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Rewriting Your Inner Scripts

   Like many this week I read and discovered that Kid Cudi checked himself into rehab for “depression and suicidal urges.” It is intriguing that at 32 years of age this Black man checked himself into a place that will address his mental health. This is fantastic if you ask for my initial thoughts. Folks of color need this because realistically “we,” do not address much of the trauma (mostly mental but some physical) that we endure throughout our lives. In the Black community, showing any form of weakness is taboo. African-American men are especially taught to be strong and not give any indication of weakness. Many hide such vulnerabilities behind fortresses that prohibit any emotions from breaking out. Addressing mental health within the Black community is much more important today as we still face racial inequality, police brutality and other barrier that prohibit us from reaching our full potential in society.

When I was a flight attendant for a regional airline I was sexually assaulted on a layover. I was drugged and taken advantage of by two men and still to this day cannot identify them; however, their smell and voices still are glued into my head only to haunt me. I just recall waking up in extreme pain and a sight that still gives me nightmares.  I did the only thing I could do, which was to clean myself up and go to work.  The trauma led to more issues as I unknowingly infected my boyfriend at the time with an STI, which led him to believe I was cheating on him. This led to physical and verbal abuse, which only made things worse on my end. I never reported the rape because I never believed that the police would believe me nor understand how to deal with a gay man being raped. I was messed up internally and based off of the trauma the only way I dealt with it was through the only outlet I felt at the Photo on 1-31-13 at 8.16 PMtime was reasonable…. sex. The amount and types of sex I had to this day is a blur. I can tell you there was so much of it and even to this day I run into people online or in person who expect me to remember them and our encounter and I am completely clueless. As I was starting to phase out of the addiction of sex I was faced with another event, my HIV diagnosis. This sent me into a deep depression and a rise in my anxiety. I called out of work, stayed in bed, was not in the mood to eat, contemplated suicide and did not even open my blinds or turn on lights to give myself light. At one point I took a handful of pills in hopes that my life would end. I thank God that I am still here today. I credit my initial medical provider and caseworker at Whitman Walker for saving me as they directed me to a therapist. Much time was spent addressing my PTSD, depression, panic attacks, and anxiety through sitting down on a nice futon styled couch or by taking additional pills to my regimen.

Friendship, fellowship and being vulnerable to allow people into my
life worked just as strong as the treatment path I was on. Having people who acted like the roots to my tree provided stability, nutrients and the necessary affirmations needed to bring me back from a very dark place. In the beginning of this year while on a trip I was hospitalized due to viral meningitis. While sitting in my hospital room the doctor, who was an intern, came in and said “I feel so sorry for you.” She went on to explain that what was causing the meningitis was a strain of HSV-2. “You are 26 years old, black, HIV-positive, and now with another infection that is cAusten by sex you have so much life to live but you just are wasting it away,” she said with judgement. Although I was able to tell her that I stay affirmative and focus on my health and moving forward, deep down inside I was shocked, disappointed and angry at myself. I was replaying the rape, finding out my HIV diagnosis in the nasty way I did and feeling dirty. I hate when people use the word CLEAN to identify their STD status; however, I just felt filthy and wanted to scrub myself raw in hopes that I would be able to remedy myself of this new information I obtained. I ended up falling back into another deep battle with depression and feeling the anxiety creeping back in. Back at work I felt like I had to be this Ice Queen because if I would open up about my life then people would immediately know I was Poz and HSV-positive. I would check my entire body every day and night to make sure I was not breaking out anywhere. When people would try to get close I would simply push them away.  Every time my back or neck started to get tight or cramp I would immediately call my doctor and beg him to run more tests. I was a mess but I forced myself into therapy to help work through the issues. She encouraged me to try to push myself past my comfort zone, be social and try to make new friends while maintaining the friends I left behind.

