DCP EP. 75 De-stigmatizing HIV: George M. Johnson, Raniyah Copeland

Transcribed by Brenda Alexander

DCP 75 De-stigmatizing HIV
Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:00:02] Welcome to Dear Culture, the podcast that gives you news you can trust with the culture on

your co-host, Gerren Keith Gaynor, managing editor at theGrio,

Shana Pinnock [00:00:10] And I’m your co-host Shana Pinnock, social media director at theGrill. And this week, we are asking the culture, what do you really know about HIV?

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:00:21] So, Shanna, before we get into this very important episode, what’s on your mind this week?

Shana Pinnock [00:00:27] You know, when it’s so funny, we’re going to be talking about ignorance, especially as it relates to our community. Black Chyna, you know, she’s that’s an interesting bird that one – that’s an interesting one. But this week we covered how Black Chyna she took to Twitter to blast Tya, the rapper. So a social media influencer. I don’t remember this young girl’s name, but she had tweeted something along the lines of basically saying, like Tyga was dating like a whole trans And I hate to use this word, but I’m I’m doing a direct quote, “a whole tranny. And we just, like, glossed over it.” And this was something that I believe happened back in like 2015. And so anyway, black Chyna finds herself talking on Twitter in this very public forum. And she tweeted, “Tyga loves trans. Me too.” And then she hit off like another tweet that basically, you know, was like @tyga, like, tell the truth. Now herein lies my problem. I’m really sick and tired of seeing cis gender, black women especially, who are so threatened by trans women, plead, first off, let me I’ve said it before on the show, I will say it again, loud and proud and full throatedly: trans women are women. Let’s that’s period point blank. But this whole idea of like trying to shame men, particularly black men, for engaging in sexual relations or actual intimate relationships with trans women is wrong. It’s trash, it’s homophobic, it’s trans phobic, and it’s gross. You know, I really need us to get to a better place where this is not – just stop, just stop. First off, you don’t have to out anyone. This is why black men always are so confined and feel like they can’t express their sexuality in any kind of means or way. This is why trans women are killed. And and I’m so sick and tired of seeing black cis gender women who are contributing to this culture the same way How there’s a rape culture. Yeah, there’s also like a transphobic culture and sistas, we have a tendency to contribute to a really disgusting narrative. And I’m just I’m really over it. That’s all I had to say. Black Chyna can go to hell. What about you G?

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:03:02] Yes, this has been like a really a double whammy between DaBaby’s comments about HIV and AIDS, which were very ignorant and very, very violent language toward the LGBTQ plus community. And as a gay man, I was like, why? Like, why what? There was no there was just no reason to say what he said. And my my golden rule in life is like do no harm. And so I’m more inclined to believe that, yes, there are people who are just ignorant. They say stupid things, someone like black Chyna – likely that clearly came from a place that had nothing to do with the trans community. But she wanted to inflict harm on Tyga for whatever reason. But it’s as if feels very frustrating when we as a community, the LGBT, the LGBTQ plus community, are always being used as tools and pawns to to project this like hypermasculinity patriarchal ideas. And, you know, with DaBaby;s comments. You know, for me, it was very triggering because one of the first things that you are taught as a or that you learn and absorb about the world when you are gay is that you had you could potentially contract the virus. And so before I had the information about the virus, that was the only that was the only thing I knew what it meant to be gay, because that’s what all the adults around me talked about. And so all of my life, I had this fear that I would contract the virus and then die. And obviously, it’s not that it’s not that simple. You don’t just contract the virus and die, but there’s a lot of there’s a lot of education that needs to happen in our communities. As a person of the community, all I can do is be an example and also educate where I can. But if I’m being honest, it’s really exhausting and said, yeah.

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:04:53] In 1991, NBA legend Magic Johnson shocked the world when he announced that he had contracted HIV. He quickly became a public face for the epidemic and later provided hope on how one can survive it. Thanks to research, medication and proper medical care, people living with HIV live normal and healthy lives. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of ignorance surrounding the virus. Many believe only those in the LGBTQ plus community sex workers and drug addicts can contract the virus and in light of DaBaby’s recent comments, is glaringly clear that more people need to be better informed. The CDC reports that in 2018, just over 15,000 new diagnosis, black folks made up 42% percent of the new HIV cases in this country alone. The truth is, anyone can contract HIV. Today, we are joined by two guests who will help educate our listeners on the virus, stigma, treatment and what living with HIV is really like. Let’s get into it.

