There’s no place like the Qube.

Family, it’s your favorite queer radio personality, Anna DeSean, and this is Queer News. Your favorite weekly news pod where race and sexuality meet politics, culture, and entertainment. And y’all, this is our 200th episode! Boom, Boom! Yeah! I am just excited, excited that we made it here, that we’ve made it to 200 episodes, y’all.

Let me tell you, we have beat all the odds, okay? They tell me. Then 90 percent of podcasts don’t get past the third episode. Okay, they say that out of the remaining 10 percent 90 percent don’t make it to episode 20 Okay So if you get to episode 21, they’re saying that you’re in the top 1% of Episode Producers.

Family, we at episode 200. 200. Come on. We’ve accomplished a lot together. And I really cannot thank y’all enough for being on this journey with me. And I’m so excited to be producing this 200th episode. For y’all and with y’all and I really do hope you enjoy it before we really really get into things I do need y’all to take that survey.

I want to say thank you to everybody who has filled out the survey But I need so many more y’all to fill out the survey. Okay, because I want to make the show better I want to keep improving and the best way to do that is with y’all. I want to tell the stories you want to hear. I want to give you more of that.

I want to give you less of whatever you don’t want to hear. Okay? So please, the link is in the show notes. It’s going to take you about 7 minutes. And if you complete it, you enter to win a 50 gift card. Okay? Thank you. And I also want to say thank you to our Q crew, our queer news community, where they receive a weekly email from me with our top queer news stories and unedited video.

And we are just in conversation. The Q crew helps so much because without them, y’all, I don’t know if I’d be able to sustain the costs of this here pod podcast host and the editing, the marketing, the travel. The PR, all of it costs, you know? And so if you believe in the work we do, if you believe LGBTQ stories need to be amplified, if you love and respect how I report on the news and tell our stories, join the Q crew, okay?

That link is in the show notes too. And now, for this 200th episode, I did change it up. I’m changing it up, of course, we’re changing it up. I’m going to share a few of the top headlines. I’m going to do that, but then we’re going to transition into the top five queer news stories and our top five queer news moments.

And then I’m going to close out honoring world AIDS day by sharing episode one of our Qube. Original podcast. And actually this is our first Qube original podcast, black HIV in the South. How did we get here? It’s so important for us to honor world AIDS day and remember it always. And this podcast that we created, it’s just a beautiful work of art.

telling the stories of the communities most impacted today by HIV and AIDS. And so we have Black HIV in the South. And so I hope that y’all stay locked in to hear Episode 1. It’s a four part series. And so when we catch you with Episode 1, I want you to binge the whole series this week. In honor of World AIDS Day.

Okay. All right. Now, I really hope y’all enjoyed this episode. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for listening and being on the journey and stay tapped in. Okay. Cause this is our 200th episode.

I’m so silly.

I’m Darren and I’m Esther, and this is Second Sunday, a podcast about black queer folk, finding, keeping, and sometimes losing faith. This season’s full of candid conversations. We’re talking to theologians, artists, activists, and community members living at the intersections of faith, spirituality, and identity.

The Saints ain’t ready for this. But we’re still gonna talk about it. Second Sunday starts October 4th. Find it wherever you get podcasts. Second Sunday is a Qube Original podcast and is part of the PRX Big Questions project.

You are now

worried the other family. Welcome back to our 200th episode and yeah, I’m just gonna keep saying it ’cause it’s a big deal. We did it together. Okay. ’cause if y’all weren’t listening, you know , let me tell you. I wouldn’t keep doing this. Okay. It does bring me a lot of joy though. But if there’s nobody listening, that means there’s not a need.

But since y’all keep listening, it tells me there is a need and that there are people who care. And so for real, y’all are the reason I keep coming back. Okay. And as promised, I’m going to give y’all a few headlines and I mean headlines. Okay. I’m going to do more on TikTok this week. Okay. So if you want to hear more about these stories, check me out on TikTok.

If you’re not following already, and then I can give more details, but I am truly. Giving headlines first, because we got to jump into these top five queer news stories and our top five queer news moments. Okay, but in the meantime, now for the news, and I really should say news headlines. First up, George Santos, the gay New York Republican who lied about pretty much everything, has been officially expelled from Congress.

Y’all, this takes a lot of work to be expelled from Congress. But now he has the great pleasure of being known as the sixth person in U. S. history to ever be expelled. I have so many opinions about this. And there’s so many more facts to share as well. So definitely check out my TikTok because there is a video coming soon.

Next story is Club Q. Y’all remember Club Q, right? It’s the nightclub in Colorado Springs. That was the site of a tragic shooting back in November of 2022, right? It killed five people and injured 17 others. You remember Club Q. Well, they’ve announced plans to actually reopen the club, but they’re going to reopen with a new name and in a new location.

And if you all can imagine, people got a lot of opinions about this. So I’ve been following the story a little bit, and I’ll be giving y’all an update on TikTok. And our last headline today is about a documentary. I’m actually speaking with the team right now. So hopefully I’ll have an exclusive interview for the Q crew very soon.

The documentary is called We Live Here, The Midwest. All right, it’s an hour long doc, and it’s following five families across the Midwest region. Y’all, you know, people like to fly over us. You know what I’m saying? Everybody want to go to New York, people out in Cali doing their thing. People don’t really stop in the Midwest.

