__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1

NOV + DEC 2019 VISIT TUVMAG.COM

AN EMPOWERING CONVERSATION With

TUV Editors

CHIMA ONWUKA & GRIND CITY KICKS Black Millennials 4 Flint Leading the Fight Against Lead Poisoning

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

CHERISSE

SCOTT

This Sister’s Reach Is Going To Change Lives Reproductive Justice Activist, Educator and Advocate Cherisse Scott is determined to change the framework on reproductive and sexual health on the local, state, and national level on behalf of women and girls of color, poor women, LGBTQ+Folx, rural women and their families.

MEET BLOSSOM C. BROWN MEMPHIS, TN WELCOMES SPIRIT HEALTH CENTER

WORLD AIDS DAY ISSUE COMMUNITIES MAKE THE DIFFERENCE


Be part of TUV Magazine’s Next Issue JAN | FEB 2020

Send all stories and articles to: info@tuvmag.com Advertising inquiries: ads@tuvmag.com Deadline for ALL ADS: December 10, 2019

WORLD AIDS ISSUE

COMMUNITIES MAKE THE DIFFERENCE

CONTENTS

9 Blossom C. Brown

Trans-Activist

10 Cherisse Scott The CEO of SisterReach

18 Grace Detrevarah The Osborne Association

22

Lawayne Childrey HIV/AIDS Champion


06 | Editor’s Letter

Dr. Davin D. Clemons, DMin

07 | Editor’s Letter

Gwendolyn D. Clemons, MBA, MSM

08 | Community News

Chima Onwuka - Grind City Kicks

13 | Spirituality

Beth Trouy | Her Name is Elizabeth

14 | Special Contributor

Renae Taylor - Transcend Memphis

20 | Social News

LaTricea Adams - Black Millennials 4 Flint

25 | Fashion

Colby Butler - House of Colby

26 | Special Contributor

Monika M. Pickett - World AIDS Day Exclusive

28 | Wedding Announcement Jonathan and David

Snap to Subscribe to TUV Magazine

Scan this code with your phone to subscribe to The Unleashed Voice Magazine Today! Take it everywhere you go, along

29 | Community News

with the print edition. You’ll qualify to download each issue digitally through your IPhone, IPad, or Android devices.

Mildred Edwards - The Face of AIDS

31 | Entertainment

Anthony Oakes - Comedian Extraordinaire

National Advertising + Rivendell Media Company 1248 US - 22 Mountainside, NJ 07092 Office 908.232.2021 | www.rivendellmedia.com

EASHED NL

THE

U

U V

m

T

a g a z i n

ICE VO

TEAM TUV

@TUVmagazine

e Shawn M. Clemons Administration/ Fashion Director

Gregory Graphics Layout / Design

Eddie Wiley MSM | ATL Correspondent

Monick Monell Talent Director & New York Correspondent

Whitney Johnson

Renae Taylor

Ravell Slayton

Transgender

Project Manager

Chief Editor

Correspondent


| THE EDITOR’S LETTER

KNOW YOUR STATUS By: Dr. DAVIN D. CLEMONS, DMin. This year’s theme for 2019 World AIDS Day, which will be marking its 31st anniversary on December 1st, will be “Communities make the difference.” It is important to know your HIV status because if someone is infected with HIV and doesn’t get medical treatment, HIV can destroy so many CD4 cells that the body can’t fight infections and diseases anymore. And when that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS. The growth of new HIV infections continues to pose serious health risks, but the facts are that: HIV is preventable, you can reduce or eliminate your risk, and early detection can lead to early treatment and better outcomes. Testing yourself for HIV is important for your health, your relationships, your life, and your future. Knowing your status is not only important for your own personal health benefits, but also for the protection of others that you are sexually involved with.

