Pride 2011 takes flight this week with a host of activities ranging from contest to turnabout throw downs featuring area bar personnel. It's that time of the year when rainbow flags wave boldly and the latest anthem such as Lady GaGa's, "I was born this way" sound off from sound systems everywhere. However, as the merry making and frivolity takes center stage, this forum will continue to call to your attention vital issues and thought provoking dilemmas that will not be apart of the pride parade that will play out before our very eyes. Today KUAR FM.98 continued it's series, "Gay in Arkansas" featuring myself in a interview segment on the intersection of being black and gay. This issue has been debated and hotly contested in numerous platforms across the board. The producer wanted me to discuss the subject from my personal experience as well as my interaction within the community. I have had a colorful array of encounters and confrontations in dealing with race in the GLBTQ community ranging from my choice of partner, internalized racial perceptions that have raised questions as to my "Blackness" in the African American community and ultimately those who still embrace some racist attitudes that need adjusting. I've seen and heard it all, and much of it directly from the mouth's of gay people. As painful as some of it was, I've persevered and stayed steadfast from off color jokes and cartoons, racist statements and even mean spirited verbiage steeped in the word "nigger." It's all been a part of my "living the life," and it's created a stronger individual who still stands tall despite it all. Consequently, for many African-Americans the lavender life takes many turns and twist that makes each of us have unique coming out stories, relationships mixes, and engagements within what we call community. I felt that the above video is my contribution to bringing more substance to not only this week, but weeks to come. Celebrate as you may, but I urge each of you to take time to think a little deeper on how you can make a difference in some one's life not to mention your own.
AIDS in Arkansas: Which way is UP?
COP 24/7 has reported and probed numerous issues around the subject of HIV/AIDS in Arkansas. As we have monitored meetings, seminars and programming, every now and then we find ourselves stumped at orchestrated maneuvers from policy makers to operatives. What set off our radar this outing is the recent awarding of $50,000 to the Black AIDS Institute of Los Angeles, California. Did you say LA as in "it doesn't rain in southern California" fame. Bingo! It appears that the Arkansas Department of Health not the California Department of Health, has decided to engage BAI to promote a statewide AIDS Prevention & Testing Tour similar to a 2010 effort. That tour was apart of the Greater Than AIDS campaign, a national media and mobilization initiative managed by the Black AIDS Institute and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Its purpose was suppose to engage Black individuals and institutions in a community wide effort to end the AIDS epidemic. BAI describes its position in this matter as a founding partner providing leadership and technical assistance. That's all well and fine. But there are several local agencies that have received a ton of technical assistance from far and near not to mention have developed their own home grown leadership. In my opinion, these are "the boots on the ground" in this state, not The Black AIDS Institute. Why can't agencies such as The Living Affected Corp, Arkansas AIDS Foundation, Northwest Arkansas Positive Links or other state oriented groups take the lead instead of playing second fiddle to folks who trotted out D-Lister entertainers for last years basically forgettable Arkansas tour. Although 50K is not a huge sum in the grand scheme of advocacy work, but what exactly did we achieve with that chuck of change? And speaking of tours let's not forget the 6 month Magic Johnson testing tour which stopped through the city in 2010 and the AIDS Health Foundation's Testing America Mobile Clinic speedometer reached 10,000 miles while leaving the state after testing in April of last year. So we got some testing going on, which again is all fine and dandy, yet it seems that all of this continues to fuel the "care paradox" that looms large as the nexus of many issues. Through all this testing, when positive individuals are discovered, will there be sufficient dollars and some common sense to get them into treatment? Where's the plan Stan? There appears to be many meetings, planning group A, B, C and D, and yet Arkansas still has no line item in its budget for HIV/AIDS, possibly flawed statistical reporting, STD rates are spiking, transportation issues exist, and meanwhile an out of state entity scoops up another $50,000 smackerooes for more testing. Ladies and Gentlemen this is a "WTF" moment if any. Listen up end users, consumers and all dealing with living with HIV, each of you need to come to the table to demand some accountability from policy makers and state officials. Not to incite a riot but, bringing some pitch forks and torches might not be a bad idea. Is there more? You damn right, so come on back as we call em out.