Now I am in Chicago, but I’m a Midwest girl, you know, and people be flying over us, but we are here. And honestly, most people who live in the Midwest come to Chicago to get away because so much of the Midwest is rural. And let’s be clear, Illinois is hella red, except for Chicago. So this doc actually takes a glimpse.

at the joys and challenges faced by queer folks in the Midwest. They specifically went to Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio, and Minnesota. And I love that. I’m glad they didn’t come to Chicago. I think it’s important for people to see more than just Chicago when they think about the Midwest. So the doc premieres December 6th on Hulu.

So set the reminders and all the things. I think it’s good.

Now let’s get into my top five favorite queer news stories and my top five favorite queer news moments. This is a chance for me to just sort of reflect with y’all. I haven’t been great about this over the course of my career. So I’m trying to get better. I got people in my life who remind me to celebrate these moments and this is me celebrating.

Okay. I started this pod in November of 2021. We officially turned two a week ago and we are now celebrating our 200th episode. And for those who maybe are just joining us, we got here so fast because when I started this pod, I was doing it every day. And it was me, just me doing it every day. Quite literally researching.

Right, sourcing the stories, writing the script, voicing it, then editing it, publishing it, and then marketing it. Yeah, I’m sure I am missing some jobs in between there, but literally doing everything every single day. And then I found an editor. They came along in my life. And they were like, if you need some help, I was like, I could definitely use some help.

And so they began editing the podcast and it just sounded so much better. Oh my goodness. It sounded so, so much better. And then I decided that quality was better than quantity. And so went down to once a week with day. And now Experience J is our editor and sound designer. And we in it. And. We’ve been consistent and y’all keep showing up and we keep showing up and it’s just been, it’s been an amazing ride.

And so I want to start with my top favorite queer news stories. All right. And I’m going completely off the cuff y’all. Okay. That’s what I’m saying. So my top five favorite queer news stories, and honestly, y’all, this is in no particular order. Brittany Griner, the entire Brittany Griner series. And if y’all are tuning in now and weren’t tuned in then, if you wanted to check out some of our work, this Brittany Griner series was it.

And I’ll actually include a link in the show notes that goes to Brittany Griner on our website, where every episode where we mentioned her, it comes up. And this was a point in time where I realized just how important queer news was because there aren’t many stories that I report on that hit on all of my identities, where the person who I’m reporting on is a true mirror of who I am, right?

Being a black queer woman. Who’s also in a married relationship and someone who loves basketball. You know what I mean? And so there were a lot of similarities here and her story wasn’t getting the coverage it deserved. It just wasn’t. And. The news is gonna move on, but I know for me, in my community, this was the top story, period.

And deserved all the attention. And we were able to give it that. And that whole series makes me really, really proud. For it to have the positive ending that it’s had, I mean, you really couldn’t have prayed for anything better. Right? I mean, it’s just been so beautiful to watch BG back. On this ground with her family and playing basketball and all the things.

Okay. That is definitely, that’s definitely up there. My next one I have listed is the summer interview series that we just did this summer. And I had so much fun with that. It got me back into interviewing. I really miss interviewing people. Interviewing is just a lot of work. It’s a lot of work and you got to kind of choose one or the other.

It’s going to be a story or it’s going to be an interview, you know, and I’m open to doing both. I’m interested to see what the folks say in the survey, um, about what you all have enjoyed the most, because that’s going to directly inform that if doing a couple of interviews is a good balance for what y’all want to hear, and then y’all can catch the news on TikTok, let me know.

You know, because I really did enjoy doing the summer interview series and hear from those folks because they are truly amazing And if you missed it, I was able to interview Nadine Smith, Ken Mahia Bill, the Authentic Selves crew led by Peggy Gillespie, Samia Bashir, Wynn Starks, And Brandon Wolf, and we kicked off the entire series with one of the dopest panels that I’ve moderated all year, Unapologetic Being Black and Queer in Podcasting.

I have my friends, Treville Anderson of the Fan Type Podcast. They are also the hosts of the Rustin Companion Podcast. Definitely go do yourself a favor, okay? Do yourself a favor and go over there and listen, okay? And then my homies from the Bad Queers podcast, Shaina and Chris, the panel is so good. So our summer interview series, it was a lot of fun for me.

It was. My next favorite top queer news story is Change the Pattern. It’s an episode about when I traveled to San Francisco to cover the AIDS memorial quilt display and it was the largest. display in San Francisco history. I’m not going to talk too much about this because I talk about it in episode one of Black HIV in the South, sort of how this all came together because of this podcast.

So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And I think it’s just so important that we don’t forget that HIV is still impacting communities today. And that, that is a preventable thing. This thing ain’t over with us yet. And so that’s what this is all about. My next two favorite stories are specials that we produced here on the podcast, and I’m proud of them for different reasons.

So the first one is called. A Dr. King special edition honoring Coretta while remembering Martin. I love this piece because Dr. King, of course, deserves his just due. Okay. Let’s be clear. The radical Dr. King that I know and love was amazing and brilliant. Okay. But I’m also very clear that Dr. King wouldn’t have been able to be Dr.

