By Rae Lewis-Thornton
January 28, 2011
I was told this week on Twitter that I couldn't "be everyone's hero, no matter how many seminars I do or how many times I tell my story." It hit me like a ton of bricks. You really think I do this so people can like me? I don't rightly give a damn if people like me or not. #ForReal. I tweeted that girl until the cows came home. I had just left the doctors with more questions than answers, this was not the day for some petty ass young girl trying to judge me and show off on Twitter. You hating on me cause I'm me? Please!
Then someone saw that I was already upset on Twitter. She gonna push me even more and ask, why I use profanity? Are You Kidding Me? That's all you got out of those tweets? When I said that African-Americans are 46% of the HIV cases in the United States and 12% of the population? Please, I told that child, "I cuss, it's a part of my personality, if you don't like it then unfollow me!" But don't follow me knowing I cuss and then ask me why. What's that really about? HUH?
Oh yeah, and last week I did a blog about the 92 girls pregnant in one school. I suggested that the denial of the African-American community around HIV on one level makes it "ok" to have unprotected sex. If things are going to change, we need to move beyond this denial. We need to accept that we are deeply impacted by HIV and make some changes. Specifically, I said, "We need to stop saying that white people are lying on us about the statics." And how about someone read that blog about moving beyond denial and commented on my Facebook page that 80% of the cases of HIV in that particular county cannot be African-American, "black people can't be the only ones not using condoms," was her argument. HUH?
I even had a few AIDS activists tweet that AIDS ain't a "black" issue in response to Anderson Cooper's special a week ago on HIV. And one stopped following me because I told her she shouldn't sat that. Maybe she didn't realize how she was wording her tweet but it basically said what it said. There was no way around it. People look to us for the facts, and we need to watch how we shape this issue. To say that it's not a black problem or issue, leaves us in denial about the truth. In fact, the same girl who told me I couldn't "be everyone's hero," also said, "You call yourself a minister and activist and yet you single people out?" I love when they throw God in my face. Cute! When Dr. Martin Luther King was in jail in Birmingham, he wrote a letter "singling" white clergy out on the issue of race. So as long as black folks are the overwhelmingly disproportionate in cases of HIV, I'm going to continue to challenge us to get it together.
Yes, America has an obligation to help the black community through this, in that way, it's all of our's problem. And yes, there are other people infected in the United States with HIV other than African-Americans. BUT, as a whole the epidemic is running rampant in our community in the same way it was in the gay community in the 80's. There, acceptance led to activism, which led to resolutions.
Gay men were not on TV talking about why you calling it a "gay issue?" They saw the deaths over and over again. And funeral after funeral sent them to the streets. And you can't take nothing from them on that. That shut it DOWN! But I know black people personally who have had family members die from AIDS and half the family don't even know it. And when the family does know, it's the pink elephant in the room that no one discusses.
It's like we signed some kind of agreement to not talk about HIV/AIDS. So of course you don't know who's impacted because we bury the secret. It's like with Nielsen ratings, we always wonder how they get there data. And we always say, "I don't know anyone who has one of those little boxes to record what we watch." Of course you don't because they make you sign a confidentially agreement. So we don't know how they know, but they do know. Well, your family may not be talking about HIV, but doctors are indeed reporting every single case of HIV and AIDS they get to the Centers For Disease Control They know what they know!
OK, so between last week and this week, I have had to take many a deep breath and drink lots of tea to calm my tail down. And when you put the craziness people say to me on top of my ongoing health issues, I'm so over it! I mean OVER IT! #ForReal.
I mean COME ON people. Get a fucking grip! This is real! You can question my methodology all you want. I know I'm a little provocative. But don't you dare question my heart. I'm over here fighting for my life and the lives of others and that's real. For the last two weeks, on top of all the other madness, I've been talking to a 17 year old young man who just discovered that he has HIV. He's scared, hurt, confused, and living in fear of disclosure, even to his mother. When I say I'm OVER it! I am OVER the bullshit! Come on PEOPLE! Help me in this fight!
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Rae Lewis-Thornton Speaks
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
Rae is an active user of social media -- read "Long-Term HIV Survivor Discovers the Power of Twitter," an article on TheBody.com about Rae's social media activities.
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