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An Inconvenient Truth



"We need a new kind of black leadership, new kinds of black organizations and associations that can bring power and pressure to bear on the powers that be."

- Cornel West


The concept of Black AIDS Awareness Day - any HIV & AIDS awareness day for that matter - has always left me a little conflicted. It just seems that 30 years into an epidemic that has taken the lives of about a quarter million Black Americans, 'awareness' seems to be a weak strategy in addressing the social and historical factors that contribute to Black AIDS. In fact, it seems that AIDS has done as much as any phenomenon to underscore the divisiveness and internal segregation of the Black community at large.


Faith leaders in the Black community openly and freely espouse homophobia and stigma to define their mission and congregation. Our Black elected officials - particularly the men - are completely invisible when it comes to leadership of any kind on any level citing HIV & AIDS as "too controversial" a topic. This exact sentiment seems to be the rationale of our national organizations founded on defending and protecting the civil rights and social justice of people of color - National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, 100 Black Men of America, National Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, among others. It seems that when non-profits and social justice organizations begin making advocacy decisions based on publicity conscious reasons we have not only lost our way, we've lost our collective soul.


Which brings us to the Black AIDS community.


From my admittedly cynical and jaded perspective, we in Black AIDS community are failing ourselves. We take distinct sides when articulating solutions that would support education, prevention, and care of those most affected and marginalized, throwing others under the bus in the process. Far too often I find Black people living with HIV & AIDS essentially 'pimped out' to gain grants or populate glossy media campaigns and far too few of those same individuals left out of meaningful opportunities to change policy or politics.


In many cases, Black people are best seen but not heard when it comes to HIV & AIDS advocacy and activism. In many Southern states, HIV positive individuals are still threatened and intimidated or 'strongly discouraged' not to speak out on behalf of themselves or others falling victim to discriminatory policies. Many of these influences come from executive directors of organizations and even state officials effectively creating and "AIDS plantation" (real-life description of the San Antonio, Texas AIDS community).


Truth is, it really is not new or surprising that the dynamic still exists (not just in the South, by the way) where White people are telling Black and Brown people how to live.


The oppression and suppression of Black faces and voices is also exhibited by Black organization heads seeking to keep clients and staff 'controlled' in the name of getting along and going along. I have lost count of the number of threats of program de-funding, losing a seat on a planning body, denial of HIV & AIDS services, or being fired if one was found or heard being involved in advocacy and activism - including here in D.C., where the AIDS cliques are sharply defined.


Former Bill Clinton Presidential Campaign Advisor and AIDS Activist Mario Cooper wrote in 2006:


"What is stopping us from taking the streets and disrupting business as usual to sound the alarm about Black AIDS? We know we are capable of fighting for our rights, facing down water hoses and police dogs, even marching into Capitol buildings. What is it about HIV & AIDS that holds us back?"


What is holding us back? What is preventing us communicating beyond the AIDS community to the whole Black community in building our networks, building our advocacy, and building toward positive measureable outcomes?


Maybe another more pointed question is are our leaders in the AIDS community - Black leaders - willing to lay caution to the wind and demonstrate - and I mean demonstrate - a unified front representing the entire Black community's fight to end the HIV & AIDS epidemic and the stigma associated with it? With Black individuals in the AIDS community with hefty, well-titled positions - Frank Oldham (executive director, National Association of People with AIDS), Marjorie Hill (executive director, Gay Men's Health Crisis), Patrick Packer (executive director, Southern AIDS Coalition), and Ernest Hopkins (chair, CAEAR Coalition) for starters - shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm with the likes of 'traditional' heads from the aforementioned NAACP, SCLC, as well as civic and social leaders, Faith community, etc., I think a significant message would be sent across the nation if not around the world.


We have templates of community, social, and civil action passed down to us through generations and history that we seem all too comfortable to dismiss as just that - history. Perhaps we are looking in the wrong direction for our leaders in the Black community. Perhaps it is not up to us to wait for leadership, but to become the leadership. Challenge our so-called "best and brightest" to move or get out of the way.


"When ordinary people wake up, elites begin to tremble in their boots."

- Cornel West


It seems that when it comes to Black AIDS, conflicted is where we all are. Now what do we do?


Show Comment(s)

Comments on Larry Bryant's blog entry "An Inconvenient Truth"

Thanks Larry for your comments.

You ask a simple but important question --
"Now what do we do"?

As a small but important starting point we must stop investing so much valuable time and energy on the so-called "Leading Blacks” who are not invested in eliminating HIV and AIDS in our communities.

I suggest that we simply spend more time sharing the stories and lifting up "Black Leaders" from all segments of our community who are engaged in saving Black Lives from HIV Infection & AIDS Care.

Leaders are the people in a community who do what they need to do take care of the community's collective and individual needs. The issues of class, caste, intraracial conflict, self dislike, and numerous other issues must be dealt with for a leader to be able to effectively lead. Diversity is a fact of life in communities of color and issues of diversity must be dealt with for effective leadership to take place.

Here in Brooklyn, New York the organization inwhich I'm associated with "Watchfu Eye" on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, we engage our local and state representives and some churches in our event(s) as we did in the past. The only side-effect is they do not continue to keep it forefront in their daily work. We, as Consumers continue the engagement throughout the year periodically. I'm very much aware of what Mr. Bryant is speaking of and I think people like us should keep it in the forefront with the NAACP, SCLC and others who claim to represent and speak on the plight of Black African Americans.

Sdaly I concur! Since I launched my initial HIv Disclosure Campaign, I have been ostracized and forced to remain silent on the matter. Even worse, I have been emotionally and mentally abused for standin gup agains the homophobia being fed into the minds of Black and White Americans, based on the lies published in the Bible. Yes, I was the "fool" elected to sue the Bible publishers. Sadly, not one person stood by me when I did this.

However, depsite this fact, I continue to move forth in the plight to educate Americans on the truth about this wickedness being perpetrated against those who are merely trying tolive their lives in compliance with the United States Constitution. Meanwhile, I advocate for HIv Disclosure. One because it's time we put a face on this silence of who is and isn't infected.

Who cares! With the growing number of HIV dating sites, there are enough social netowrks for each of us to date within our own community. Moroever, this homophobia issue derives from each homosexuals lack of confidence to stand up and be the men they are. if people understand the truth they will respect it. But if we don't respect ourselves, we cannot expect someone else to respect us.

Therefore, stop crying! Learn the facts. Then, you can see the difference. Read an excerpt at

Or, learn about HIV Dislcosure at

Dr. Cornel West said it best "You can't lead the people if you don't love the people. You can't save the people if you won't serve the people."

With that being said... It's time to stop looking for leadership and being the leaders of today in our communities.

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This page contains a single entry by Larry Bryant published on February 7, 2011 4:57 PM.

Barack, I Need You In The Game was the previous entry in this blog.

Women Don't Need The Strong, Silent Type is the next entry in this blog.

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