrepreneurship. rolling out Health IQ is a collaborative show of professionals in the healthcare industry, educators, non-profits, and healthcare service delivery members that inform and educate the community while addressing the current healthcare disparities across the nation. For more information visit: rollingout.com/


“I thought I need to really understand these mothers, and what they went through being there at the forefront of it,” says Clarinda Ross of her play Love, M. She and actor Terry Burrell joined WABE “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to discuss the play, and it’s message of love and acceptance for all.

<<Listen Here>>

“Who am I to write an AIDS play?” thought Love, M. playwright Clarinda Ross. In her interview with Rosalind Bentley of the AJC, Ross, along with Broadway and Love, M. star Terry Burrell, chart the journey of sharing a mother’s perspective of the AIDS Crisis.

<<Read the Full Article Here>>

Listen to Imara Canady, Horizon Board member and BLACC Chair, on Jazz 91.9 WCLK, Atlanta’s Jazz Station’s The Local Take with Kiplyn Primus about World AIDS Day and our premiere of Love, M. with our partner AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

<<Listen Here>>

Karyn Greer of WGCL-TV interviews Imara Canady, Horizon Board member and BLACC Chair, as well as Horizon Theatre panelist Daniel Driffin about World AIDS Day and the premiere of Love, M.

<<Watch Here>>


Patrick L. Riley (moderator) is currently a co-host on digital talk show “The Happy Hour” on Facebook & YouTube. The award-winning entertainment and pop culture journalist is also inside promotions for his current hardcover book, “That’s What Friends Are For: On the Women Who Inspired Me,” published by Dorpie Books and available to order via Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The National Association of Black Journalists certified the memoir/entertainment diary “Outstanding Literary Work” for 2019. Patrick – an independent producer, personality, and writer – is perhaps best known for his work as a freelance, senior field producer at “The Oprah Winfrey Show” for over 13 years – including ABC network credits on “Oprah’s Legends Ball” and “Building a Dream: The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy”. That extended stretch of opportunity provided moments for Patrick to interview Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton as well as many of his own idols – including Diana Ross, Mary Tyler Moore, Janet Jackson, Beyonce, Dr. Maya Angelou, and many more. Patrick continues to attract high-profile, producing clients – including The Oprah Winfrey Network, The Wendy Williams Show, BET Creative Services, Essence, and NBCBLK. Patrick Executive Produced the 2016-17 “The More You Know” campaign for NBC Universal. Other recurring on-camera clients include TV-ONE’s “Life After”; COZI-TV; BET; The Advocate; Wells Fargo; and Arise Entertainment 360.  As a host for hire, Riley books return business with clients like Prudential, Optum, Disney, American Heart Association, LGBT Music Festival, The Vanguard Awards, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Patrick sings as well. When in season, his popular open mic karaoke experience, All Star Karaoke, attracts an enthusiastic crowd. AirBnB named it “the best way to experience karaoke in New York City” and does travel when booked – including Cancun, Punta Cana, Minneapolis, and Puerto Rico. The franchise attracts brand partners – like Miss Jessie’s; Motown the Musical; Remy Martin; and more. Patrick has received a number of industry nods for his work, including the 2014 Momentum Education’s “Pillar of Empowerment” Award at Momentum Honors in New York City as well as several awards from the National, Atlanta, and New York Associations of Black Journalists, and others. In 2018, the NYC Pride organization awarded him its Trailblazer Award honor in Harlem at The Schomburg Center of Culture & Research. In a rare turn, Patrick portrays “Rudy” in the independent film “STEPS”, his movie acting debut – Executive Produced by Shaquille O’Neal. STEPS premiered in 2016 and continues to screen to extensive praise on the film festival circuit – including the Peachtree Village International, the Newark International, and the Urban World Film Festivals.