King. Without Coretta, okay, so when Dr. King’s birthday comes up and we’re honoring him and remembering him I make it a point to honor Coretta because She was the glue. Okay, she Sacrificed her opera career. She was raising that family. She was moving with him To the places. She was in the front of those marches, right?

She was there. She was in the midst and I love honoring her. I love honoring her. That’s one of my favorites. And then the last one makes me sad, but it’s so important. It’s called Bray Elyse Holm. An E3 Radio exclusive interview with Elyse’s sister, Fabiana. Elyse is a friend and a black trans woman who was murdered here in Chicago.

She was a leader, she was an activist, she was an organizer. She was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. Her voice So distinct. And so I chose this piece because it was an opportunity to honor Elise. It was an opportunity to talk about what was going on. It was an opportunity to raise awareness right around a sister who I knew, but this community knew and loved so much while speaking with her sister and her sister sounds.

So much like her. It was one of the most off putting things that I have ever experienced as an interviewer because I wasn’t ready. I almost gasped when we first started talking. But for me, it’s so important to include Elise here because I report on so many black and brown trans women who have lost their lives and Elise So those are my top five favorite queer news stories here on this podcast.

Bring me Griner, our summer interview series, Change the Pattern, Honoring Coretta While Remembering Martin, and Bring Elise Home, an interview with Elise’s sister. Alright, those are the top five queer news stories. Now on to our top five queer news moments. All right, y’all. So my first one I want to share is actually starting my TikTok page.

August 9th, 2021, I posted my first TikTok. And that is wild. I didn’t know what a TikTok was. OK, let’s be very clear. I am very transparent about my age. I am 40. OK, I was part of the crew that started Facebook. I was on Facebook when you needed a university email address. OK, they weren’t accepting you if you didn’t have a edu.

That’s like when I joined Facebook. OK, so. This is really a new wave of tech for me. And so I had to go to YouTube University. Okay. YouTube University held me down and I was learning how to make a reel because I’m not a dancer. , sorry. And so that’s all I see going viral on these places is people dance.

I’m like, I do not dance. Like how are people using this for business and being strategic about it and how they making room for this to raise awareness and brand awareness about what they’re doing. So YouTube University held me down. I figured out kind of what I wanted to do. And so much of it was just getting started.

So it was really me just getting started. And so from then until now, we went viral, semi viral, um, over the last few weeks, and now we’re at 33, 000 followers, wild, wild. So we’ve got 33, 000 friends on TikTok now, and that’s pretty dope. That is a major moment because I get to amplify these stories out even further.

You know, and that’s the point. And so TikTok is really special. It’s where so many of you all found this podcast is where we build relationship. It’s where you all can interact with me. And so for that, I am grateful. Now, my next one I got here is starting the Q Crew. Q Crew. Cool through, y’all. The first email, I had to go back.

I looked. The first email I published was on May 23rd, 2022. Okay. May 23rd, 2022. I sent down my first Q Crew email. And it had 25 people on it. Thank you to my first 25 people. Okay. Uh, today we have 118 people. Thank you Q Crew. Okay. Y’all helped to supplement the cost. I am grateful. I’m telling you because you don’t have to do it.

There’s people who hear me make this ask all the time, but they don’t click the link. Yeah, I’m talking to you. I’m talking to you because you never click the link. And things start at 5 a month. You know what I’m saying? That’s 60 a year. That’s like one coffee, a tea, maybe that good croissant. I don’t know.

Maybe something Keith Lee has recommended and you stand in line around buildings. You know what I’m saying? I don’t know, but I’m just saying it starts at 5. Cute Crew. Thank you. Uh, my third moment I’ve got here is being featured in Apple podcast this year. In June, we were featured on the Fantise podcast curated list within Apple.

It was curated by. The two hosts, Jared and Trevelle and Queer News made the cut and it was so dope because I have submitted to be on Apple’s list and we still ain’t got it yet. And this was cool because a friend saw it and she was like, You on the Apple list? I was like, I am? I wouldn’t look. I was like, Oh, snap.

This is so dope. Podcast discoverability sucks. Okay, let me just break the awful truth. And so when an app where the so many people who listen to podcasts go to listen to their podcast, and they have you in a featured like podcast curated list like this, it’s important. It’s dope. Because hundreds of thousands of people will now see your brand and now you’re exposed to all these people you would have never been exposed to.

So it means a lot and it was so cool. So that is definitely one of the coolest moments. Period. Alright, we got two more moments left. Two more moments. And let me be very clear. Queer News, the last two years, it has been a wild ride. I mean, so many beautiful things have happened and these next two are some of the coolest moments.

So, winning my first Black Podcasting Award, alright? Now we’re going to give love to all of them, but when in my first one, it’s so humbling. You know, I always say I compare the black podcasting awards to the NAACP image awards. Okay. It’s your people. And I give that context because people that know, you know, if you know, you know, okay?

It is the awards where black people say yes. Yes to you. Okay? It’s like being in church and they standing up and clapping like yes, you, you got this. You on to something. And that’s what the black podcasting awards are to me. That is my analogy, okay? And we applied for three. And we got nominated in three and y’all, let’s be very clear.

I’m very clear about this. Being nominated is where it’s at to be included in the number. Okay. Because there are so many people who apply all the time. The competition is stiff. Okay. I got so much respect for content creators and especially those in the podcasting space, because. It’s a mood. It’s a mood, y’all.

