On June 6th I will be 48 years old. I have been living with HIV/AIDS for more than half of my life.
On June 5th, Long Term Survivors Awareness Day ...
"Our son didn't deserve to die," said the parents of Trayvon Martin. Just 17 years old when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. Trayvon wasn't doing anything besides walking home with a bag of Skittles and some iced tea in his hands. Doing what the average teenager does. What makes Trayvon's death so much harder is knowing the man who confessed to killing him, George Zimmerman, may be acquitted. No family should ever have to go through this nightmare. The law should protect everyone, regardless of where they live, how much money they make, or what color their skin is.
I've thought a great deal about what's happening to our youth as it relates to their rate of infection from HIV. Most of the time when I speak, share or blog, HIV in our youth is what I speak, share or blog about because that is where my life is centered.
On June 10th I received a brief email from Lawrence L. Denson, Ph.D., informing the members of Men Of Color in Motion (a psycho-social spiritual support group) in Atlanta, Georgia, that a Quilt in honor of Richard Anderson the group founder is being created for display during the 2012 International AIDS Conference. The message went on to say: "If you are interested and available to assist with this endeavor a representative from The NAMES Project Foundation will meet us on Wednesday, June 13th from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m." The message included the regal black and white photograph of Richard Anderson.
It has been some time since my last blog entry. I must apologize to those of you who have been following me. The last three months have been the most challenging time I have had in years. I have to share with you all that in November 2009 I decided to follow what I believe my God has purposed for my life. That purpose is to use my professional and personal life story to speak, share, write, educate, advocate full time on the battlefield against the pandemic of HIV/AIDS. For me, what that means is devoting all of my time and attention to Cycle for Freedom, public speaking, writing for The.Body.com, as well as attempting to self-publish Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens: Prayers, Poems & Affirmation for People Living with HIV/AIDS. All of this has come with great personal sacrifice. My employment is my activism and thus far what has been generated I am grateful for, however it has not allowed for personal sustainability.
We were first introduced through our social network in 1989. I did not have enough information about you nor was I consciously connecting to my sexual behavior with my sexual identity. You traveled with your friend syphilis looking for any opening to attack and you both crashed the party. Your friend syphilis became noticeable while you went about your work without detection.
In a previous blog, "Sowing Seeds for the Movement," I shared that throughout 2010 I had been working on several other projects and how I am excited regarding the completion of an anthology entitled, Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens: Prayers, Poems, & Affirmations for People Living with HIV/AIDS. The work over the last eighteen months has brought my spirit great rewards as the submissions have touched my soul, provoked internal dialog, made me cry, filled me with hope and connected me to an international community of compassionate contributors who have shared their work to empower our world.
The homophobia in the black community runs so deep that we can't even recognize it when we hear it or read it. You may or may not have heard about the recent dialog regarding CNN's Roland Martin being under fire from gay rights groups after tweeting that people should "smack the ish out" of male fans of a steamy Super Bowl commercial starring David Beckham.
It was sometime in 2010 when I came to the attention of Olivia Ford, community manager for TheBody.com. I had been sending out press releases to every email that I could find in HIV/AIDS media. Olivia was the only person to respond to the news that an HIV-positive person was working toward a national HIV/AIDS mobilization campaign, Cycle for Freedom. You can't imagine the joy and excitement that I was feeling after sending well over 100 emails with no response.
In 2009, I was shaken by the loss of two very dear friends who were warriors on the battlefield for HIV education and awareness: Richard Anderson (Atlanta, Ga., founder of Men of Color in Motion) and Floyd Patterson (Pittsburgh, Pa.). Both were long-term survivors and transitioned from AIDS-related illnesses. These men lived openly with HIV/AIDS, sharing and pushing back against HIV-related stigma. Following their loss, I took some time in prayer and meditation with God, asking the question, "Why am I still here after 21 years of dealing with this virus?" Out of the time with God came my new assignment: Cycle for Freedom, a national HIV/AIDS mobilization campaign, was founded shortly afterward in 2010.