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Who Loves Us When We Are Messy?

January 6, 2017

For the love of absolutes we miss the subtleties of moments and the tempestuous rhythm of grace. For the love of absolutes arrests us, and we are bound by it like a rigid system.

-- Abdul-Aliy

Today has been hard. My body aches and my heart is broken. I lost a friend, and I'm complicit in his death because I didn't reach for him when he fell. He worked tirelessly to be seen as valuable only to fall and be forgotten. Capitalism embeds messages of someone's productivity being equal to the value they hold, and when we fail to be productive, our humanity is remitted and we are slowly looked upon as burdens without value. Our lights dimmed, we become ancestors. It is hard to love someone who's vulnerability piques yours and whose struggle reminds you of just how fragile we all are and symbolizes the hurt of trauma caused by generational black pain, HIV stigma, the shame of addiction and the ruthlessness of non-profits that will dismiss you when you've fallen. We must do the work to build with each other even when we see how our hearts yearn for completeness.

Who loves us when we're messy? I'm messy, I don't always perform "the straight and narrow," and sometimes, I break from being loving, for I am a creature of emotions and hurt. I have made the mistake of throwing people away. I've loved them less and have stopped reaching for them. This hasn't fortified me; it has left deep holes in my spirit. What happens when we envision that relationships can be restored and love is without condition? It is hard to love and be hurt at the same time. We endure through the pain levied against us by white supremacy but can't take the shade of our community. We clock in every day to make a dollar at institutions that bury us as quickly as they use our narratives to thrive, but we have no patience for each other?

HIV/AIDS non-profits or AIDS service organization have for years looted communities of their leaders. Taking in the young and optimistic black and brown youth who envision a better tomorrow to have them invest less in vision and more in meeting contractual obligations. Burning them out by having them use less of their minds and more of the tactics to ensure sign-in sheets are full and the numbers for a specific cohort or testing event are high. When you try to be innovative, they tell you to stick to the intervention model to ensure fidelity even when they know the particular program isn't working. When these black and brown youth ask for educational and skills-based support, they are often met with the sentiment: Do you need that particular training to perform your job? There is no investment in them. Nobody in director positions or above extends any kind of resources to the very communities they know intellectually to be marginalized or face barriers to attaining positions of power within the non-profit structure because of the institutional racism they claim their policies and practices disrupts.

We pretend that we can make mess go away when we won't look at it. It won't! We must unpack it and look at it the same way we look at the brilliance we hold. Year after year, we lose people we forgot to reach for. They succumb to death, and it's a sobering reminder to hold people tighter even if it takes work. We can find a way to hold both truths about ourselves. We are bold and broken and deserve space to heal. Ashe.

Related Stories's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
HIV and Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
More Personal Accounts on African Americans and HIV

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Chanting From the Margins: When Blackness, Queerness and HIV Intersect

Abdul-Aliy A Muhammad

Abdul-Aliy A Muhammad

Abdul-Aliy is a Black Magical Queer, Non-Binary Philly Jawn who was made well/raised well in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They worked in prevention for six years and currently organizes with the Black and Brown Workers Collective and facilitates anti-oppression trainings with the BlaQollective. They've pushed through with HIV since being diagnosed in 2008.

Find them on Tumblr.

Photo credit: Clint Steib/

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