In observation of World AIDS Day, the following is an excerpt from a new anthology of stories by Black celebrities and leaders on the issue of HIV and AIDS in the Black community. Entitled, "Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community," author Gil Robertson invites us to read frank and inspiring essays from performers like Patti LaBelle, Mo’Nique, and Hill Harper; bestselling authors like Randall Robinson and Omar Tyree; political leaders like Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders; religious leaders like Rev. Calvin Butts, and many more. The essays include personal accounts and concrete guides for action. They candidly address—among myriad other topics—the impact of AIDS/HIV on family life, the role of the church in combating the disease, and the devastating effect AIDS has had on black women. Available in stores nationwide beginning December 1, 2006, "Not in My Family" is published by Agate Publishing.
Today’s excerpt is from Reverend Al Sharpton and it’s entitled "AIDS: The Power of Truth?"
Black political and church leaders should try to solve problems, but not in an accusatory way. We should be publicly testing and publicly dealing with this disease in a way that embraces families and individuals impacted by HIV or AIDS. We must avoid perpetuating feelings of abandonment and isolation by interrogating victims about how they got the disease…
“Oh you must have done this that or the other to contract the disease.” That kind of blame game really doesn’t matter. If we offered solutions and more comfort we might have avoided the phenomenon of the “down low.” Men are on the “down low” because they were pushed down low. They didn’t jump up and volunteer for this, they were psychologically pushed down low. If I came in your house, beat you up, brought you to the bedroom and put you under the bed, I couldn’t then ask what you were doing down there. I put you down there. I made you afraid to be branded with another scarlet letter. We have done the same in responding to homosexuals. They live part of their life in secret and in the process they are affecting innocent, unsuspecting women in a black community already disproportionately affected by AIDS.
The black community’s hostile message is not very different for black lesbians. I grew up with a sister who was gay. She had to struggle with bias as a black person, bias as a woman and bias within the black community as a lesbian. Witnessing the trinity of pain she faced made me more open minded than most. Many black homosexuals are on the “down low” because of the message they receive from the society at large. Look at how members of the political right dealt with the same sex marriage phobia of the last election. These political trends make black homosexuals even more fearful of being marginalized and ostracized. This is one of the moral impediments the church must address. Even if the black clergy believes that homosexuality is outside the church’s teachings, we have a moral obligation to protect people against bias and discrimination…
Read more in the new book "Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community."