I’ve been blessed to have good friends that continue to check on me although I may not reciprocate as often. My good friend in Florida always calls me to check to make sure I am doing alright.  My gay dad in San Francisco always sends positive healing vibes my way.  Being accepted by three amazing queer men of color at my job for who I am and the social awkwardness that comes with me makes me feel worthy of continuing
this journey that is life. On the trip we worked together they included me in almost everything.  We even purchased makeup together and also had a spa day and gave each other facials.  Having my bestfriend call me when she has not heard from me and when I pick up says “Where you been ho!”sounds silly and borderline offensive but just immediately places a smile on my face while making life just a little more bearable. Although I still remail closed off to much of the world, especially where I am at presently I still try my hardest to be vulnerable about my feelings, be willing to receive hugs, say I love you and mean it, and appreciate the calls to check-in on me. I share my story because we all go through shit and acquire so much trauma through our lives. We shouldn’t be afraid to seek a mental health professional, talk to friends and other support structures and be willing to take the necessary steps to take care of the issues we are dealing with. Cudi described himself  exactly as I feel at times which is “a damaged human swimming in a pool of emotions everyday in my life.” As someone who continuously deals with depression and PTSD from my sexual assault and diagnoses it is nice to see a Black man speak up transparently about his own mental health.
My therapist is on speed dial. Although I am in a good space right now I still work hard to see her. My therapist and medical provider are critical pieces to my puzzle toward greater holistic health. NEVER be afraid to see someone to help you work through the internal struggles.

YBGLI’s Policy & Advocacy Summit

Earlier this year Thomas, Adrian, and I had the opportunity to attend the Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative’s Policy & Advocacy Summit in Atlanta.  I can tell you this is going to be bigger and better!  If you are 18-29 years old and identify as  a Black gay, bisexual, same gender loving, or as a man who has sex with men then apply.  Below is the press release with additional answers to some frequent questions.  You can reach the application here.  Please share with your networks and get the word out to ensure people have the ability to apply.  Applications are open until January 5 at  5:00pm EST.  


ybgli pas 14 all

The Young Black Gay Men’s Leadership Initiative (YBGLI) is excited to announce its third Policy & Advocacy Summit (PAS). The PAS will bring together young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men from various parts of the United States in order to help them become better advocates and leaders within their communities.

Applicants are selected based on a proven track of individual leadership, community mobilization and/or ability to conduct grassroots organizing at the local, state, and/or regional level. The PAS will include various policy, advocacy, and mobilization -based workshops that are designed to encourage activism through new media and ongoing engagement with the community.

If you – or someone you know – would be a good fit for the 2015 PAS, please complete this application. Summit applicants are due Monday, January 5, 2015, 5:00 p.m. EST.  Applicants will be notified of their application status by email no later than Monday, January 26, 2015.

2015 Policy & Advocacy Summit Application

FAQ’s about the 2015 Policy & Advocacy Summit

1.) What is the Policy & Advocacy Summit (PAS)?

The PAS aims to build capacity and promote leadership among young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men in order to help them become better advocates and leaders within their community. The PAS will include various policy, advocacy, and mobilization -based workshops that are designed to encourage activism through new media and ongoing engagement with the community.

2.) Who is eligible to apply/attend the 2015 PAS?

Eligible applicants are U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 – 29 years who are

  1. African American/Black, and identify as
  2.  Gay, bisexual, same gender loving, or as a man who has sex with men.

3.) How does the application process work? 

The application is available at www.ybgli.org. All applicants are required to submit an application that includes submission of a resume/CV. No application will be considered complete without a resume or CV. The deadline to submit your application is Monday, January 5, 2015 5:00 p.m. EST. All selected applicants will be notified of their status by email no later than Monday, January 26, 2015.

4.) What is expected of my participation in the PAS?

Selected applicants are expected to participate in a pre-conference webinar shortly after being selected for the Summit. Webinar information will be included in acceptance package.  Additionally, selected applicants are expected to participate fully during all PAS-related activities and to demonstrate excellent judgment and character while at the PAS.

5.) What is the cost to attend the PAS?

There is no cost associated with attending the 2015 PAS. However, please let us know if your employer/organization would be willing to subsidize your participation in the PAS through financial or other in-kind donations. This will allow us to finance more participants. Please note this information will NOT help or hurt your application, as the 2015 PAS selection process is double-blind.

