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By Imani Williams
An acceptance as true or valid, as of a claim: recognition of their civil rights.
In “Black Butterfly,” songstress Denise Williams tells of a bird that learns to see its inner beauty and then spreads its wings sharing its gifts with the world. The song reminds me of what it feels like to be a black person in this world and the self love that comes with finding and defining one’s self.
As we begin the annual celebration of Black History/Herstory Month I want to pay honor to all members of the LGBT community by first paying homage to those in the movement who are no longer with us. You can expect to find tips and suggestions for getting involved with the same gender loving (SGL) experience at your personal comfort level.
Throughout the month of February, I will share with you a glimpse into the lives of beautiful black people who over the years have at times moved with quiet dignity bringing forth change by simply showing up and being present while enriching the lives of others with grace and strength. Of equal importance are those who have moved with the beat of a pulsating drum demanding change and dignity through poetic prose, song, dance and the refusal to be silenced.
During the month of February, African-Americans celebrate black history. We also recognize National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness day on Feb. 7. As the principles of Kwanzaa are carried out throughout the year February presents as a check point for each of us to take personal inventory of our goals, and our commitment to ourselves, our families and our community.
Our youth are coming out and crying out in record numbers. They need adult guidance even when they think they don’t. In general, if you are sane and healthy in your life and relationships in February 2007 then you may make a good mentor. That is not to say that you can’t have done some “not our best self,” things in the past. Who hasn’t, had some growth steps to take? We all have a story, all God’s Children got travelin’ shoes, and by sharing some of your not so wise choices you may be able to keep a young person on the right track. Being SGL doesn’t come with a guide book most of us learn by default. Life is not a party 24-7 and we need to put that out there also. Anything less is giving young people a wrong and perhaps lethal message.
To every young person who has found the courage to come out to themselves congratulations! This is a major step. The next step is to find someone you can talk to that you trust. Hopefully this person is of good character, i.e., you can pretty much trust them to keep your confidences close to the vest, that they are doing something positive with their lives and will offer you good, safe advice. If you arm yourself with resources you can keep yourself safe while learning about other people who look like you that have traveled the road you’re on and have invaluable teachings within their stories.
The Internet and the public library can turn you onto a wealth of books, information and places for you to express your creativity. We’re working on getting our LGBT history in the school books so you can see faces in there that look like you. Until then make it your personal business to find out as much as you can on your own.
As we look to celebrate National Black HIV/AIDS awareness know that community based organizations like the Horizons Project is a good example of what the community should be doing to reduce the numbers of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the black community.
Horizons Project staff can be found on site and off site at venues around the city of Detroit. They provide: weekly outreach presentations, HIV testing, transportation to weekly medical and clinic appointments, and support groups. Youth and young adults 13-24 years of age are eligible.
Each year, Horizons Project, which is part of the Detroit Medical Center and Children’s Hospital, test over 500 young people for HIV/AIDS. As a prevention program the Horizons Project energetic staff come up with innovative ways such as the 2006 Rock the Park Jam, to reach youth who are testing positive at younger ages. The key phrase being heard around the city is to “Know your status.”
This is good advice for all ages, but especially for our youth who are contracting HIV/AIDS at alarming rates. The stigma still exists around the disease and because of this; many fear rejection and fail to disclose their status. Others, unsure of their status often choose to remain in the dark out of fear of how their lives will be affected. One thing is certain once you know your status you can begin to work on a plan for life with a health care professional that keeps you healthy. As we begin to have this conversation within our communities, we need to include young people in the process. Said conversations can save lives.
Those living with HIV deserve to be embraced and given the tools to live a full and healthy life. With knowledge, compassion and understanding we all live and love better. To become a volunteer with the Horizons Project as they do their part to make the world a better place, or to learn more about their services contact them at:
Detroit Medical Center, Children’s Hospital
3127 Canfield, 3rd floor
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 924-9486 or (313) 924-9487