Forgotten Epidemic Symposium Reflection

Jamaal D. Weatherspoonm Children's Home Society of Florida Family Support Worker-Early Head Start Program

When I was given the opportunity of writing a blog for the month of January, I was both honored and simultaneously intimidated (if you ask me about this now I will likely deny it altogether). I have been involved in youth activism since I was a pre-teen and to this day I still find it a fun, yet altogether difficult challenge to express the thoughts and feelings of an entire generation in good faith that they will be taken seriously by the elders. Being a firm believer in the Adinkra concept of Sankofa, I believe it is absolutely necessary to get the support, encouragement and guidance that come with working alongside those who are more experienced, as well as paying homage to those who paved the way so that we can have a present day platform on which to stand.  Conversely, I am just as firm a believer in the fact that providing this much needed support and guidance is why our predecessors existed in the first place, for the main goal that of the current generation should be to enhance the possibilities for those who follow. This dynamic has played itself out repeatedly through the numerous interactions that I have had the good fortune of sharing with many of my esteemed colleagues, and I would like to think that I provide a fresh source of innovation, creativity and optimism.

During the recent NAACP and CFAR Forgotten Epidemic Symposium, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to some of the most dynamic personalities in this country. One particular conversation with an elder a stood out in my mind, “how much is enough? Have we not suffered enough so that your generation can prosper without being subject to many of the same obstacles that we fought so hard to overcome?
I began to reflect about the pain this woman must be feeling. She fought hard to end the systematic injustices that plagued our people only to be faced with modern day racial barriers.  The answer I gave was simple, we can and we will overcome these obstacles by standing on the shoulders of our forefathers .Through legitimate solidarity ,we allow ourselves to maintain our focus on the vision and keep the end in mind because we are fighting for people who are just like you and me. Ryan White or no Ryan White, unity in the midst of crisis is what makes the struggle relevant.   The world is a stage, and the inhabitants are its actors. Our lives set the template on which this production occurs.

This is why the human dynamic will always be relevant.  HIV/AIDS is merely another facet of that expression. The 30 years that HIV has experienced its own discovery, growth, outbreak, and it’s soon to be decline is merely another representation of that very same life cycle. Though I will not be as ambitious as to personify a retrovirus, the manner in which it has both compartmentalized and simultaneously united our community gives it the role of the antagonist in this "phantom of the opera"-esque play that the 20th-21st centuries have brought the black community.

Much like the society we live in, we (in) directly gave birth to it, however it has methodically adapted to us via our behaviors, (be they sexual practices, drug use, or process of childbirth) and learned to integrate itself JUST enough to cause us harm much like every other opposing force that we have come in contact with in the duration of our history. If we can actively search within our own selves; to not only identify and debate about-but to systematically address what plagues our minds, we will be able to collectively acknowledge that yes: HIV/AIDS is a disease, but that it also doubles as a symptom that has manifested itself as a result of a negative mindset.

  IF we can address the lack of responsibility with which we've treated ourselves (and by extension, each other) then with a combination of legislation change, collective effort and social responsibility we can TRULY eradicate this (and any other) pandemic.  As idealistic as this may sound, we indeed have everything we need to create a solution, because we have each other to give purpose to our own efforts.