Shana Pinnock [00:06:05] OK, G, so before I answer this question, I wanted to hear from you, what did you know about HIV growing up? Because it’s so funny, you and I have very different experiences. Go ahead.

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:06:15] Yes, I would say so. I grew up in what I should say. I went to Catholic school, most of my schooling from, I think first grade through 12th grade. And I would say, given that I was kind of reared Catholic and condused and so in Catholic churches and in Catholic schools, they don’t talk about sex. And so there I don’t remember ever having sex education. And so no one really talked about HIV and AIDS. I heard it. I heard about it through my community from the adult black people in my life, which were very toxic, unhealthy ideas around HIV and AIDS. And I wish as a black queer boy, someone did sit me down and really educate me about sex in general and then also about STIs and HIV and AIDS, because because I didn’t get that, I absorbed all this information from media and from, again, unhealthy places in my community. And so as a closeted gay black boy, I was terrified. I was like, I have an attraction to guys, but if I have sex, I’m going to contract this virus. I’m going to die. Why? I was I grew up in a very religious home. So I’m like, why would God make me gay? just to kill me off? I literally had, like, these very extreme ideas around sex and HIV. And I I guess I want to share a story that is very personal to me that I had really I don’t really talk about a lot. But when I came out to my parents, I had I was in a relationship and this person was HIV positive. And even at that age, 18, 19 years old, I didn’t really I wasn’t I still wasn’t really fully educated. And there was a first time I had dated someone who who was positive or at least that I knew of. And unfortunately, you know, he was very irresponsible. And he tried to encourage me often to have sex without a condom. And I was young and naive and thought I was in love and had unprotected sex fairly often. And I’ll never forget when I sat in the clinic waiting for my results, because after I left this person, because he had been irresponsible and sleeping with other people, I just knew that I was positive and I was like, God, you know, forgive me for being irresponsible, but if you can just, you know, not if you can just make this the best outcome possible, you know, I will. You know how you do when you’re not talking to God and making promises.

Shana Pinnock [00:09:08] Just overlook this one Jesus

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:09:10] Just just please just overlook this this this this one or these series of bad decisions. And thankfully, I was negative, but it was a learning lesson about responsibility. And I talked about the debate, DaBaby’s comments earlier. And the reason why they were so triggering was because because that’s what we often are told as black queer people or queer people, that we’re going to get the virus. And that’s all that’s all of who we are. And I you know, there are people who make really careless decisions, but that’s not all of who we are. And so sometimes we don’t we have fears of even talking about HIV and AIDS because it kind of like gives legitimacy to what ignorant people say about our community. And so I at least I can speak for myself. I just try my best to live my life in the complete opposite or have my life be a reflection of being the complete opposite of what people have often said about our community, but HIV and AIDS is is just

it’s not a death sentence. Thank God. I hope by more of us telling our stories and talk about our fears and anxieties around the virus, hopefully we can break that stigma so that we can ensure that the disproportionate numbers that we are seeing in our community, the black community at large as well, that that disparity dissipates.

Shana Pinnock [00:10:35] So for me, growing up, kind of like what you said, knowing about HIV and AIDS, just in general, I got all of my education via the media. Right. So think of our R. Kelly’s Trapped in the closet, she get the package. You know, all of all of that. In high school, I went to a public high school, so we got to talked to about sex. And but it was very here’s a stack of condoms and understand if You have sex, you can and or will contract all of these STIs and possibly HIV / AIDS and then die – like that is pretty much the extension of it. You know, one of my fave, we talked about it all the time. One of my favorite shows is A Different World. There was an episode, I believe, in 1991-1992 with Tisha Martin Campbell. And she played a student, Jodie, who was HIV positive, and I remember I distinctly remember the final scene with Mr. Gaines and Terrence comes in with a mask on and so does that, the girl, Gina, and she’s like, oh, we don’t really know about this this particular disease and everything else. And you saw Mr. Gaines check them Both of she has immunodeficiency. You know, it’s her like that’s what she has, which means that you’re more of a threat to her, that she could ever be you. So take your intelligence deficiency syndrome and leave the establishment. And I remember watching that episode over and over again and being like, this is what more of what we need to see. This is what what has to be more of an education of I credit a different world with giving me a far more expansive and an empathetic viewpoint than anything else.