6.) What should I wear/bring to the PAS?

Participants are expected to dress in business attire throughout the 2015 PAS. Participants who choose not to dress in business casual attire may be asked not to participate in PAS-related activities and/or asked to leave the PAS entirely. Participants will be encouraged to use their cellphones, tablets, and/or laptops throughout the PAS in order to utilize social and digital media. However, YBGLI is not responsible for any lost or stolen items.

7.) What will I learn/do at the summit?

Among other things, 2015 PAS participants will…

  • Network with other young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men from across the United States.
  • Develop policy, advocacy, and interpersonal communication skills through workshops and institutes.
  • Learn about issues affecting young Black gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men from respected experts in a diversity of fields, including health, research, policy, advocacy, community mobilization, and communications.
  • Have fun!

8.) How many participants will attend the summit?

The 2015 PAS will bring together up to 60 participants from across the United States.

9.) Are transgender or gender non-conforming men eligible to participate in the 2015 PAS?

Yes, the PAS is open to transgender men and gender non-conforming men.

10.) Who should I contact if I have more questions about the 2014 PAS summit?

Contact the YBGLI Organizing Committee at summit@ybgli.org for summit related questions and to inquire about sponsorship opportunities.

11.) What is the location and date of the 2015 PAS?

The location and date will be included in the acceptance package. You will have two weeks to confirm acceptance.

12.) If I can’t – or am not chosen to – attend the summit, how else can I participate/get involved with YBGLI?

Contact the YBGLI Organizing Committee at leadership@ybgli.org for additional opportunities to stay connected. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Give a Memorable Presentation

          Great tips. Don’t you agree that reading off a PowerPoint is overkill? Any other tips or best practices you think are good for presenters to know?

As World AIDS Day Approaches

As a Global Crew Member of MTV Stay Alive’s Someonelikeme Global Crew I wanted to share a cool video by the Someonelikeme team.  I can’t wait for the outputs of or collaboration.  Check out their initiative here!

TheBody.com: Red Reminds Me

546612846fcfd-RedRemindsMe_RevisionCheck out TheBody.com and their campaign for World AIDS Day.  To participate it’s quite simple:

  • People can submit their photos and captions using the Web form below (the preferred method), on our Facebook page, or by using the #RedRemindsMe hashtag on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook from Nov. 15 through Dec. 12.
  • TheBody.com will moderate submissions and open up voting to the public from Dec. 15 to 31.
  • The three most creative and inspirational photos (as chosen by a panel of judges) will be announced by the week of Jan. 12 and rewarded with a great prize. Our grand prize includes an MTV Video Music Awards experience, with two tickets to the LifeBEat/ Time Warner Cable/ MTV VMA Concert and a $1,000 gift card for accommodations and travel. Past performers include: Sam Smith, Kesha, Maroon 5, Iggy Azalea, Macklemore and Robin Thicke. Two runner-up submissions will also be selected, and will receive cash prizes: a $250 gift card for 2nd place and $100 gift card for 3rd place.

For more information about this campaign click here!

Some examples of what entries can look like

Some examples of what entries can look like

USCA 2014: Reflections of 3 Black Voices Bloggers – From Blog.AIDS.GOV Post

The 2014 U.S. Conference on AIDS (USCA) Exit Disclaimer earlier this month was the largest HIV/AIDS-related gathering in the nation. During the conference, the AIDS.gov team provided daily social media coverage Exit Disclaimer, policy updates, and technical assistance to conference participants in our social media lab.

Today, we bring you personal perspectives of the conference from Guy Anthony, Kahlib Barton, and Patrick Ingram: three bloggers from AIDS.gov’s Black Voices Blog, a bimonthly blog series written by black, gay millennials affected by HIV/AIDS. Each is a community leader is his own right, and all of them are sharing their experiences of living with HIV by using new media to amplify their voices and touch the lives of those like them.

Guy Anthony

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…we are moving in the right direction if we continue to advocate positioning ourselves at the table when it comes to issues that directly infect and affect us.”