It’s a lot of work. And so, in 2022, we won Best LGBTQ Podcast of the Year. We won Best Black News and Informative Podcast of the Year. And we won Best New Black Podcast. Boom, boom, boom, boom! We did it. I applied for three, we got nominated for three, and then we won all three. It was a clean sweep. It is wild, okay?

And it was so special. It is so special, those awards. They sit right behind me every day. I get to see them every day and be reminded that my peers also think what we’re doing is pretty dope. Yeah, and then this year, we won two awards. We won best black LGBTQ podcast of the year. And then we actually won podcast of the year.

What? Yes, yes, indeed we did. We won podcast of the year. Yo, it’s just this overwhelming, amazing feeling when people value your work. It gives me a little bit more energy, you know, to put in a little bit more time, to give a little bit more, to not cut a corner, you know, because y’all are listening, y’all be knowin And I want to do my best every single time, every single time, y’all deserve that.

You deserve for me to show up here and give my very best. And that is exactly what I’m going to do. Now, my number one moment is not going to be a surprise to many. You know, it’s when we won the AMBI. Indeed. Indeed it is. It’s when we won the AMBI. March 2023. Best DIY Podcast. So. For those that don’t know, let me just tell you a little bit about this.

Okay. The Ambies are like the Oscars of podcasting. All right. They are put on by the podcast Academy, similar to the motion picture Academy. Okay. And it’s those members just like the motion picture Academy. And it’s those members in TPA that then vote. For who gets nominated and then who inevitably wins.

All right. And the DIY category was new this year. It was intentionally created to make a space for indie podcasters. So there were a couple of criteria. Essentially, you had to be indie, right? So not with a major network and you have to produce. An episode for less than 3, 000 an episode, which just, I just want y’all to know we produce this for far less than 3, 000 an episode.

Okay. And I said so much in my speech, but it’s really cool. Because when you’re in these awards, especially something like the AMBs, you’re competing against the big players in the space, the players who are multi million dollar corporations and who have much bigger budgets than you. And budgets they don’t even feel like are big enough, let alone what we’re working with.

So, to be nominated, let me tell you, was truly enough. And to win was just breathtaking. It still takes my breath away that we won an AMB. And we’ll go down in history as the first podcast to win in this category. And that is pretty freaking dope. I ain’t gonna lie. That’s kind of dope. Um, and if I could tell y’all a little secret, I still haven’t taken the AMV out the box, so I took it out one time, but it’s not hanging up in my house yet, and I’ve been thinking about that, but I don’t know where I want to put it.

So maybe by next year, it’ll actually be out of the box. For now, it’s still in the box, y’all. That’s real. Now, let’s transition into this last part of the podcast today.

All right, family, to honor World AIDS Day, I wanted to share an episode of the very first Qube original podcast we produced called Black HIV in the South. How did we get here? Now, this production. Was brought to the world with a full black woman team. Okay, me, that’s me. Mm hmm. You can add a little queer in there for me.

We got Latrice Samson Richards as our producer. Okay. And then we got Experience J coming through as our editor and sound designer. Do you understand? We are now an award winning team out here in these streets. We are, this podcast has won two awards, just pretty dope, two communicator awards this year and this podcast is so special.

As you may know, or may not know, December 1st was World AIDS Day and I just thought it would be fitting to play an episode from the podcast on here, on our 200th episode This podcast was born from this podcast. Quite literally the trip To San Francisco that the Q crew funded the Q crew was formed because this trip was happening as a place Where people who wanted to support this work financially could it all began?

with this podcast So this podcast birthed this podcast, which I think is so special and it happened so organically and so divinely. And this four part series is so beautifully done. Now we’re just going to play episode one, but of course I got links in the show notes so you can go dive into episode two, three and four.

Okay. Episode one is the history. Episode two is about the fear. Episode three is about community. Episode four is about the solutions. So I hope you decide to stay on the pod and hear episode one of this beautiful four part series. And for my word today, because you know, Anna’s always got a word. I’m actually going to play my Enby speech, my number one moment.

of the year. And I’m going to play this speech because so many people have told me about this speech. It really resonated with a lot of people and it authentically shares exactly how I feel about y’all and why I do this work and why I’m not stopping anytime soon. I love you. Thank you. Until next week.


This is a brand new category this year. Here are the nominees for Best DIY Podcast. Why

did it be so hard to get out? And the winner is Queer News.

Y’all, this is incredible. Um, I’d definitely make a podcast for less than 3, 000 an episode. Um, and the fact that that’s the threshold. Uh, God bless the Academy for making a DIY episode a category for us. There’s a lot of N D S. out here making amazing content that people cannot find. I’m really grateful to tell the stories of queer folks and black and brown queer folks because as our representation continues to increase, so does the anti LGBT and trans legislation and hate.

And I’m here to tell our stories because they deserve to be heard and amplified. And this says yes to that. So so much. If you’re hearing this, it means we didn’t sell this ad space. If you’re hearing this, it means running ads on our podcast actually can work. You see what I did there? You see this real life example.

You got an event. Do you have an organization? Do you got something you need to get the word out about? We got rates starting as low as a hundred dollars. Check the link in our show notes for more information.

There is no place like the Qube.

