31 December 2009

World AIDS Day, Re/Memory, & Activism

Thoughts & Reflections from 1st December 2009

On World AIDS Day - I sit remembering those who have passed (my mother especially) and those who survive. My red ribbon is always on my bag because everyday - I remember.  There's so much silence in our communities about HIV/AIDS - it baffles me how little we talk about it. I wish I talked about it more, but it is so difficult. It's been 13 years since my mother passed away from complications due to HIV/AIDS. And its only been in the past three years that I've really talked about it in any kind of public setting.  A few years ago I was asked to discuss HIV/AIDS and the stigma in the Caribbean at a Caribbean Students Association at UF - where I was a grad student at the time. So I decided to break my own silence and talk to fellow students about my story and my mother's story. At first it was really hard, but then other students opened up too. I had for many years done lots of research/reading on HIV/AIDS, and I also did a number of community service activities in college,  But talking about my personal connection to the disease was something I did not do very often. Grad school became a space for me to continue this work and also connect to the personal more. So I've been way more active in HIV/AIDS work since I finished grad school, and I've used my community work as a space to discuss larger issues of gender and sexuality in Black communities as well. I think we also have to expand the discourse - not just fight the stigma of the disease, but also fight the stigmas we have about our sexuality and sexualities.

We also have to be break the silences, push through our fears, and embrace our loved ones who are living with HIV/AIDS. We must do this. And we must fight for equal and fair access to treatment and medicine. Not just on World AIDS Day or National Black HIV/AIDS Day - but everyday. This makes me think about how we do activism - how do we live our politics? how do we stay in the struggle? how do we remember our histories?  

During the thanks-taking week, Democracy Now aired this beautiful show about the Native American singer/songwriter and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie - someone I had heard of only through her music. I didn't realize how much of an activist she was till I watched the show. I meant to share this clip in November, but time escaped me and so I'm finally doing it now. And so in honor of both World AIDS Day and what should be considered a National Day of Mourning in North America - remembering Amer-Indians and Indigenous' Peoples whose lands were stolen, whose histories have yet to be acknowledged by the dominant culture - I wanted to share this piece on Democracy Now.  Buffy Sainte Marie reminds us all that no matter our cause, we can use our minds, hearts, voices, spirits to fight in the struggle... and that we must continue to be present and move forward while remembering the past. I think of this work as - Re/memory - it is the embrace and acceptance of what has happened - the stories that have not been told - and it is the re-collection of those stories and bringing them to consciousness. 

Democracy Now! Special: An Hour of Music and Conversation with Legendary Native American Singer-Songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie

No comments: