Re-Imagining #HIV/AIDS Inc: Intergenerational (Ex)Changes


Recently I’ve found myself beyond disillusioned with the work I’ve committed myself to over these last five years, especially that concerning the liberation of black and latin@ queer folks, who are also HIV+. The movement has felt much more like a government sanctioned & regulated line dance, to an all too familiar song, where only the strong are pushed aside. Long time activist, writer, speaker and researcher Kenyon Farrow has put this into words here, in a piece that provides historical context and salient critiques. See his quotation below.

“Surprisingly, this top-down model of advocacy is being actively promoted and adopted by a younger generation of black gay men, despite their earnest interest in being of service to the community. So it’s not uncommon to hear many younger Black gay HIV advocates reference and promote the great legacies of Essex Hemphill, Bayard Rustin, Marlon Riggs and others by referencing them on social media or at public events, but studying or embodying their political commitments and ethics to social justice agendas that involve radical cultural and political strategies is not reflected in the work of many of these new activists and organizations. There are only a handful of organizations invested in developing new models for community organizing, base-building, political education, movement-building, and in developing grassroots leadership among black gay men who aren’t in universities, bound for graduate school, or working as a part of the AIDS, Inc. machinery. This is partly due to a number of things that have happened over the last twenty years, including the abandonment of LGBT funding for HIV/AIDS as a social justice issue and the lack of support for local (non-national) community organizations. Consequently, black gay cultural and organizing groups have shifted to become government funded HIV prevention organizations, which has lead to an overall invisibility of HIV as a social justice issue amongst black communities within the United States. The fact that even these organizations are closing or have seen their impact dwindle even further is evidence that a different approach is needed.”

We need to move beyond the electric slide of short-sighted funding, deficit-based analysis, sex-shaming and those god-awful stigma inducing warnings about HIV & AIDS. We need solutions that emanate from the bodies and minds of HIV & AIDS Survivors. A language that notes that folks with HIV are not “HIV Infected or Afflicted” but instead champions–HIV Survivors–that arise daily and live, through it all, as Maya says “with passion, compassion and style.” Our models cannot simply utilize and weaponized the stories and realities of poz bodies to scare others into being tested or taking less radical and “risky” sexual adventures, but we must instead allow folks who are poz and those are loving and concerned to speak truth to power without scorn or lashing. We need leaders that are not appointed but are instead necessary for the task and the moment. We need uninhibited artists who fuck our minds with they art in ways similar to the ways in which we are fucked by the system. We need musicians who arouse and awaken our spirits in a manner unfamiliar to the non-profit industrial complex. We need speakers who not only speak truth(s) to power, but to self and reflect, perfect and edify community wisdom(s). We need organizers who organize to build power and proactive movements, not simply purveyors of reactionary mobilization or pimps of pain and suffering. We must move beyond AIDS Inc, destroy and deconstruct it, so that we might finally build Us Inc., where all the living can be and no longer long for a place called home that is neither dismembering or shame-inducing in it’s politic or practice. We need less emphasis on neck ties and more emphasis on love ties.

We are not simply the ones we’ve been waiting for–we’re the ones that even we ignore. Our power is present and evident yet we fail to ignite it for fear of what may be lost and what might be gained. We may lose our access to heteronormative and “American” hegemonic, sociopolitical power and capital. People will laugh and call us crazy. They will discard our research. We will write more. They will ridicule our fantasies of equity. We will dream deeper. They will fire us. We will hire us. They will push us out of their circles. We will build community. They will strip our access to upper & middle class functions. We will strive for the abolition of class and caste and love the barber as if he were the president, and speak freely to the Senator as if he were the stylist. We will remain–that is no doubt. Bu we will only flourish when we recognize our collective wisdom and the singers sing, the lawyers lawyer, the fathers father, the teachers teach–all according to our passions and abilities–and all leading in time and turn and unison. We must stop fearing a world where our greatest hopes and needs are realized.

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