Family, welcome to Black HIV in the South. How did we get here? I’m Anna Deshawn, your favorite queer radio personality and co host of this podcast. I’m joined by my friend, Dwayne Kramer. Dwayne, say hi to the people. Hey y’all. How you doing? I’m sure they’re doing great because they’re joining us. And family, you’re going to hear a lot more from DeWayne in just a little bit, but I want to start in the beginning and share why I want to tell this story.

The journey began on April 18th, 2022, when I decided to put an all call out to my queer news podcast listeners. I asked if they could support my efforts to go and cover the 35th anniversary of the AIDS memorial quilt. I had never seen the quilt in person, and this was set to be the largest display of the quilt in over a decade.

The National AIDS Memorial was planning on displaying 3, 000 panels, that is, 3, 000 stories of people who lost their lives due to AIDS related complications. It was taking place in San Francisco, California, and I knew I couldn’t afford to go without additional financial support. Well, it was 11 days later on April 29th, 2022, when a listener who will remain nameless dropped a comment on a TikTok video.

They wrote, quote, I can’t find a TikTok that goes with the podcast that mentions the AIDS event in San Fran. I’d be happy to sponsor you for 1, 000 to go cover that event. Y’all, I didn’t know this person. I mean, who says that on TikTok? Who does that? I’ll tell you. People who believe in what you’re doing.

People who want to see you win. And I was blown away, and I didn’t even really believe it. I asked them to send me an email, and they actually did. They sent me an email, y’all. They followed through and that drove me to ask others to contribute and guess what they did the cute crew That’s what I call them today.

They came through and it really blew me away I raised enough money to travel to San Francisco and cover the 35th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial quilt Now as a good reporter I, of course, did my research prior to my arrival. I knew when I landed there, I wanted to collect interviews with those who were coming to volunteer, coming to remember their loved ones, those doing the work and making an impact.

But when I arrived and began walking the aisles of the quilt, and I do mean aisles, as there were over 350 blocks laid out, Which represented those 3, 000 panels, those 3, 000 stories and listening to the soundtrack of the names being read and understanding that the average age of a person on the quilt is 33, understanding that each panel quilt is six by three, roughly the size of a coffin, telling a story of remembrance through art and words, there was a deep emotional response that came over my entire body.

Tears just began to drop because when you walk through a display of the AIDS quilts, you understand that it is more than the largest community arts project ever in the world. You understand that it transcends needle and thread. And there were two people in particular that I knew would understand. Jada Harris, program manager of the Call My Name project with the National AIDS Memorial, and Dwayne Kramer, director of Quilt Community Engagement.

And Dwayne, I am so glad that you are joining me on this podcast. During that time, I got to learn so much about you and your story. Can you share with the listeners what drew you to this work? Sure, sure. You know, um, you know, my first association with HIV and AIDS was, was really in my family. Um, my father died of AIDS related complications in 1986 when he was a professor.

An associate dean of the business school at Howard University in Washington, D. C. And at that time, um, not a whole lot was talked about in the black and brown communities around HIV and AIDS. I mean, on the news, you saw lots of white gay men that were dying. You saw them acting up in the streets, literally, uh, demanding rights and focus and attention and medications.

But you didn’t see black people. And my father had just died. So my sisters and I were really fearful of what people would think because all that you saw were drug addicts, gay men, and other quote unquote undesirables in the community that were dying of this disease. And we didn’t want our father to be associated with that, nor did we want our family to be associated with that.

So we told people he died of cancer for many years. Um, and then I realized that this isn’t good for us as a family not to tell the truth, and it’s also not good for the greater family, and that’s all the other black and brown folks in this country. So we made a decision ten years later to make a panel for him in the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

And so I made that panel with my mother, my sisters, an aunt, and my niece, who was a baby at the time. And, uh, it was an opportunity for us to remember him, uh, to honor him, to celebrate his life, and also to continue educating people, because he was an educator, and to educate people about the fact that black and brown people are dying of this disease as well.

And so we intentionally put a photograph of him on his panel in the quilt so that You could see that it was a black man, and that gave us the opportunity to tell people to protect themselves, to educate themselves, and to speak up and to speak out so that we could bring an end to this disease that was and continues to disproportionately affect our community.

So that was my first association with. HIV and AIDS and what brought me to the quilt. I returned from, from that display of, in Washington, D. C., of all those panels, and I took my, you know, the HIV test that I was taking every three months or six months. My standard, you know, it was my regular time to take the HIV test and I got a call back saying that the doctor needed to speak with me.

And I said to the person that called me, Okay, so this has never happened before, so you must be telling me that my test results came back positive. And she said yes. And so that was right after coming back from telling my father’s story and, uh, laying out all 50, 000 panels of the Aismuro quilt on the mall in front of the Capitol.

And I was living at the time with my previous partner. who had been living with HIV from the mid 80s and he started breaking down in tears and he said this is a tragedy and oh my gosh and he had gone through so many complications and, and, and, and other issues that he assumed that I would go through the same.

And, you know, in 1996 when I converted, antiretrovirals were out. You know, there were life saving drugs and things that had never been released before. I had a wonderful community of people around me being in San Francisco. I had the support and the love of my family and everyone else. So I felt good. I felt that I was in a good place and I know that’s not everyone’s story, but I knew that continuing to live a healthy life, continuing to tell my story and the stories of other people like me that have been affected with this disease and are living and thriving.

would do good for the entire community. So, um, that’s what I did. And that’s how I really became involved with HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention.

