Prevention Justice: A Different Kind of World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is usually marked by solemn events marking another year into the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We count how many deaths, and how many people living wit HIV, and sometimes we remember famous people who have died from the disease.

And there is where it usually ends.

But this year, YOU can do something different! I AM!

I am heading off to Atlanta on Friday to begin to work spend the next few days writing, blogging, pr-ing and capturing the Prevention Justice Mobilization. The PJM is working with several other organizations to across the nation to re-ignite a social justice movement around the HIV epidemic in the US, because “HIV is NOT just a disease. It’s proof positive of injustice!” We will be hosting a series of activities beginning World AIDS Day in Atlanta, and running in conjunction with the CDC and NIH’s National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta December 2-5th.

The truth is that we STILL have an HIV epidemic in this country, and it does not appear to be getting better. Many of us have lulled ourselves into thinking about HIV as solely an issue of individual risk–and have abandoned any kind of radical analysis on the left. The Left, by and large, simply does not deal with HIV as a social justice issue at all.

But hopefully we, with your help, can change that. We can both remember and honor people who have died from HIV but also continue to think through, and include in our analysis in a real way (not just add to the lefty laundry list) the way in which risk of HIV infection is a symptom of socio–economic status in a racist/misogynist/homo and transphobic society.

Here are some tools to help speak to this issue, and I hope you’ll pass this along to your friends and comrades, and your lists.

So I hope you listen to this radio show that speaks very much to the issue.

  • The internationally broadcast radio show Making Contact just began airing a show about Black and Latina women and HIV called The Color of AIDS: Bringing Risk Up to Date. You can listen to it on the site. They write: In the United States, HIV/AIDS is no longer just a disease affecting white, gay men. The percentage of cases of women living with HIV has tripled in the past 20 years, and women of color are most affected. Yet outdated perceptions about the epidemic drive government prevention work, from the way data is collected to who gets tested. On this edition, those on the frontlines of the grassroots HIV/AIDS movement bring the discussion about HIV risk up to date. They say generating more relevant prevention models is literally a matter of life and death, especially for women of color.”
  • Keep up with the latest in Prevention Justice on the site and blog, www.preventionjustice.org.
    You can also endorse the mobilization there, if you haven’t already.

Psychos: Republican Youtube Debates

In between Top Model and Project Runway, I needed something to do. So I turned on the CNN Youtube Debates. This time with the Republicans–who delayed this debate for several months.

These people are crazy.

Now, as much as I hate liberalism, these people are blood thirsty, trigger happy lunatics! And I am talking about the audience as much as I am the candidates!

I wish I was taking more studious notes (I wasn’t planning to blog on this), but the audience has applauded for some of the most violent rhetoric around gun control, crime, the death penalty and the war on terror. The audience booed when Ron Paul said about Iraq “It’s time to give these people their country back!” They cheered when Mitt Romney said essentially (but not an exaggeration) that Black people were pathological becuase they are fucking like animals out of wedlock.

If one of these jokers wins this election, pack your bags. I mean, I know if any of the Democrats win, things aren’t gonna be paradise. But at least they can be reasoned with, and will listen to people. These people–who call themselves Republicans these days–want blood.

Election Gagger: Obama Reads Clinton, And Closes In On Her Lead

Obama is playin the dozens now!

Last week, Senator Hillary Clinton was again talking to the press about how much experience she has, and how little Senator Barack Obama has, and why this would make her a better president. Clinton said “We can’t afford on-the-job training for our next president.”

Barack’s response could be seen as nothing less than a fierce read:

“My understanding is that she wasn’t Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration. I don’t know exactly what experience she’s claiming.”

That sounds like a line I would write! LOL!!! He must have a new black gay man on staff cranking out witty one-liners that fierce!

But he also seems to be narrowing the lead she has in Iowa and New Hempshire. Last week’s ABC/Washington Post survey show him with a 4 point lead, which makes the race really a dead heat. It’s clear that Clinton’s messaging staff is going to have to rethink her focus on “experience” because Obama is coming for her on that point, and it’s looking like Democratic voters aren’t sold on it either. A poll Reuters reported on today showed that Clinton would lose today against any of the Republican candidates if the election were to happen today. Neither Obama or Edwards would lose to them in the same poll. That’s fierce.

