Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Speaking Voulmes OUT Loud

COP 24/7 Special
The Scapegoating of Michael Johnson

All this week we've been sharing items that have been either posted to our Facebook page ( ) or have been forwarded to us for review. I am still amazed at the variety of items, links, videos and other content that either readers share directly or indirectly with COP 24/7. Even more surprising is how some of this content "connects" the dots to so many other social justice issues that have been profiled on this platform.

Recently COP 24/7 made the acquaintance of journalist Steven Thrasher who came to town in regards to anti-gay legislation that unfortunately became law. His efforts to cover topical and human interest stories continue in his work as a columnist in The Guardian and work on I appreciate Charles Stephens of the Counter Narrative for also putting this story front and center for those in the collective to take notice.

This story highlights so much that went wrong for Michael Johnson now 22 who cloaked himself in an alter ego of "Tiger Mandingo." His story has resurfaced due to his upcoming trial in May. Johnson's life timeline could be the "story" and is the storyline of many young men in communities of color and beyond. Yet his efforts to use what he had to make a better life for him caused him to make poor choices, surround himself with sexual vultures and his character assailed as a predator, monster and cast off that now sits alone in a jail cell.

Just as reminder that Arkansas still has an outdated HIV criminalization law on the books since 1989. Even as there's been a ballyhoo and outcry about Marriage equality and other anti LGBT legislation, there appears to be no interest in this measure which Obama administration issued statements in July 1994 to encourage states to revisit such laws and In October 2012, the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) called for the repeal of statutes that criminalize HIV-related behavior, writing: "Policies and laws that create HIV-specific crimes or that impose penalties for persons who are HIV-infected are unjust and harmful to public health around the world." It argued that such laws contribute to stigmatization and discrimination that inhibit diagnosis and result in "harsh sentencing for behaviors that pose little to no risk of HIV transmission." It advised that "All state and federal policies, laws and regulations ... be based on scientifically accurate information regarding HIV transmission routes and risk."[1]

Yet his story impacted me on many levels as I struggle with the complex issues around what will ultimately happen to young gay black men at the intersections of criminal justice system, HIV and pondering if they really believe that "Black Lives Matter." I have agreed with my fellow CN project comrades to share his story to raise awareness about this issue with plans to ultimately reach out directly to Johnson with letters of support. Watch for updates on our efforts and the final outcomes of his ordeal.


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