World AIDS Day is ev­ery day

GA Voice - - Outspoken -


My strong and God-fear­ing grand­mother wrapped her weary arms around me, held me close, and cried, “Your mother has AIDS, and your new­born baby brother has the HIV virus.” I re­mem­ber the room spin­ning and I be­came light-headed. The words, “AIDS,” and “HIV” played over and over again in my head. That was in 1990, nearly 25 years ago and those words are still per­ma­nent fix­tures in my head, and in our world.

World AIDS Day is ev­ery day.

I loved my mother, but un­for­tu­nately she, like so many oth­ers in the black com­mu­nity, be­came vic­tims of the 1990s crack and heroin epi­demic that rav­aged our fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. And, be­cause of this drug epi­demic, my mother be­gan us­ing drugs in­tra­venously and to sup­port her habit she pros­ti­tuted her­self to main­tain that high, the mon­key on her back that she could not shake. She did not know she had AIDS. It was not un­til she gave birth to my baby brother, and the doc­tors in­formed her in the hos­pi­tal that he was born with the HIV virus, and, un­for­tu­nately, she had AIDS.

As I learned more about the dis­ease and what it was do­ing to my mother and baby brother’s body, I re­coiled and went into a dark de­pres­sive state. I was only a teenager, strug­gling to know my­self, while also try­ing to find mean­ing and pur­pose in a world of which the odds were al­ready stacked against me. I did not want to deal with this. As I watched the AIDS virus in­ca­pac­i­tate my mother and baby brother my anger and hurt turned to em­bar­rass­ment and shame. I was ashamed be­cause many of my own fam­ily mem­bers os­tra­cized my mother and baby brother, and re­fused to be around them. Many were afraid to be in the same room with her, so she stopped vis­it­ing, and stopped at­tend­ing the fam­ily gath­er­ings. The iso­la­tion suf­fo­cated her as well as me. I cried out ask­ing God why this was hap­pen­ing to my fam­ily. Why me? Why us?

World AIDS Day is ev­ery day.

While in col­lege I lost both my mother and baby brother to AIDS. It was the first time I ever en­coun­tered death. Not long af­ter I buried my mother and baby brother my fam­ily re­ceived an­other dev­as­tat­ing blow. My 19-year old brother had been hos­pi­tal­ized due to a se­vere ill­ness. His kid­neys were fail­ing. The doc­tors pulled us to the side and shared that he was dy­ing. He had AIDS. When he was younger, my brother was in a group home for young boys, and it was there that he was raped by adult male care­tak­ers. He never shared this with us, not un­til he was ly­ing on his deathbed in the hos­pi­tal.

My heart ached for my brother. I mourned for him. I could not fathom the bur­den he must have car­ried of be­ing raped, and then learn­ing he had AIDS. I wanted to take it all away from him, take up his cross, but it was not my cross to carry. My brother died soon there­after.

In my book, Hid­ing In Hip Hop, I share the loss of my fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing many friends over the years to the dis­ease. I keep them alive in mem­ory oftentimes speak­ing their names aloud. I will never forget. We can­not es­cape the tragedy of AIDS and the im­pact it has had on our lives. It is for­ever etched into our mem­ory, and in our ex­pe­ri­ences.

For those of us left be­hind, left here to lift up and carry the torch of those who left us too soon, we must con­tinue to fight. For we know that AIDS is no longer a death sen­tence. There­fore, let us lift our hands, and our voices so loudly that we shake the heav­ens as we boldly pro­claim, AIDS will not de­stroy us!

Ter­rance Dean is a Ph.D. stu­dent in the Graduate Depart­ment of Re­li­gion at Van­der­bilt Univer­sity. He is the au­thor of sev­eral books, in­clud­ing Hid­ing In Hip Hop (Atria/ Si­mon & Schus­ter, 2008), and Mogul: A Novel (Atria/Si­mon & Schus­ter, 2010). Fol­low Ter­rance on Twit­ter @ter­rancedean.

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