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:12:23] So Shana, let’s jump into this conversation that you have with two amazing guests who live their voices to the conversation surrounding HIV and AIDS in our community. Raniyah Copeland is the president and CEO of Black AIDS Institute, an opinion leader, and seasoned advocate leading the charge to end HIV in black communities before joining BAI in 2008, she worked at Planned Parenthood as a health educator, promoting healthy sexual choices and conducting HIV and testing and counseling. She also provided case management services. George M. Johnson is an award

winning black non binary writer, author and activist located in the NYC area. They have written four outlets, including NBC, The Root, BuzzFeed, Essence, Ebony and of course, theGrio. Much of their work focuses on educating the masses on HIV and their debut memoir, All Boys on Blue, was published in 2021.

Shana Pinnock [00:13:28] Raniyah, George, thank you so much for joining us today. It is a pleasure to have you both.

Raniyah Copeland [00:13:33] Thanks for having us.

Shana Pinnock [00:13:36] Awesome. So, you know, I’m kind of doing this on on my solo dolo. Gerren is here in spirit, but I’m going to ask you guys just like individual questions. Raniyah, so you’ve been in the sexual health field for many years. What attracted you to this line of work, specifically focusing on HIV in communities of color?

George M. Johnson [00:13:56] For me, when it comes to sexual health, sexual freedom, it’s deeply connected to my belief and my kind of core value of black liberation. There’s so much stigma that’s associated with sexuality. There’s so much stigma and really kind of white supremacy that’s steeped in our thoughts as a black community around who should be having sex with who, what sexuality is. And for me, particularly like a young black woman that I saw how oppressive that was for me for my peers. And I thought that this is the way that I want to get back to my people is getting us free throygh sexual health.

Shana Pinnock [00:14:33] OK, and now, George, now full disclosure for our audience. I know George, because George is very close friends with one of my best friends, so. And G, one of the things that has been so inspiring about you is you have come forward with your HIV status on such a public platform, especially Twitter, having lived with the virus for, what, like a decade at that point. What prompted you to tell everyone, hey, this is what I’m what I have going on?

George M. Johnson [00:15:08] Yeah. Honestly, for me, it was a journey. And so to go from first being diagnosed to first walking into MCV Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, and seeing a sign on the door that said infectious disease clinic, that literally stopped me in my tracks. And from that moment I was afraid of HIV. And so it was like going from a place of being afraid of it to building myself up to, OK, I can actually live with this virus and I can actually get on treatment. Then once getting on treatment, it was the realization that there was so many more people who would just like me struggling with those very same things. And so it was I then knew I had to change even my lens from a micro lens of how I was going to live with this, to how I was going to now move forward and advocate for this. One thing I learned very quickly was that a lot of people within black LGBTQ community specifically, but also black women as well as black men, we do not share our statuses publicly. And disclosure is a very, very huge issue that we all still deal with until this day. And so I knew if I publicly shared my status, it would be a way for other people who were also living in silence and suffering in silence to actually see what it looks like for a person who was a public figure, to not just advocate on their behalf, but allowed them the same space to live in your truth and not feel so ashamed and not also feel the full weight of the stigma that comes along with HIV. And so that was really what went into my decision making process, was seeing that so many of us had no one to to feel represented by since like Magic Johnson. And I knew that going forward, if we were going to get to a place where we ended the epidemic, some of us were going to have to be the voice of many. And so I just kind of just took it upon myself to really make that active choice to become the voice for so many who felt that they were voiceless within the last 20 years of this epidemic.

Shana Pinnock [00:17:17] This beautiful raniyah. So obviously, the Black AIDS Institute focuses on our community and communities of color. What puts and I don’t even know if you can answer this, but what puts our community at a higher risk for contracting HIV?