Daniel Driffin (panelist) has worked at the intersection of advocacy and assisting communities impacted by HIV for the past decade in Atlanta, GA. He most recently served as Cofounder and Director of External Affairs with THRIVE Support Services, Inc., a patient-advocacy and social support network for Black gay men living with HIV. Daniel received his Bachelor of Science in Biology from Morris College and a master’s degree in Public Health from Morehouse School of Medicine. As a creator of a non-profit, Daniel knows the power of community pooling resources to solve problems. Daniel is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in public health from Georgia State University. Daniel hopes to leverage his DrPH training to continue his influence to create community-driven solutions to improve HIV health outcomes for marginalized communities.

Dr. Daniel Black (panelist) is an award-winning novelist, professor, and activist. His published works include They Tell Me of Home, The Sacred Place, Perfect Peace, Twelve Gates to the City, The Coming, and Listen to the Lambs. In 2014, he won the Distinguished Writer’s Award from the Mid-Atlantic Writer’s Association. The Go On Girl! National Book Club named him “Author of the Year” in 2011 for his novel Perfect Peace. Perfect Peace was also chosen as the 2014 selection for “If All Arkansas Read the Same Book” by the Arkansas Center for the Book at the Arkansas State Library. The novel has been reprinted more than ten times and is being heralded as an American literary classic. Dr. Black has also been twice nominated for the Townsend Literary Prize, the Ernest J. Gaines Award, the Ferro-Grumbley Literary Prize, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Georgia Author of the Year Prize. In 2015, Dr. Black’s The Coming was published to broad critical acclaim. The novel is a first-hand account of the trauma and triumph of Africans aboard a slave ship in the 16th century. Reviewers call this work “brilliant”, “poetic”, and “a literary homage to the lives of those Africans tossed into the sea.” In 2016, Dr. Black’s long-awaited novel Listen to the Lambs was published. This novel explores the lives and agency of homeless people who find each other on the street and create lives of meaning without material substance. Dr. Black’s work has been justly celebrated. National Book Award winning author Charles Johnson says The Coming is “powerful and brilliant.” He goes on to state, “This is a work to be proud of!” Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker says, “Perfect Peace is a spellbinding novel that kept me reading late into several nights. A young boy raised as a girl until ‘she’ was eight years old…. and then? Forced to be a ‘boy.’ It is a gift to have so much passion, so much love, so much beautiful writing so flawlessly faithful to the language of ancestors who grappled as best they could with more than they could ever understand. This novel will one day be a film of much benefit to us, if done well. The visuals of it will help us see what we are so often blind to: the great fluidity inherent in all things, including ‘race’ and sexuality. Thank you, Daniel Black.” Dr. Black’s newest novel, Don’t Cry For Me, has recently been acquired by HarperCollins Publishers. About this novel, National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward says, “DON’T CRY FOR ME is a perfect song: the epistolary dirge of a man singing to his son as he faces death by cancer. At turns intense and funny, tender and brutally honest, Jacob’s letter to his son, Isaac, is revelatory. It’s a beautiful book. Read it.” Dr. Black works intermittently as a diversity consultant, having spoken at top-tier companies in America such as Google, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, At&T, and Global Payments. He assists corporations with the goal of creating a work environment in which all employees, of every level and difference, feel supported and valued. A native of Kansas City, Kansas, Dr. Black spent his formative years in rural Blackwell, Arkansas. Dr. Black graduated from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) where he earned the prestigious Oxford Modern British Studies fellowship and studied at Oxford University. He was awarded a full fellowship to Temple University where he studied with poet laureate of the Black Arts Movement, Sonia Sanchez and earned his Ph.D. in African American Studies. Dr. Black is now Professor of African American Studies at his alma mater Clark Atlanta University. Dr. Black lives in Atlanta and is the founder of the Ndugu-Nzinga Rites of Passage Nation, a mentoring society for African American youth.