I think it’s that representation. The representation of your father’s face on his panel, right? And when you converted and didn’t have the same fear as your partner. That was all possible because of the advocacy that was happening because people were fighting for their lives in the early 80s and early 90s.

in a way that today we can really only compare it to COVID. And when I was looking and doing research around this topic, as it became very clear to me that there is still an epidemic going on of HIV when it comes to Black folks, specifically in the South, I started to trace the path of Arthur Ashe to Magic Johnson.

Then we have Sylvester. And then we’ve got Eazy E, Howard Rollins. We had Salt N Pepa talking about, let’s talk about sex. And we had TLC with Waterfalls talking about condoms and protecting yourself. And then Ray Lewis Thornton, Hadea on Oprah. I mean, I remember Hadea on Oprah like it was yesterday. Right?

There was all these Black figures, public figures. who were living with HIV, raising awareness that this was affecting us too, because so much of the media was telling us that it was white gay men. And so there was just such a movement to counter what the media was saying in the early 80s about who HIV and AIDS was affecting.

Well, um, at the time, um, again, I, I feel like I was in a unique position only because I was living in San Francisco. Um And I saw HIV and AIDS prevention messages everywhere, all the time, every billboard, on the metro, underneath, on the city, everything, you know, it was in your face all the time, but when I went home to Houston, you know, where the majority of my family lives, or Up Other places in the black communities, you didn’t see HIV and AIDS advertising.

You didn’t hear people talking about it. You didn’t hear, see support groups and organizations. You just didn’t see any of that. So, while I was privileged to be surrounded by, um, a community of people that had access to drugs, Um, life saving drugs, finally, um, it wasn’t the same for the, the folks that I saw when I went back to where my, you know, roots are and, um, still to this day, you know, traveling through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and all these states, um, you realize that there are no prevention messages or very few people are not talking about this.

There’s a lack of access to, um, medication, support services, and there are HIV criminalization laws. So, there’s all kinds of things that, um, allow the virus to take hold in our community, in the black and brown community very early, and it continues to this day. And that’s why it’s important. That all of us do our part to talk about this so that we can protect one another and not repeat our past mistakes.

And one part of telling our stories is capturing them, right? And this is the power of this podcast is that I had the opportunity to speak with people who are living and thriving with HIV today. One of the very first people I had the opportunity to talk to was Nathan Townsend, who is the HIV prevention programs manager for NASEM.

And for all of you that don’t know, NASEM is the National AIDS Education and Services for Minorities. And NASEM was formed in 1990, so the early 90s, and is one of the very first African American community based nonprofit organizations. to stand on the front lines in the fight against HIV and AIDS in Atlanta, Georgia.

And Nathan had us all in tears, and I’m just gonna let Nathan tell his story, but I think so much of what he says Really helps us to understand what was happening in the early eighties. I came up at a really strict, um, religious family, but very loving. And what I noticed when I started coming out and joining community was that I was giving up pieces of myself little by little by little.

And so I went from being all the way over here where I was like, I’m a good boy. I’m not going to do this. I’m not gonna do that. And then you meet somebody and you give up a edge. And then you’re moving closer and so you have the tendency to just, you know, really give up all that that is you just to be involved, just to be connected, just to be engaged, only to realize that you’re not even building anything you’re, you’re giving up and pouring into something that’s not going to yield any kind of return.

And so many times. In that process, in that journey, we lose so much of ourselves. We, we, we lose our sense of self. And in my case, I lost my, um, The zero status as an HIV negative person, you know, 38 years ago, because I listened to the lie that this is only white people that are getting this virus. And so when I get tested, got tested in 1984, it was just like a symbolic gesture that I just knew that I’m like, child, I’m just going to do this for the people.

Child, I walked out that thing a whole different person. But what I realized by myself at that particular juncture. was that I don’t feel any different just because you just put three letters behind my name. Nothing in me has changed, you know, and, and I hid. I hid in public. Um, I actually joined, um, different HIV organizations as a board member.

One, um, being aligned. But anonymously, I did, uh, Meals on Wheels for HIV positive people doing stuff, you know, for them. I got involved, but never told my story. Um, and, and, I, we would go to the club. And you would, you know, we had such a close community, and this was in Philadelphia. And then you would see people just missing, like they were just plucked out of the crowd.

And the crowd, the density of the crowd just starts to dissipate. You know, it would be like, pop, pop. Pop. And everybody knew what that meant. It meant that they were gone. Because back then, people would start to, to, to pull away when they started looking like they were sick. And nobody, it wasn’t a thing where they could have a village around them.

People suffered in silence and in, uh, in alienation and isolation. We had, I had friends that moved to the mountains so that they could die. So, so that they, no one would, would know their story. And it, there was so much stigma. It’s so much shame, but it was so many people that were just caught up. It was almost like the rapture, like they were just caught up and taken away.

And you, you would sit there and wonder, when is it going to be my time? When is it going to be my time?

When Nathan did the pop, I felt that. Is that how it felt in the eighties and early nineties? It felt like it did. Um. I moved to San Francisco in the very late 80s, and um, It almost seemed like a ghost town in some ways, uh, you would see people walking around that looked like they were near death, um, and, uh, people would just be gone.