Raniyah Copeland [00:17:32] You know, when I talk about HIV, I talk about HIV really being a disease that thrives off of hatred and inhumanity and stigma. And in the black community, for us, it’s really not about our behavior, though. A lot of people like to think it’s about individual behavior. It’s not, one, there’s a lot of different reasons. So, one, as a black community, we’re really small. So we’re around 13% percent of the US population. We also are more likely to have sexual partners that are black. And so if you can imagine, you have this, like circle of people that in your sexual network, your drug user network, your network overall, and when you introduce a virus into that community, it’s going to move faster because it’s a smaller community. Then you want to throw in all of the things that we know also fuel HIV. So we know that homelessness fuels HIV. So when you don’t have a place to live, the ability to protect yourself, to protect others is not a top priority. We know that income is actually highly associated with HIV as well. And so when you don’t have employment, when you don’t have a place to live, money to spend – HIV and protecting yourself from HIV becomes, you know, the lowest thing on the totem pole. And for folks in the LGBTQ community, that that community is most disproportionately impacted when it comes to what we call these drivers of HIV, these social determinants of health. And so for black communities, we have all of

these hindrances that really are not about us as individuals, but rather it’s about the systems that we live in, this antiblack system that we live in, and the way it impacts every kind of portion of our life. And then when you have people who are living with HIV, people who could benefit from HIV medications, the people who are HIV negative, for example, can take pre exposure prophylaxis to protect themselves from HIV. But that doesn’t happen because of the stigma within our community, because of the misinformation, the way we associate goodness with and morality, with sexuality and who should and shouldn’t have things this fuels that hurts us even more. And so when we talk about ending HIV at Black AIDS Institute, we talk about it being a racial justice issue and that if we’re really going to end HIV, that we have to respond to all of these drivers that make it harder to be black and to thrive and to live in this country.

Shana Pinnock [00:19:47] Girl two snaps for that. So, George, and you kind of touched on this in your previous response. But, you know, there’s a lot of shame that’s associated for for people living with HIV. Did you experience that? And how did you break free of it?

George M. Johnson [00:20:05] Yeah, I mean, unfortunately, you never break free from it because people are always going to shame you as the reason that we’re having this conversation today. So, like, there’s at no point where you really, like, fully break free from the shaming that occurs. I think what you can break free from is feeling ashamed of yourself. I think society demonizes those who live with HIV as like we brought upon ourselves or was something that we did recklessly to bring the virus upon ourselves. When we know that these same behaviors that we follow, the virus doesn’t mimic that in other communities. So we know that there are additional factors, as Raniyah said that cause, you know, the prevalence of HIV to be so high within our specific communities. And so when you think about just that, that comes along with how community has viewed HIV, especially the fact that there’s still a very archaic view around what HIV looks like, the thought process, that you could still die within two weeks or three weeks from it, the thought process that HIV still has a look, the thought process that people who are HIV positive are the people who are most likely transmitting the virus when many of us are undetectable. And so there are various other reasons why the virus remains prevalent. But that shaming falls very heavily upon the community who are open about their status and who are being fully transparent about living with HIV. And so, unfortunately, yeah, we haven’t fully moved away from a place where even someone as vocal as myself is still not feeling shamed by HIV. But I do think we are moving to a place where people who are living with HIV have at least broken through to not feel ashamed of having to live with the virus. And in a sense, it gives them the space to be resilient against the stigma and the shaming that is still continuing to this day.

Shana Pinnock [00:22:01] Well, kind of touching on Georgia’s point of ignorance and misinformation. Can you please, for our listeners, explain to them and explain it to them like they’re five? OK, explain to them the difference between HIV and AIDS, because folks still act like these two things are synonymous and they are not. So.