This weekend the two battled it out over each other’s health care plans. When I have some time, I will try to look at them both closely and offer some critique. Clinton said:

“If you go back and look, he said it was universal,” Clinton said, “[then] he said it was sort of universal, [then] he said it wasn’t universal, [then] he said it covered everybody, [then] he said it didn’t cover 15 million. He [said he had] a mandate for kids, now he’s against mandates.”

Obama responded in a statement to CNN by saying

“Sen. Clinton’s idea is that we should force everyone to buy insurance. She’s not being straight with the American people because she refuses to tell us how much she would fine people if they couldn’t afford insurance.”

The CNN story basically describes their plans briefly, and Barack is raising a question I have about Hillary’s plan, which is that her plan IS a mandate, which means not having insurance is a criminal act. That is not at all useful.

But this, my friends, is now getting interesting.

This Week in Race: Angela Davis, Gerald Boyd & The Black Class Divide

Is there such a thing as the Black “community” anymore? To what extent has the Black middle class abandoned poor blacks? How do the black middle class still get treated in America despite their efforts to rise above racism?

This week there were several news articles that asked these questions. Forty some odd years after the Civil Rights/Black Power Movement was violently dismantled, 35 years after the flood of heroin into black communities, 25 years after the begininng of AIDS and crack, mass imprisonment, and urban renewal (aka Negro removal aka gentrification), black Americ is seemingly beginning to shake off the whirlpool of disasters in order to figure out what has happened over the last 40 years.

In a November 8 interview with the UK Guardian, Black feminist scholar and activist Angela Y. Davis told (my favorite journalist) Gary Younge about her perceptions of what is happening today (and I recommend the entire article, her perspective is pretty damn sharp about everything from Condoleezza Rice to Barack Obama to prisons).

“We used to think there was a black community. It was always heterogenous but we were always able to imagine ourselves as part of that community. I would go so far as to say that many middle-class black people have internalised the same racist attitudes to working-class black people as white people have of the black criminal. The young black man with the sagging pants walking down the street is understood as a threat by the black middle class as well. So I don’t think it’s possible to mobilise black communities in the way it was in the past.”

Speaking of the black middle class, New York Magazine has a feature profile of the late former NY Times Managing Editor Gerald Boyd. Boyd loved the news. And he worked his way up the newspaper chain as a boy from St. Louis all the way to the world’s most prestigious daily. But that didn’t spare him when they needed a fall guy for the Jayson Blair affair.

Not to say that a senior staff such as Boyd and his former friend colleague Harold Raines didn’t bear some responsibility for the letting so many fabricated stories by the young journalist go to print without ever catching it. But it was the fact that it was pinned on him, simply by the fact that he MUST be giving Blair some sort of break because he was black, or that they were even friends or colleagues because they were both Black. Absurd. As it turns out, the two apparently didn’t really even like each other. However, New York Magazine retraces the life of a man who tried so hard to swallow the bitter pill of racism in order to overcome it, to only be poisoned by it at the end.

“…Boyd, too, was trapped by the silence of race. At an awkward “group therapy” session at Behr’s home on the Upper West Side, he revealed that he’d worn a dashiki at college—and the sharing stopped there. (“How racism hurt Gerald was not a comfortable subject to Gerald,” Behr said.) And he was deflated when a female reporter blurted, “Gerald, you make me feel very white.”

After fourteen stories on page one, the team hit the lecture and talk-show circuit. Suddenly, Boyd had license to vent the frustrations he’d smothered inside his tight Windsor knot. Race was “the American nightmare,” he said. Black people gave it so much weight “that you can’t be yourself, you have to try to figure out how whites want you to be. And it doesn’t change based on how much success you have.”

In a roundtable published in the Times Magazine, he was eerily prescient: “Race is out there, time and time again. And if you’re not careful, it’s going to reach out and slap you and knock you down in some way, and you’ll never be able to get up from it.”

Davis and Boyd both point to the conundrums of blackness in the US. They represent and express what seem to be growing tensions and anxieties in the black community, as exhibited by two recent studies.

The Pew Center just released results from a survey showing “African Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and nearly four-in-ten say that because of the diversity within their community, blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race.”

The survey also finds blacks less upbeat about the state of black progress now than at any time since 1983. Looking backward, just one-in-five blacks say things are better for blacks now than they were five years ago. Looking ahead, fewer than half of all blacks (44%) say they think life for blacks will get better in the future, down from the 57% who said so in a 1986 survey.

