Young People Help Make a Movie About Blacks and HIV/AIDS
March 8, 2010
Four years ago, Tamira Noble was sitting in her high school biology class when a smiling woman with dreadlocks invited students to participate in a film project dealing with HIV. Tamira, who considered herself a nerd, had dreams that reached beyond her struggling, all-Black Westinghouse High School, located in one of Pittsburgh's poorest neighborhoods.
Scores of her peers declined to take part in the film, fearing it would be just "another project about everybody Black having AIDS." Tamira shared their concern and also worried that she would be teased and stigmatized if she got involved. But she didn't say no; she took home a permission slip to share with her mom. After the two of them talked it over, Tamira decided that she should participate.
The smiling woman in the classroom turned out to be former ABC News journalist Claudia Pryor, who produced the 90-minute film, Why Us? Left Behind and Dying. Tamira ended up becoming the narrator -- "the voice" of inner-city young people -- and also helped write and produce the documentary, an innovative effort to explore why HIV disproportionately affects Black people. In total, twenty students braved the stigma to become researchers, speaking to scientists, public health workers and people living with HIV/AIDS about the deadly intersection of race, science and culture. Although Black Americans ages 11 to 25 are only 16 percent of the U.S. population, they account for 65 percent of new HIV infections.
By the time the project was finished, Tamira was a junior in college. Since working on the film, she has traveled to the Bronx, New York, and other communities to spread the word about the documentary. We spoke with her at a Pittsburgh screening.
When did you first meet someone with HIV?
Did other students know you were participating?
What did you learn?
What about HIV surprised you most?
At first you were concerned about being labeled "one of the AIDS kids." Why?
Why is the stigma so harsh among Black teens?
At the end you got an HIV test. Why?
How have you changed as a result of your experience?
What's next for you now?
Ervin Dyer is a writer who covers the African diaspora.
You'll be able to purchase either the consumer version -- which includes the documentary feature and is for private home use (86 minutes); or the educational version -- which includes the documentary feature, 12 extra video segments which explore, one at a time, the specific issues that impact HIV/AIDS in the black community, and a legal license to use the material in an educational, instructional, free public setting. (approx. 3 hours).
E-mail the film's director, Claudia Pryor, to set up a screening and Q&A with her and/or her students.
This article was provided by Black AIDS Institute. Visit Black AIDS Institute's website to find out more about their activities and publications.
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