06

Another major reason to “know your status” is that President 45’s budget proposes to cut CDC’s HIV prevention

programs by 19%, or $149 million; cut CDC’s STD prevention programs by 17%, or $27 million; cut the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program at HUD by $26 million; eliminate the Ryan White Program’s AIDS Education and Training Centers (AETC) and Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS); eliminate the HHS Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund; and reduce SAMHSA’s Minority AIDS Initiative programs. “President Trump’s proposal to reduce CDC’s STD prevention work comes at a moment of national crisis when we are seeing the highest STD rates in 20 years. If enacted, this will devastate our ability to prevent and treat STDs and it will undermine our ability to prevent HIV. We urge Congress to reject these extreme cuts and increase STD, HIV, and public health funding,” said David C. Harvey, Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. Now I hope you see the importance of knowing your status in these political times with President 45 in office. Funding for continuing to fight HIV/AIDS should be increasing, not decreasing. The United States of America has been funding HIV/AIDS prevention since the 1980s, and since 2015 we have 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS, according to the CDC. If we look at HIV infections by transmission category, we see that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are most at risk. In 2015, gay and bisexual men accounted for 68% of all new HIV infections. In the same year, individuals infected through heterosexual sex made up 23% of all new HIV infections. But clearly, in the words of the late great Michael Jackson, “All I want to say is that they don’t really care about us. Don’t worry what people say, we know the truth. All I want to say is that they don’t really care about us. Enough is enough of this garbage, All I want to say is that they don’t really care about us.” So you need to care, if they don’t. KNOW YOUR STATUS!


THE EDITOR’S LETTER |

Do it Afr aid Gwendolyn D. Clemons, MBA, MSM

I

get it. You want to do it, but all logical reasons tell you NO! What I have come to learn is that when this happens, the brain is doing its function. The function of the brain is to protect you and keep you safe. The brain logically and methodically finds reasons through the application of our memory and experiences. But the brain is also a part of you, and this is when you have to override the command and “DO IT AFRAID.” In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “What I Know For Sure” is sometimes you have to say yes when you want to say no. Don’t give in to fear and make fear based decisions. Learn to connect with your soul and your human spirit because that is when you can begin to soar. When you get ready to soar (quit a job, launch a business, go back to school, or leave an abusive relationship) your brain will always tell you to wait, hold up, step back. Your brain is triggered by things you may have heard, seen, or experienced, and it is designed to

keep you safe. You have to be willing to navigate between your brain and your soul. I believe sometimes you have to listen to your soul and just soar. Don’t get to the edge and stand watching everyone else fly, wondering what their life is like. I’m here to tell you to JUMP! Do it. Do it afraid because one of three things will happen: (1) You’re either going to jump and fly, (2) You’re going to jump and fall on something soft, or (3) You’re going to jump and fall on something hard. Either way, you are going to get back up. You already know you got what it takes to get back up. Your greatest fear is not that you will fall, but that you will live a full life and never fly because you never leaped. You are not afraid of dying, you are afraid of dying before the world sees who you really are. Don’t leave this place without us knowing that you were here. To my mentor, Lisa Nichols, thank you for these guiding words.

Our Theme: The 2019 World AIDS Issue is filled with dynamic articles that aim to highlight the epidemic we are so desperately fighting. TUV Magazine is unapologetic for writing about people and issues that directly affect us daily. As our magazine turns four years old, we are reminding you to keep “Doing It Afraid”. On the Cover: Our cover is graced by the incomparable Ms. Cherisse Scott. Cherisse is a fearless and fierce black sister who is ready to battle for the betterment of sisterhood. She stood in the face of white supremacy in the Tennessee state capital and refused to back down in a room filled with bigotry. Her organization SisterReach is doing just as the name implies, “reaching sisters” through dynamic social advocacy work. We are excited to highlight a rising civil rights pioneer from Detroit, Chicago, and Memphis!

07


| COMMUNITY NEWS

Q: What was the motivation behind Grind City Kicks?

Q: What advice would you give to young people looking to follow their dreams & passions?

A: The motivation behind Grind City Kicks was to use shoes as leverage in impacting the greater community especially the youth.