Raniyah Copeland [00:22:23] So HIV is a virus that V stands for virus. Human human immunodeficiency virus. AIDS is a syndrome. It’s a symptom. It’s a clinical diagnosis. That means when somebody who’s living with HIV gets so sick that they have these series of clinical symptoms that are then defined as AIDS. And why that’s important is that HIV as a virus is impacting our immune system. And so when your immune system has to fight so hard for so long, there’s certain kind of precautions that clinical providers are going to want to take to make sure that you’re healthy. So HIV is the virus. People have HIV and then AIDS, what some people might have as a clinical symptom. And we really are moving away from the conversation of AIDS, really leaving it with the clinicians because that’s what they do and letting that be how they are a part of diagnosis and treatment. We’re talking about HIV. A lot of times when people think of the term AIDS, they think of the 80s and the 90s and they think of people passing away, In two weeks, which we actually know was never the case, for most people, HIV stays in their body for a very long time and that you won’t get sick until years and years later. What we know is that people just didn’t know they had HIV. So HIV, the virus. So we don’t say you got AIDS. No, we don’t say that anymore. You probably should have never been saying that. We say people are living with HIV. We don’t talk about people being infected. Right. That’s a lot of stigma as well with the people living with HIV. People are acquiring HIV. HIV is the virus.

Shana Pinnock [00:23:58] See thank you, but perhaps we should have DaBaby on here to talk about it. But I get there. So, George, because people are nosy and I’m obligated to ask this question of what has dating been like when you.

Raniyah Copeland [00:24:16] They can’t just slide in the DMs?

George M. Johnson [00:24:21] I mean, is interesting. And, you know, it’s interesting. It’s an interesting space, I will say, because we know that the virus is so prevalent in our community, black LGBTQ community specifically. You don’t have a whole lot of people who aren’t going to end up dating someone potentially who is not living with HIV because our prevalence rate is so high within black men who have sex with men, it’s more likely than it’s closer to More likely than not at this point

that you have either dated someone living with HIV or that you are currently dating someone with HIV, or that you could be dating someone who is unknowingly living with HIV because of the prevalence rates. Dating is interesting because from time to time you will meet someone else who is HIV positive, where there’s a commonality and an understanding. But oftentimes if you are dating people who are HIV negative, there’s a lot of education that has to happen within relationships. People don’t understand fully about seriodiscordant relationships, which is someone who is HIV positive, dating someone who is HIV negative, and that seriodiscordant relationships have been happening for a very long time. And they work because of treatment with if one partner is on antiretrovirals and is undetectable, meaning they no longer can transmit the virus, you can have a partner who is HIV negative, who does not have a fear or worry about acquiring the virus from you. You have within our community dating those some people who will not date people who live with HIV and who will make it publicly known. You have a lot of times there’s this random question that always comes up on social media. Would you date someone living with HIV? And the response is always well would someone living with HIV date you? I think people think that we are like supposed to feel like fortunate that someone would bestow their love upon us. I think that all these years later, we have come to terms with the fact that we are just as worthy and just as valuable and non disposable as any other human who is deserving of love and deserving of being in relationship. So I will say dating it can get interesting at times because you still deal with stigma, shaming and ignorance. But I do think we have moved to a place where HIV education as well as people just being knowledgeable of the community they live in and what the prevalence of the virus is within our community, that it is more likely than not that you are going to be friends with people who are HIV positive. But it is also more likely that you are probably going to date someone within your dating circle who is HIV positive. And so I think, like I said, we have some education leaps that we still need to make. But I do think that our community is doing OK with it

Shana Pinnock [00:27:02] and Raniyah so my question for you is just kind of touched on this. Again, I’m telling you, leading me right into my next questions. So what treatments are available for those who are living with HIV, those who are not, who may be dating, someone who is living with HIV? Because at this point, a lot of folks really just know of PrEP, and that’s because of commercials on BET. So so what other treatments are available for those in the community?

