An Epic Return to the Crystal Ball (Sat, June 4, Philly) FREE

4 06 2011

The community is buzzing about the return of the Crystal Ball–an effort by the COLOURS Organization to creatively incorporate HIV prevention messages within a free ball. The first Crystal Ball took place in 1997. Tonight’s return is historic.

Check out this great coverage by the Philadelphia Gay News.


At Least We’re Not Dying From AIDS: A Retrospective by Michael Hinson

7 02 2011

Grant, MICHAEL HINSON, Smith, Haskins and Carson

Today marks the 11th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Community leader Michael Hinson offers this incredible reflection on how far our communities have come since the first cases of HIV/AIDS were recognized. It includes an original piece by Arnold Jackson (August 25, 1957 — May 3, 1998).

Today, February 7, 2011 is National Black AIDS Awareness Day, a day of reflection about HIV disease in Black communities all around the world. As I have reflected over the past couple days (knowing this day was coming), I m reminded about my own journey from not knowing about the disease to knowing and at times cycling back to not knowing again and then back to knowing.  I am reminded about my cousin’s, two black gay men and two heterosexual black mothers who lost their lives to HIV in the prime of their life. I am reminded that we are not only reflecting on tragedy of too many Black lives lost or on the lives of Black Gay Men hanging in the balance, but we are also reminded about the bravery, the triumphs and successes in our communities that inspire us to be liberated from our own fear, that we might inspire the liberation of others as referenced by Nelson Mandela in his 1994 inauguration speech.

Personally I am reminded about Rashidah Abdul Khabeer, about David Fair, about Tyrone Smith, about Arnold Jackson and so many others who inspired my liberation. I am reminded that without their nurturing, their tough love, their gentle nudging, I too might be the subject of a hushed conversation in my southern hometown, as Arnold’s 1992 piece entitled “At Least we’re Not Dying From AIDS” suggest.

In their unique ways, this Philadelphia based herstorian and historians inspired the greatness that I humbly acknowledge and accept as my own personal destiny for which I am thankful. I am thankful for Rashidah’s gifts of strength, bravery and consciousness. I am thankful for David’s intellectual, strategic and unwavering commitment gifts. I am thankful for Tyrone’s “I’m Black, Gay and Proud” and “Hey, baby it is gonna be okay” gift’s. I am thankful for Arnold’s gifts of wisdom, communication and retrospect.

The theme for this year’s National Black AIDS Awareness Day is one we all know very well—”It Takes A Village to Fight HIV/AIDS!  As the Centers for Disease Control’s press release states “it is a call to action for a collective and integrated approach at the individual, community and national level to prevent the spread of HIV in African American communities”. I am thankful that my “village” understood this notion some twenty years ago and that I understand it today. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the solution.

I am also reminded in my reflection today that African Americans who represent 14 percent of the population, account for 52 percent of the diagnoses in 2008 representing almost half of those living with and dying from HIV. I am reminded that African American men are 9 times more likely to have HIV than white men and I am reminded that African American women are 18 times more likely to have HIV than white women.

Today, as you reflect on what this day and this disease means to you, be encouraged. Many of us are also reflecting. Many have joined the “village” to fight this disease. Many are living with, not dying from this disease.   Many are opening the doors of opportunity and closing the doors of inadequacies in our health care system, the high incarceration rates, low income, low educational attainment, racism, stigma, and homophobia.

As I have been encouraged by my mentors, I encourage you to mentor — to be an encouragement. Tell someone today, they matter.  Tell someone today that HIV is preventable.  Tell someone today that HIV doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Tell someone today that their future holds a greatness that was given first as a gift from God. Tell them that their life never has to be a hushed conversation, emblazoned in the stigma that my friend Arnold wrote about almost ten years ago.

Below is the article my dear friend Arnold wrote in 1992, which reminds us of the HIV stigma still present today in many Black Communities. Thank you Arnold for reminded us to be the solution!

At Least We’re Not Dying From AIDS

by Arnold Jackson (August 25, 1957 — May 3, 1998)

It’s early 1992 and we African-American men and women, children and youth are dying at an alarming rate. This is not news. Everybody knows that, comparatively speaking, we don’t live as long as whites. And we all know why: disproportionate rates of poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, intra-racial violence, homelessness, hunger, lack of access to medical treatment. The list goes on.

But I’m happy to report that one thing we’re not dying from is AIDS.  Excuse me? You don’t believe me?

Then ask Rev. Jones, who funeralized Mrs. Brown’s 35-year-old son Jeffrey last week. Ask the neighbors and relatives who turned out for the service. You can even ask Mrs. Brown herself. They’ll all tell you the same thing. Jeffrey died from cancer.

Then there was Damien. He died four days ago. He was 23. Leukemia, that’s what his sister said. Go ahead, ask her.

Sherman, he passed two weeks ago. A fantastic designer. Everybody in the neighborhood loved him. He made a lot of clothes for a lot of people and all for free! I read his obituary in the paper. He died of a long illness.

Vanessa was 28. She used to shoot up. She got pneumonia.

Mr. Harris still can’t sleep too well these days and it’s been a year and half since his 40-year-old daughter who was married to that addict Maurice died of the same thing that killed Vanessa–complications from respiratory disease. At least that’s what the funeral program said.