Like a vibrant beam of light, Shalonda K. Crawford (panelist), who is aptly known as Dr. Sunshine, approaches the issues we face today with an open mind and a compassionate heart. Her genuine concern and positive energy allow her to permeate the hearts and minds of those she encounters. With 6 professional degrees in tow, Dr. Crawford is always committed to doing her best. As a licensed psychologist in the state of California, Dr. Crawford is adept in exploring deep-seeded issues and identifying the silver lining. Presenting, speaking at various events and on expert panels as well as appearing on several television shows including, VH1’s Love & Listings, Fox Soul’s Chatter, The Tanika Ray Show, ABC7, KTLA Morning Show and Steve Harvey’s ‘Steve On Watch’ _show, her compassion for others and her desire to affect positive change in the community sparks initiatives and has the potential to affect a global transformation in the way that people view mental health. Dr. Sunshine is passionate in her efforts regarding the state of our nation and the unrest that the Black and other minority communities feel. She is equally active in the pursuit to break down the stereotypical and stigmatic walls that prevent us from living our absolute best lives. Currently the Clinic Manager at a community mental health clinic in East Los Angeles, Dr. Crawford has also worked with women as a psychotherapist in the Los Angeles County Century Regional. Detention Center, downtown at Men’s Central/Twin Towers jail and other local institutions throughout Los Angeles. She has worked with children and their families, as well as with adults who are managing various mental illnesses while making their way back into the workplace. She is also a spiritual advisor who works to integrate spirituality and psychotherapy to eradicate the stigma associated with Christians seeking counseling for various mental health conditions including chronic depression, anxiety, abuse and trauma. Her concern for the health and the wellbeing of others goes beyond the realms of mental health to include physical health as well. Dr. Crawford is the co-chair for the First Ladies Health Initiative providing free health screening and resources to those in communities disproportionately affected throughout the Los Angeles area. She is currently a committee member of Aids Healthcare Foundation’s, BLACC Faith where she has accepted the responsibility of raising awareness to the rise of new HIV/AIDS cases in the community. She speaks on behalf of the foundation to encourage testing, prevention and treatment for those directly and indirectly infected. Dr. Crawford is a wife, a mother, and co-pastor alongside her husband, Pastor Shep Crawford of The Experience Christian Ministries (ECM), a progressive and fast-growing church located in South Los Angeles. She is also the founder of “Women Breaking Free” a popular annual women’s conference in Los Angeles, now in its 7th year. Dr. Crawford’s vast and broad experience providing psychotherapy and guidance for a widely diverse clientele has made her one of the most highly sought-after psychologists of our time. Be sure to follow Dr. Sunshine on her website: LifeBrightNow.com and other social media platforms: @thedrsunshine


The AIDS Memorial Quilt was conceived in 1985 by long-time San Francisco gay rights activist Cleve Jones. He wanted to commemorate loved ones who had died of AIDS and allow others the space to do so as well. Jones created the first panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt in memory of his friend Marvin Feldman and public response to the Quilt came in an outpouring of love and fabric. People in the U.S. cities most affected by AIDS—Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco—sent almost 2,000 panels. Donors and volunteers worked tirelessly to create what is considered the largest community arts project in history.

Today, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is an epic 54-ton tapestry that includes more than 48,000 panels dedicated to more than 100,000 individuals. Each panel is catalogued online by the National AIDS Memorial. State-specific blocks of panels are on virtual exhibition through March 2021. View Georgia’s exhibit here.

Forty years into the AIDS pandemic, more than 700,000 lives in the U.S. have been lost to AIDS, more than 1.1 million people live with HIV and an estimated 1 in 7 people do not know they have HIV. In the last figures reported in 2018, Black/African American gay and bisexual men account for the largest number of new HIV diagnoses.


It is important to know your status and get tested. To learn where you can go to receive a free, 1 minute confidential HIV test near you go to FREEHIVTEST.net

To learn more about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and how you can get more involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, got to aidshealth.org

A National Conversation — Dec. 1 at 10 AM – 12 Noon PST

An inspiring forum and discussion about health justice, social activism, remembrance, and hope. Featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci as one of the keynote speakers. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms joins other mayors across the country to discuss on the impact that HIV/AIDS and Covid-19 have had on marginalized communities and how the two pandemics have disproportionately affected communities of color and the systemic barriers that compound poor health outcomes. Join the conversation here.

AID Atlanta is Looking Back and Working Forward by spotlighting 32 people over 32 days who have been involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS in our community. Visit AID Atlanta’s website to read the stories of some of their tireless efforts to educate, test, get people into care, and fight stigma.