Raniyah Copeland [00:27:30] You know, one of the amazing things around the HIV movement is the extraordinary breakthroughs that we’ve had in biomedical science. So the treatments, the medicines that we have to treat HIV, it is very rare to have you know, we’re 40 years into this pandemic and we can say that we theoretically have the tools to end HIV. So you take all these medications that we have, you put them into the modeling tools and you can see how we could get so low that HIV became a very rare, very rare in the country and really across the globe. And it’s because of these amazing treatments that I just want to tout the advocates and community members who have been alongside the researchers, pushing them, pushing for new inventions, new medications that are less toxic, that are easier to take. So for now, we have lots of different things, but we have all kinds of highly active antiretroviral therapy – so it’s a combination of different medications, usually two to three that people can take, usually a pill a day, but we also now have injectables, right? So if you are living with HIV, that you can get an injectable that lasts for a month. We are seeing that there’s going to be injectables that are to be lasting for two months. You don’t have to take a pill every day if that is a burden for you, that you can go into your local community based organization or doctor and they can give you a shot. We have a lot of great medications that are coming through the pipeline. And so imagine like a ring, a vaginal ring that you can insert that has HIV medications in there, particularly prevent women and men from acquiring HIV. But it’s a discreet way. So for some people who have a hard time or are able to have negotiations around condom usage and whatever it may be that an insertible may help have microbicides right, so having HIV medications and gels that we could use, we have all of these kind of amazing tools that are coming out. We obviously have pre exposure prophylaxis. I’m grateful for these commercials, even though I think they’re sometimes a little corny because there’s PrEP has been out for a while now, pre exposure prophylaxis. And we really haven’t seen uptake in black communities. And we at Black AIDS Institute we Essense every year and talk to black women and say, you know what? If they say no? And we would say, well, we would tell people there is a pill that you can take every day. If you are HIV negative and you have over 99, nine percent chance that you won’t acquire HIV, they are amazed and amazed that particularly if something that we can use, we have for some people, even though that like they think it’s only for gay men because that’s what they see in the commercials. And so PRep is for anybody. And I would encourage particularly for black women, for black men to talk to your doctor or your clinical provider about it and let them do an assessment to see if it’s a good option for you. And then we have some really kind of exciting things on the horizon. We’re still talking about an HIV vaccine that many of the researchers and the science that got us to this called the vaccine that we have is based off of the information, the findings that we have from our work around trying to find a vaccine for HIV. And so we’re really hopeful. There’s clinical trials that are happening across the globe in this effort as well. And so we have these amazing medications now that deal with the virus itself. What we don’t have is a medication for the ignorance and the stigma, you know, and I think that’s really I talk about we spent billions of dollars on these amazing medications that can end HIV. If we’d had that same type of investment in education to make sure that communities, black communities are folks, that we have the information to be able to make good decisions and utilize these medications. My bad.

Shana Pinnock [00:31:12] No, you’re fine. So in terms of addressing the ignorance and stigma and things of that nature, one of my favorite shows is Pose. Right? It’s so sad to see it go. But I think it’s one of those shows that definitely allowed for viewers to see. First off, you’ve got a clear view of things that were happening back in the 80s and 90s that we just some of us were too young to really even know and some were too ignorant. What do you think about more shows like like Pose, or is that nature that are potentially coming out to help educate the community? Like, do you see that there’s a benefit in that?

George M. Johnson [00:31:56] Yeah, no, I mean, it’s absolutely a benefit in that I think pose realistically was one of the first times we actually got to see what the epidemic looked like for black and brown people. Historically, the epidemic through any type of media formats or television, whether the Oscars, Emmys was Dallas Buyers Club like there were several, Philadelphia, there were several stories around what it was like to be a white queer person or a white person going through the epidemic. We rarely ever got to see the fact that HIV also decimated our community and continues to be an epidemic for us. And so I think that was amazing storytelling, because for so many people who we know are still living with the virus who were there during those times and watched pose as something nostalgic, I think it also gave them a sense of reframing survivor’s remorse that many of the people in our community still live with. I think it gave them a way to feel like their story had finally been told and their story was finally being seen. I would say visibility and representation is not the ending point, but it’s a starting point. And I think for them, for so many people, that was their starting point, to feel like, OK, my my story is now out here in the world. Finally, I think when we look at it and we see like more queer movies and more queer television shows and more queer musicians, HIV is becoming a part of those conversations because it innately affects our community. When you have someone like Billy Porter at the age of 50 for the first time publicly stating that the story of Preytell was the story of his actual like was really the story of his life and helped him come to terms with it because he was playing this character and still hadn’t even fully told the world his own truth. I think when you see how healing that that it was for a person like that, you can only imagine how healing it is for those who are watching it every week. And so I think we need more storytelling, but not just storytelling around that particular period of HIV. I think that’s like your basis because we need to know where we come from if We know where we’re going. But I think we need to see what it looks like to live with HIV currently, what it looks like to thrive with HIV, what it looks like to not have HIV be the centerpiece of the black queer experience or the black woman experience, because oftentimes our trauma and our our lack of of health care and the lack of things that we have become the center of our stories when we all know that we are so much more than our circumstances, we are so much more than our traumas. And so I think what we are going to see moving forward, hopefully from television, is like the totality of the story, what it looks like to go to work every day and to have kids and be living with HIV and like what the actual life of a person living with HIV really, really looks like in this day and age.