Whites have a different perspective. While they, too, have grown less sanguine about black progress, they are nearly twice as likely as blacks to see black gains in the past five years. Also, a majority of whites (56%) say life for blacks in this country will get better in the future.

What I don’t understand is the issue of how blacks van’t be thought of as a single race. Do they perhaps mean a singular culture? The two words have very distinct meanings. The Washington Post reported on another study by the Pew Charitable Trusts on economic acheivement of Americans, and the data on African-Americans over the last 40 years has worsened.

Nearly half of African Americans born to middle-income parents in the late 1960s plunged into poverty or near-poverty as adults, according to a new study — a perplexing finding that analysts say highlights the fragile nature of middle-class life for many African Americans.

Overall, family incomes have risen for both blacks and whites over the past three decades. But in a society where the privileges of class and income most often perpetuate themselves from generation to generation, black Americans have had more difficulty than whites in transmitting those benefits to their children.

   

Forty-five percent of black children whose parents were solidly middle class in 1968 — a stratum with a median income of $55,600 in inflation-adjusted dollars — grew up to be among the lowest fifth of the nation’s earners, with a median family income of $23,100. Only 16 percent of whites experienced similar downward mobility. At the same time, 48 percent of black children whose parents were in an economic bracket with a median family income of $41,700 sank into the lowest income group.

Erykah Badu Comin Back with Honey

Tomorrow Alicia Keys drops As I Am, and Seal comes with his 5th effort System. But coming on November 20th, my homie, Southern Gul Erykah Badu is coming back syrupy sweet with a new single called Honey. According to the fansite Erykah-Badu.com, the full CD will drop February 26, 2008. The album has no title a this point, but the rumor has been that she has a total of 3 albums done, and will release them 6 months apart consecutively. Check out the new single, HONEY!

Baisden Apologizes: Some Lessons About Black Mobilizing

After Color of Change published the cancelled checks to lawyers, emails to Jena 6 family members and what not, Michael Baisden was forced to issue an apology on his website (albeit begrudgingly).

He writes:

Response to Color of Change

The Michael Baisden show and staff were given inaccurate information regarding donations made by the public and David Bowie. We apologize to our listeners and to ColorofChange for not seeking more reliable sources. According to documentation provided by the organization through their web site, all the funds collected by ColorofChange have been distributed to the families as promised.

We do, however, respect the right of four of the Jena 6 families who have insisted that ColorofChange discontinue collection of any monies on their behalf. But this should not reflect on the integrity of this organization which has collected and distributed over $200,000 to their legal defense.

Any insinuations that were made about me wanting to be the sole fundraiser for legal defense is ridiculous. I am too tired after my radio gig to take on that responsibility, and furthermore, it is impossible. No one man or organization can fund the movement of an entire nation.

I am relieved to have put this behind us so that both our organizations can get back to the business of helping people. There is nothing wrong with having disagreements, as long as you love the people enough to work it out, sooner rather than later.

Thanks again for your support of the many organizations that are doing an outstanding job of raising money to help those who desperately need it. We’ve got a long way to go family and we won’t get there unless we work together. Divided we fall!

Michael Baisden

That’s something I guess. But given the fact that the entire premise of his criticisms was false, it should have been an unqualified apology. Other bloggers have written about this as well, namely Write What I Like and my new favorite What About Our Daughters both have very interesting things to say about this. The Chicago Tribune also published a story about this whole fiasco.

But I think this entire Jena 6 situation needs to be a major lesson to the Black community in many ways:

  1. Black activism is now online and it’s here to stay! For all the talk about the digital divide, the Jena story happened largely because of Black bloggers. There have been several other cases of things happening in the last several years due to the power of Black online communities. People like Baisden (or whomever else) cant just say some shit and get away with it without impunity anymore because people are listening, and have their own means to respond, and don’t have to have a radio show, a newspaper or a television station to do so.
  2. Stop making issues about individuals! You’ll come up short! The boys involved in Jena aren’t saints. What happened to them was fucked up without a doubt, and didn’t deserve the racism they received in that school, that town, or in the (in) justice system there in Louisiana. I think it was important to mobilize and get them out of that situation, but to also use this as a jumpoff point to begin to put pressure on our public school systems to de-militarize them, and address the ways in which black youth are criminalized in schools. Believing in heroes or infallable human beings will get you blaming organizations against the word of a sole family member without any proof. Organizer and labor scholar Bill Fletcher has some interesting things to say about this on Znet.
  3. Black entertainment is not Black journalism! We need to be clear that what Baisden does is not news. It is entertainment. Therefore you should take it as such. Be skeptical. But hell, be skeptical of the news, too!
  4. What about Megan Williams? What about the woman in Dunbar Village? The Newark 4? We will come running anytime a young black man is in trouble. We will sometimes come running if a Black woman has been attacked by white men. But we will do absolutely nothing when Black men attack black women. When will we put this much energy to support black women who are subject to violence, or by the criminal justice system?