I know a lot of other young black people who’ve died recently. Their parents, brothers, sisters and friends miss them a lot. They get depressed but don’t, want to talk about it too much. It’s painful when you lose a loved one.

But at least they didn’t die from AIDS.

Presenting Community Leader Robert K. Burns

6 10 2010

Robert K. Burns has been an early supporter of the Archivists Society, and many other efforts for LGBT people of color (as well as the community at large). According to the COLOURS’ website:

Robert K. Burns, originally from Cleveland, OH, resides in North Philadelphia and recently served as the Deputy Director of the COLOURS Organization and formerly the Director of Mazzoni Center’s Collective Program (a federally funded multi-agency collaborative serving the needs of African American, Latino and Asian/Pacific Islander communities) – both community based non-profits focused on serving the needs of disproportionately impacted sexual minority communities.  Burns is a graduate from Lincoln University with his Master in Human Services with a concentration in counseling as well as 2008 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Association of Schools of Public Health – Institute for HIV Prevention Leadership Fellow.  As an experienced public health/social service professional and community advocate for over 15 years, Burns expertise extends to working with organizations such as the Free Clinic of Greater Cleveland, AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, BlackOut Unlimited, Brother’s Circle of Cleveland, Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council, Lutheran Children and Family Services (LCFS) and the House of Blahnik.  His knowledge in health prevention planning, program development, advocacy, social services practice, and social justice provide him with an strong foundation working in the human services arena.

In Burns most recent role as the volunteer Interim Executive Director of the House of Blahnik he assisted in development of a comprehensive strategic planning process amongst the 10 city leadership team, and helped facilitate the successful 10 year anniversary event, that raised funds for the annual Blahnik educational scholarship award.  During this time, Burns simultaneously served as the Deputy Director of COLOURS ensuring the administration of a federal project geared towards providing assistance to LGBT re-entry populations.  Burns is one of the founding members of the Black Gay Men’s Leadership Council, a empowerment/advocacy group chiefly responsible for examining the implications of social, political and health discourse amongst African America gay men in Philadelphia.  Burns has served as a member and co-chair of the Philadelphia Prevention Planning group, a group responsible for providing the community voice to health disparities impacting marginalized communities.  Burns has also worked closely with the Department of Human Services as a Youth Care Worker for Philadelphia’s only LGBT group home – Bethel Community.  Burns has maintained an instrumental role through donating his time over the past 10 years as a respected disc jockey across the US working with various community based organizations and Pride organizations.

Robert K. Burns officially started in the capacity of Executive Director on Tuesday, June 15th and is extremely excited about expanding upon the relationships within the LGBT community and partnering allies within Philadelphia.  Please join the Board and COLOURS Team in welcoming and supporting Robert in his new role during our Open House  and reception October 7th beginning at 6pm at COLOURS 112 N. Broad 3rd Floor, following with our night out at Tabu 200 S. 12th Street for Community Thursdays at 9pm [portion of the proceeds to benefit the COLOURS Organization].

Open House in Celebration of COLOURS and New Exec Director, Robert K. Burns, 10/7

6 10 2010

Join The COLOURS Orgainzation, Inc. for an open house and opportunity to meet its Board of Directors and the new executive director, Robert K. Burns. Burns is a dynamic man, and committed soldier in our community. When he’s not in Philadelphia, he’s advising the nation on best approaches to prevent HIV infections among Black gay and bisexual men. He also finds time to serve as a DJ within the Ballroom and House circuit, and at Shampoo Nightclub.

The open house is scheduled for Thursday, October 7, 2010 from 6-8 pm. COLOURS is located at 112 N. Broad Street  in Philadelphia.

Bawabu: Symbol of the Same Gender Loving Movement

22 08 2010

The mid-1990s marked the height of the Same Gender Loving Movement, a time when men and women of African decent adopted this identifier as an alternative to “gay.” The movement is attributed to the work of Cleo Manago, an advocate for self-identification, HIV prevention and health promotion, and community building. SBC (a black gay publication by noted author Stanley Bennett Clay, currently out of print), shared a photograph of the Bawabu, the “official” symbol of the Same Gender Loving movement.

If I recall, there was a contest for entries. The article showcased the designer, as well as information about the symbol. [I would love to get a copy of the original magazine, or the entire collection. I lost the original nearly 12 years ago while a student at the University of Michigan. Fortunately, I scanned the image to hang on my dorm room wall, and had it ever since.]

Please add any missing details to this important history.

7th Annual People With Hope Trans Conf, Philly, 8/28 Flier

19 08 2010

Community Champ Chris Collins and Many Men, Many Voices

17 08 2010

If you’re in Philadelphia, PA, you have probably met or observed Chris Collins in action. In addition to the many hats that he wears, he’s an HIV/AIDS prevention warrior, tester and counselor at the Mazzoni Center.

He’s currently recruiting men for a weekend workshop at a retreat center outside of Philadelphia (from 9/10/10 to 9/12/10). The workshop, Many Men Many Voices (3MV for short), helps men examine themselves through sharing while learning HIV prevention strategies. Its also a time for relaxation and socialization. And, its free. You must be under the age of 24 years to participate.

There is an orientation meeting scheduled for August 26, 2010 @ the Mazzoni Center, located on 21 South 12th Street, 8th floor, from 4pm- 5pm.

For more information, dial (215) 563-0652.