Um, at the same time, I was in my twenties, and so there was a whole influx of new, younger folks moving in. that kind of, uh, revitalized what the city was looking like and what the people were looking like. But I knew that behind those Victorian facades and in those buildings that there were a lot of people that were dying and dying alone.

And that was scary. That was sad. Um, but yeah, we lost a lot of people, an entire generation of people, uh, folks that are maybe five. To 10 years older than me, I, I know folks that have lost all of their friends. They’re the only people standing to this day. And I think part of that conversation too is that gay folks weren’t the only people affected during that time, but those were the only stories.

that were being amplified at that time. And even more specifically, white gay male stories were the ones being told. And what we know to be true is that there are different ways in which HIV can be transmitted. It’s all through the blood. I almost evoked a whole Christian Jesus song. Okay, wasn’t for the blood.

It wasn’t for the blood, right? But it all happens through the blood. So, yes. Gay men definitely were the most affected, but we also can talk about those who were using drugs at the time. And we can absolutely talk about those who are hemophiliacs. Because that group really wasn’t talked about, but they were affected early on at very high rates.

Absolutely. You’re absolutely right, because at that time, so many children We’re catching HIV through the tainted blood in our system. For me, the first person that comes to mind is Ryan White because he was the poster child for AIDS during that time. Everyone knew Ryan White’s name. Michael Jackson was one of his pallbearers.

That was the level, the profile in which he had attained because the media picked up his story. But we also know that there was a Michael Felton. And Jada Harris is the program manager for the Call My Name Project, which was specifically designed to increase the number of African Americans on the quilt.

And Jada tells the story better than anybody else on the planet. So the way we’re going to let her tell the story. About Ryan White, but also definitely Michael Felton. Yeah, there’s a whole section in the Grove that’s dedicated to people who’ve lost their lives to HIV and AIDS as hemophiliacs. And a lot of them are our children are most of them are our young people.

And that was kind of highlighted in the Ryan White story. Um, but the focus really was on. Um, the mystery of what people didn’t know in the, in the, in the, um, the stigma and the shame, uh, of it all. And, um, the, you know, assertive, aggressive attacks on, you know, these young children. I mean, they were children.

Um, so the hemophiliac story has kind of been, I wouldn’t say buried, but it’s not something that’s highlighted down because it’s. What is just not as much of an issue in terms of transmission. And it’s as, as if the society has moved on earlier this year, we started doing research on what are the untold stories, who’s missing from the quilt and, um, our wonderful research fellow, Ashley Brown.

Out of the University of San Francisco, did a deep dive into Mississippi because Mississippi, Jackson, Mississippi was going to be the first stop on the exhibition. And she came across this story about this young boy, Michael Felton, born in 1971 in Mount Bayou, Mississippi, and grew up in Cleveland, Mississippi.

Um, he was a. Hemophiliac diagnosed with HIV at 13 years old. Um, like I said, he was born in 1971, the same year that Ryan White was born. And he was fighting the same fight that Ryan White was fighting. All he wanted to do was go to school. And when he got his HIV diagnosis, he was one of only six people in the entire state.

of Mississippi that had an HIV diagnosis, and I think one of only 160 something children across the country that had an HIV diagnosis. And as soon as he got that diagnosis, the school board decided that they would not allow him to go to school. And his dream was to go to high school. So at 14 years old, he was petitioning the, the school board to go to public school.

And he had decided in his own mind that he was going to go into the schoolhouse. He was going to go the, you know, he just decided I’m going to school. And the night before he went to school, he passed away. So he never made it into the school, but the forces that were around him, the community were rallying in support of him to be able to attend school.

Um, and it’s because of the work that was done with the community fighting on his behalf. His younger brother was able to go to school. He was also a hemophiliac and he lived to be 70. So this is, I think this is an incredible story about this young little, little lung, little black boy from the, from the Delta of Mississippi fighting the good fight in the same way that Ryan White fought the good fight.

But there are no, there are no films made after him. There are no, there are no TV specials. There are no landmark. Bills, um, there are no landmark grant names named after him, and he should be elevated in the same way that Ryan White was elevated because he suffered the same challenges.

We know Brian White’s story. He was everywhere. Yeah, he was everywhere. And there are bills and there are, um, resources. That still to this day, the, the drug assistance program and all these different types of federal programs that are named after Ryan White, who was born in 1971, you know, the same year as Michael Felton.

And because we didn’t have that representation, no one knows the Michael Felton story. It’s such a powerful story that no one knows. Dwayne, keep me honest, I believe there’s 50 plus panels for Ryan White, and only because of the work of Jada and you, and the Call My Name Project team, there are now two panels for Michael Felton?

Uh, there are two. Uh, there will be more. And there’s no question that when it’s all said and done in the history books, uh, that Michael Felton’s story will be told, um, you know, we’re really trying to thread the needle from then, you know, the early 80s, um, in HIV and today. And everyone’s story is important.

It’s important for us to remember, honor, and celebrate all of these lives. But it’s critically important that we as black people and brown people know. How this virus affected us from the beginning. The struggles that we went through, the triumphs and the heroes that fought for their own justice and for the justice of others.