Raniyah Copeland [00:34:50] I just want and George, I mean, this is you, right? Like being a storyteller and telling your truth. It’s so important. And that’s how we kind of that’s how we release some of that stigma is allowing folks to tell their stories and and sharing that there’s not just like this one idea and this one homogeneous, like type of person in our world. And the more that we can tell the stories of people, the diversity of who we are, particularly in our blackness, I think that we respond to stigma. And so I think that, you know, TV and movies and shows are important part of it. Books are an important part of it, music, all these things that really shape black culture. And telling that because HIV is a part of black culture, it’s a part of black history, and we have to tell it and we have to shed this light on the lives that so many of us live that has been covered up because of stigma that has not been talked about because of stigma. So, all right.

Shana Pinnock [00:35:49] Let’s I have one final question, because we would be remiss if we did not mention it. We have to talk about DaBaby. And as we talk about stigma and ignorance and things of that nature, again, really quickly, if you could explain it to people like they are five, because apparently you just have to these days. 29 year olds need to be educated. Why was why were the comments that DaBaby gave – Why were they so problematic? Why are they or according to him, triggering quote unquote, whatever, and just all over trash like. Well, why was why was that such an issue for the members of the community?

George M. Johnson [00:36:33] I mean, I think at the end of the day, like Raniyah was saying, like HIV is a social justice issue. HIV is a black issue. So it is not like an issue that you get to talk about separately from police brutality. It is not an issue that you get to talk about separately from medical mistrust is not a from economic disparity, from homelessness, from everything, because HIV touches all of those segments as well. And so when we think about the comments that were made, when we think about the fact that our community is the community that still is the most vulnerable to that virus, and rather than you use your large platform to say, hey, these are the members of our community, and to boost to to tell your your fans and your followers that we should be getting tested, we should be you have just done and manipulated or done the same things that white folks have always done to us to suppress us, to then suppress your own as a way to bolster your own masculinity. I think it it’s disheartening because you think about you go to see someone who you love, someone who you’ve paid money to

see, someone whose music makes you feel happy and to stand there and have that person demeaning you in front of a crowd of one hundred and eighty thousand people simply because they are, in my opinion, upset that rap has become more diverse with women and rap has now become more diverse with queer people. And so the only thing that traditionally heterosexual male rappers could lean in on that would always get their base riled up was misogyny and homophobia. And so you leaned all the way in on that as a way to say, well, I’m a stand apart from what I would call soft rappers, I guess not realizing that your Base and the base of most people who are streaming music or buying music are black women and black queer people. And so I feel like I said, it’s disheartening to be in 2021 and hear comments like it’s 1991. And I think it’s even more disgusting for a person to say that we should be kind, tolerant and all of these things and not so quick to attack him when he was quicker to attack us, but also have the expectation for him as a black man to grow out of homophobia, misogyny, homophobia, misogyny continues to kill us every day. And so we are supposed to continue to take on all of this violence every single day because yes women have been killed because of catcalling. And yes, black trans women are being killed by black heterosexual men. But while we wait for you to grow, we’re supposed to die until a year from now. Two years from now, five years from now, you finally have gotten to a place of, oh, OK, now I get it. That’s not how that works. And yeah, I guess that’s just where we really are with this rap has changed the world has changed – misogyny and homophobia is just not going to be a tolerable thing anymore and it should have never been in the first place. But now people are going to be more vocal about it. And I think we are seeing the ramifications of what it looks like, a country that is fed up with a pandemic, fed up with police brutality, but just fed up with black people, even within Intra-community, trying to oppress other black people.