For a USCA first-timer like me, being amongst so many passionate people, both infected and affected, was an indescribable feeling that I’ll never forget. USCA left me reeling with excitement to return to DC to “do the work.”I was incredibly inspired to hold everyone, including myself, accountable in the fight to eradicate this disease. Not just people providing direct services to clients, but agencies as a whole, executive directors, and policy-makers.

One of my favorite moments was the workshop titled “Black Gay Men: Where Are We Now? Where Do We Need to Be?” The references to black gay revolutionaries like Audre Lorde Exit Disclaimer, Essex Hemphill Exit Disclaimer, Marlon Riggs Exit Disclaimer were inspiring. I think, as a community, we are moving in the right direction if we continue to position ourselves at the table when it comes to issues that directly affect us. And what exactly does being represented at the “table” look like? A great example is Douglas Brooks, the Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; President Obama appointed him to that position earlier this year. Brooks is an HIV/AIDS activist, and a gay black man who is living with HIV. He leads the Administration’s work to reduce new HIV infections, improve health outcomes for people living with HIV, and eliminate HIV health disparities in the United States.

Overall, USCA 2014 was everything I thought it’d be. The dialogue at USCA was sincere and shared a common theme that black gay men need to start taking care of themselves, for themselves.

Kahlib Barton

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I became inspired to advocate for those who are unable to do so for themselves, because so many people advocated for me when I didn’t think I could.”

USCA Exit Disclaimer, NMAC Exit Disclaimer, PrEP, PEP. Alphabet soup anyone? All of these acronyms were foreign to me about a month ago. But now I not only know what they mean, but I am inspired to learn more about HIV and how I can make a difference. Because of NMAC’s Youth Scholar program Exit Disclaimer, I was able to attend USCA for the first time this year, and it has changed my life.

Hearing personal experiences of others living with HIV, and meeting all the NMAC Youth Scholars with so many inspiring backgrounds, were my highlight moments of USCA. Meeting these inspiring individuals who were willing to help me navigate this unfamiliar world helped me to take advantage of this opportunity.

One story that particularly resonated with me was Lawrence Stallworth; he is young, the same age as I am, and has been living with the virus for as long as I have. But until I met him, the difference between us was that he did not allow his status to define him. Lawrence has already traveled across the country speaking about HIV awareness, and now serves on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

At USCA, I became inspired to advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves, because so many of the people I met advocated for me when I didn’t think I could. Before USCA I was a shy, angst-ridden, 23-year-old man living with HIV. But I turned my shyness into sufficiency and my angst into assurance. Now I feel that I am empowered and ready to make a difference in my own community. I have now joined multiple councils and organizations to be sure that my voice is heard. Most important, I use my voice as my tool to combat stigma and raise awareness for all those suffering with, or because of, this disease.

Patrick Ingram

Patrick Ingram“As I continue to grow, I realize the impact of change that takes place when I speak up…”

I was thrilled to return to USCA this year as a member of both the NMAC Youth Scholars and the USCA Steering Committee. For me, USCA is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people who are dedicated to addressing HIV.

One highlight from my time at USCA was having the opportunity to visit the University of California at San Diego’s Center for AIDS Research (CEFAR) Exit Disclaimer with my fellow NMAC Youth Scholars. I was able to learn more about the amazing work being done in the field of HIV medications and vaccines research. Visiting CEFAR has encouraged me to continue to advocate for young, gay men of color to have access to biomedical research opportunities.

As I continue to grow, I realize the impact of change that takes place when I speak up and set my mind to the task at hand. USCA has shown me that sharing my experiences and using my voice are important, and I continue to do so on my personal blog and in my work at the Virginia Department of Health. USCA 2015 will be held in Washington DC, and I am interested in how government agencies and organizations that serve those affected by HIV will employ, listen, give opportunities to lead, and implement the ideas/strategies of youth.

Did you go to USCA 2014? Share your experience in the comments below. Read more from our Black Voices bloggers here.

– See more at: http://blog.aids.gov/2014/10/usca-2014-reflections-of-3-black-voices-bloggers.html#sthash.gRSS3cMJ.dpuf