And we’re at today with rates still at extremely high levels for black women and particularly black men who have sex with men. So it’s important for us to talk about this for us to document and remember these stories. So that we can bring an end to this, and we can, and we will.

So family, I’m sure you’re wondering why in the world that I want to do a whole podcast specifically about the South. Well, I could tell the story, but it’s always better coming from the most brilliant people working on this issue. And one of those brilliant people that I met on this journey has been Daphne Ward.

She’s the executive director of the Southern AIDS Coalition. And let me just tell y’all something. She is a magical human. But I’ll let her speak on why we have to focus our energies, our time, our resources. on the South. Yeah, I think the South one National AIDS Memorial recognized it had not done a lot of programming in the South.

While you had the call my name program, which is the program shout out Jada Harris, the program that Jada leads based in Atlanta. Outside of that, there had not been a strong investment or engagement in black and brown communities. And when you look at the rates of HIV in our communities, as you mentioned, definitely we still have a national epidemic to end.

But in the South, it’s just a whole other level of disparity. We know that most people living with HIV in the U. S. that are Black and Brown live in the South. We know that the majority of new HIV diagnoses happens in the South. We know that most Southern states have not expanded Medicaid. Most Southern states do not have comprehensive sexual health education in our schools.

Most Southern states are on the list of the states with the highest rates of poverty and lowest rates of employment and lowest rates of health. There’s just all these things. And so when I talk about HIV in the context of the South, whenever I present, I always start with this map from 1908. And back in 1908, the NAACP, um, hired cartographers, map makers, to show us the rates of lynching in every state in the country.

So it’s a really remarkable map, it goes from lightest to darkest, and the darker states have the highest rates of lynching in those, you know, that century leading up to 1908. And if you layer that map with the HIV map. As far as rates of HIV, it’s the same map. So it’s like, we can’t have these conversations about why HIV in the Southwest is so bad until we talk about systemic racism.

Until we talk about the fact that this was the plan from the beginning. You know, we want, you know, this is what it was, you were supposed to feel like you would have been better off enslaved than living in this region free, right? This is, this was the system. And I think that’s why I’m so passionate about this work because HIV is just a perfect storm that shows us what it looks like.

When communities do not have effective and equitable access to health resources, to educational resources, and then are made to feel ashamed when they suffer as a result of a lack of resources.

Boom! It’s a lot of information. She’s speaking the truth. So I’ve had the opportunity to hear Daphne to speak on multiple occasions. And when she begins to really pull the lens out. And look at the holistic reasons as to why it’s affected black folks in the South. So drastically different than everywhere else in the country.

You just remember that HIV is not just by itself. We can’t look at HIV alone. We do have to look at the larger problems and the larger systemic issues that have driven this to be such an epidemic in the South in 2023. Absolutely. No, no. Everything is actually, uh, Ling. You know, the failure to effectively address a lot of the factors that she talked about is what really increases HIV vulnerability in our communities.

And, you know, the impediments to accelerated service uptake is a key reason why progress in the HIV fight remains so slow. So, um, in this regard, the federal plan is concerning. Because while it rightly prioritizes greater geographic focus in the South, Um, it does not openly really grapple with all of the social and structural factors that really contribute to the racial and ethnic disparities in the HIV outcomes.

You know, because, um, you know, I could roll through a lot of statistics. There’s some crazy things such as, you know, the projection is that one in two black men who have sex with men will contract HIV in their lifetime. That’s, that’s crazy. One in two black men who have sex with men will contract HIV in their lifetime.

And why is that? All the homophobia, racism, lack of access to resources, all the things that she talks about. And that’s just one example. So there’s a lot of work to be done. There’s a lot of work to do, especially when we’re talking about 13 states. The devastation that’s happening within 13 states. The South makes up 38 percent of the population, but 52 percent of all new HIV cases when it comes to Black folks.

And it’s just like, those two things do not equate. That data tells us so much about the problem, and that’s why the folks doing the work do call it an epidemic. Well, you know, it’s not just an epidemic. I mean, let’s call it what it is. It is a crisis. People need to understand that it is a crisis in the South.

with HIV and AIDS for black and brown folks. And it’s for that very reason, Dewayne, that I wanted to do this podcast, because I understand the power of us telling our stories. Because when we don’t, our stories are erased from history. They will pretend that we were never here. And in this episode, family, we talked about the public figures that you all are so familiar with.

We’ve talked about the lack of representation today. And now you know about Michael Felton. Now, in episode two We’re going to dig into more about the fear that existed in the early eighties and how that fear has led us to the stigma that is still killing us today. We’re going to dig a little bit deeper into how that stigma actually materialized itself in real life.

So family stick with us. Episode two, you’re tuned in to black HIV in the south. How did we get here?

Black HIV in the South is an exclusive production of the Qube. The show is produced by Latrice Sampson Richards of STS Productions and edited by Experienced Jay of Shhh, Just Listen Media. Follow us on social at the Qube app and check out the Qube to discover the best BIPOC and QTPOC podcasts.

If you enjoyed what you heard, rate and review us inside your favorite podcasting app. This podcast is written and produced by me, Anna Deshawn. Podcast editing by Experience J of Just Listen Media, and brought to you by E3 Radio, your number one queer radio station playing queer music and reporting on queer news in high rotation. 

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