Raniyah Copeland [00:40:00] I think that that anti blackness that shows up is really the heart of it and why we’re not OK with it. And that when we say we love black people, we say that black lives matter. We mean all black lives matter. And if we say all black lives matter, that means the people, black people living with HIV, that means black LGBTQ people, black queer people have to be centered in all of our efforts and, the stigma and the misinformation, particularly the misinformation, doesn’t surprise me. Unfortunately, I hear all the time people still think you can get HIV from a mosquito bite and all kinds of crazy things. And it doesn’t surprise me that some of the misogyny is going to also come with homophobia and transphobia and stigmatizing language around HIV. But what I think is even more harmful is that when the celebrities don’t take these opportunities to be genuine and to really try and respond in a way that moves the needle in eradicating anti blackness and and acknowledging it as it is and saying, yo, this was wrong, I am so sorry. I understand what I did wrong. I’m doing X, Y, Z, and I’m bringing my folks with me and I’m putting the resources behind organizations and efforts to really try and dismantle this. That’s what my problem is. You can’t make a whole music video about police brutality, but at the same time they try and oppress black people living with HIV. When you’re from the south, when you talk about loving black people and loving your little black children, let’s make that make sense. And I think that there’s a lot of folks there’s a lot of us who are struggling through that. I think this is such an opportunity for him to show up in a way that he hasn’t been before. But the doubling down the wrongness is the problem. And then even still, I think that the response and the apology is lukewarm and we’re not going to take it. And I think that it’s not a conversation of us as black people trying to take this black man down. It’s about how do we, as black people support each other? How do our black cis gender heterosexual men acknowledge the privileges that they have and try and write some of the courses, some of the wrongs that impact the women, the burden on the women to take care of their children, the LGBTQ, the black queer people who fuel their artistry. Let’s let’s talk about equity and equality in those terms. And so I think that, you know, I’m waiting for the showing up in the showing out for showing that when you said the Black Lives Matter, that you meant all of us and showing how this can really be. I think, you know, I optimistically hope that this can be an example and that we’re not we’re going to continue to hold folks feet to the fire. We’re not saying we’re I’m personally, I think people can cancel whoever they want to because when you trigger somebody when you traumatize somebody, if that’s better for you boo boo, you cancel them if you want to. That’s fine. I think that’s an OK form of self care. I think for those of us here who are going to say we’re going to try and help you out, but you have to listen to us and you have to kind of come along on this journey of growth that is not going to be acceptable to be the oppressor anymore. Not here, not 2021.

Shana Pinnock [00:43:16] Listen now Raniyah and George over here telling us why fat meat is greasy. I love it. I love it. OK, so we’re going to end there. Thank you both so much for sharing your stories and your expertize on this very important subject that continues to disproportionately impact our community. For our listeners, whether you know it or not, we all know someone who is living with HIV. Let’s educate ourselves, be safe and be kind. The same still applies. If it affects one of us, it affects all of us.

Shana Pinnock [00:43:52] We want to remind our listeners to support your local black businesses and donate to your local organizations and religious institutions, the business that we will highlight this week is Black AIDS Institute. Black AIDS Institute, or BAI, is dedicated to ending the HIV AIDS epidemic in the black community. BAI is the only uniquely and unapologetically Black HIV think and do tank in America. They believe in complete freedom for black people by eradicating

systemic oppression so that we can all live long, healthy lives. BAI’s decisions, responses, programing and messaging are informed by their roots and core values of black empowerment, equity, impact, self-determination and integrity. For more information, visit the website at Black AIDS Dog. That’s B L A C K A I D S Dot org

Gerren Keith Gaynor [00:44:43] Thank you for listening to Dear Culture. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Subscribe to the show wherever you listen to your podcasts and share it with everyone you know.

Shana Pinnock [00:44:51] And of course, please email all questions, suggestions and compliments, we love those, to podcasts@thegrio.com. The Dear Culture Podcast is brought to you by theGrio and executive produced by Blue Telusma and co-produced by Taji Senior, Brenda Alexander and Abdoul Quddus.