There are more things to be learned. More things to look over about this situation. I hope that all the hurt feelings and accusations and whack-ass apologies don’t sour us as bloggers from doing what we’re best at. If media is the watchdog of power, to me, the blogosphere is the watchdog of the media.

Color of Change Shuts Down Foolish Michael Baisden’s Criticisms

Color of Change, the online progressive activism and advocacy site for issues concerning Black folks, has won the battle against black radio talk show host Michael Baisden and Mychal Bell’s father Marcus Jones, who spent the last several days accusing Color of Change of pocketing over $200,000 the group raised for the legal defense of the Jena 6. They published a statement refuting the accusations, and published copies of the cancelled checks they cut to the Jena 6 lawyers. They write in some of their core points (go HERE to read in its entirety, and listen to the radio segments from the Baisden show):

  • ColorOfChange.org has disbursed $210,809.90 of the $212,039.90 collected as of the last reporting period (October 4th). These distributions cover all invoices we’ve received from the young men’s legal teams to date. $33,150.00 was sent to Louis Scott, Marcus Jones’ son’s lawyer on October 7th (Scott was able to request $35,339.98 but only provided an invoice for $33,150).Here are images of the deposited checks to the defense teams, proving they received the funds.
  • The Jena 6 families are all aware of how we raise money and how we distribute it. We make payments to their attorneys at the families’ sole direction. Within 24 hours of receiving written authorization from the family, along with an invoice from an attorney, we send checks for up to 1/6 of the total amount donated. Here are the authorizations signed by the families, starting with Marcus Jones’.
  • Michael Baisden has shown a reckless disregard for the truth. Marcus Jones has been making false allegations about us for months. However, responsible journalists check facts and then report accordingly. We’ve fielded inquiries from CNN, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Black America Web, and others, based on Marcus Jones’ allegations–they all concluded the claims were without merit and refused to give him a stage to speak. Despite knowing the reality of how ColorOfChange has managed the fundraising and distribution process, Baisden has joined with Jones in launching baseless attacks.
  • ColorOfChange.org exists for one reason: to organize and amplify the political voice of Black America and our allies. Michael Baisden claims to share this goal but he is using his show to recklessly attack an organization that has a clear record of doing the real work he claims is important, in Jena and beyond.(their emphasis)

If you didn’t know Baisden before the Jena 6 event, I could have told you: The man is a damn fool using his radio show to position himself as an authority–usually on love and relationships mostly. I usually hear his show when I’m in South Carolina driving around, as I usually don’t listen to shitty corporate radio. I have heard him make several gross inaccuracies on his show, usually about HIV/AIDS (especially about men on the down low), or talking about what “men are like” or what “women are like” with nothing but his two cents to back it up. Unfortunately he has misused a moment the black community was mobilized around to spread misinformation. At this point, Baisden has about as much journalistic integrity as Bill O’Reilly and people with sense should take anything that comes out of his mouth with a grain of salt.

I don’t know what Marcus Jones stands to gain by appearing on the radio and defaming an organization that gave money so that he or his son or Ms. Bell or any of the defendants’ families would not be sunk in a debt they may never recover from. Maybe he really and truly thought they had done something wrong. Maybe he was cajolled into it. Maybe he was expecting checks to be cut to the families. Whatever the case, I blame Baisden and his producers who should have better vetted the story before decided to go on the air with it. Are your ratings (0r your need to be seen as the sole hero of Jena, Louisiana) really worth destroying the black community’s trust in a new black organization actually doing innovative work beyond what some of our dinosaur organizations have done in decades?

Read what my friend Andre had to say at Write What I Like.