One in a weekly series about the Black AIDS Institute's Greater Than AIDS ambassadors, who are using their VIP status in Black America to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS and HIV testing and treatment.
"We're at a point where we need to ramp it up and talk about HIV even more than we have in the past," says hip-hop pioneer-actress MC Lyte (née Lana Moorer), 39, referring to her renewed charge to galvanize awareness about HIV/AIDS within the African American community.
In 1991 the Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling recording artist released a video for a song called "Eyes of the Soul," with each verse dedicated to a person who had either died from AIDS or was living with the virus. "I can't even tell you that I had lost someone or that I knew of anyone who had lost someone," says Lyte. "I just knew this disease was on its way to causing devastation in the world, but specifically in our communities, and that knowledge just scared the mess out of me." One of the first Black celebrities to do a PSA for AIDS awareness, Lyte always has had her finger on the pulse of the hip-hop community. Even 20 years later, she vows to continue educating young people about the disease.
"Pushing and promoting testing needs to happen much more frequently so that people know that it's just a thing that you do and not a stigmatized circumstance," says Lyte, who was featured in the 2010 BET documentary My Mic Sounds Nice: A True Story of Women and Hip Hop, now available on DVD. She currently hosts a weekend radio show on SiriusXM Radio. Soon she will be launching her own signature line of home decor, "The Lana Moorer Collection" by MC Lyte, and has self-published a book of poetry and inspirational messages, Just My Take, targeted to today's hip-hop generation. "When we talk about HIV more and we talk about testing more, it just becomes a part of our lives. Yeah."
Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, author and documentary filmmaker.