A: My advice to young people is to find your passion and purpose that is not directly related or correlated to money or financial gain. Then once you find your passion/purpose it will motivate you to become resilient and focused on your goals and dreams that you want to accomplish without it feeling forced. Your passion won’t allow you to quit or give up so easily because I guarantee the process will be very difficult. Your passion won’t allow non-believers to deviate you from your goals. Lastly, whatever you want to become or accomplish study and connect with the people, organizations, or companies that have done it in the past. Allow it to become your life; breathe, eat, sleep, drink, watch, read it each and every moment of your life.

Q: What merchandise is your signature sale item and why? A: All items are signature sales. The shoes cater to our sneaker heads for sales, but most of the shoes are used as giveaways, memorabilia for the loss of loved ones due to tragic deaths, and shoes have also been used to bring awareness to social issues as well. The apparel appeal to our consumers that don’t value shoes as much but support the impact that GCK is doing in the community because most of the proceeds that are earn from sales go back to the community.

CHIMA ONWUKA Therapist | Speaker | Entrepreneur Memphis, Tennessee Chima.onwuka@yahoo.com

08


POLITICAL NEWS |

Blossom C. Brown Trans-Activist B

lossom C. Brown is an actress, producer, and activist. She was born and raised in Mississippi and became the first openly black transwoman to graduate from the W with a degree in Public Health Education. Blossom rose to fame when she appeared in Season 1 of Caitlyn Jenner’s docuseries “I Am Cait” and for her appearance on The Ellen Show in season 13. She currently lives in Los Angeles, California works for a non-profit in Sexual Health. Blossom is currently working on her documentary titled “One Life to Blossom”.

They were really starting to express their hurt and frustration with the lack or black trans representation. When Lizette Trujillo and her son came to the mic, I saw that she was trying to elevate transwomen that had been killed and in that moment, I shouted “black transwomen too” and that’s when I got up and she gave me the mic and that’s when I started speaking truth to power.

is to make our voices heard to these candidates. It’s not about clout, fame, fortune, lights, camera action it’s about our right to exist in a world that does not want to see us thrive.

Q: How important is the 2020 Election for the LGBTQ community?

Q: What was your breaking point during the CNN LGBTQ TownHall Meeting?

crucial for the LGBTQ community but especially for the transgender community. I think it was a disgrace that in a LGBTQ space that we still felt unheard and that several other community members along with myself had to protest to even been heard and seen. These candidates need to understand what the real issues are for trans folks. Especially, for the trans community those who work hard in the Grassroots sector. My only goal

candidates who at least want to acknowledge us, but I feel like they are going to have to prove that they are also in support of the trans community. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg seem to be favorites amongst some but we need to be very clear on where they stand with trans-specific issues. That is the reason why I want to put together a town-hall like event along with amazing local community members in my area. The question is will these candidates actually show up or are they only hot air.

A: My breaking point happened when it got to around the 5th or 6th candidate and was furious that not one single black trans person had their questions selected. At the same time, I was looking at my social media and reading the comments posting of my black trans brothers, sisters, and siblings.

A: The 2020 Election is extremely

Q: Is there a particular candidate you feel is worthy of the LGBTQ support? A: I think there are potential

09


| COVER FEATURE

CHERISSE SCOTT Photo credits for the cover: Demarcus Bowser Makeup: Angel Johnson

C

herisse Scott, CEO of SisterReach, was silenced by lawmakers halfway through her speech this past August at a hearing for Tennessee Senate Bill 1326, which threatens to ban abortion in Tennessee. Here she reflects on the indignities of the experience and stresses the continued importance of fighting this bill and its threats against reproductive justice.

What do you think was the significance of your being the only black woman present to speak on the issue? 10

First, it is important and imperative that Black women are present and able to speak out on issues that impact our

lives, families and communities. Because my testimony was cut short by policy makers who have used Black women’s wombs, babies and lives as the trope of their anti-abortion tirade for the last 40+ years, we were able to demonstrate how disingenuous their professed care for Black babies is. I also demonstrated how harmful their policies are which have done the opposite of their intent and have actually exacerbated the need for abortions. Unintended pregnancy rates still are disproportionate among Black and Brown youth. The rates of sexually transmitted infections are even greater. It’s not like this isn’t happening. Folks are making life and death decisions because they don’t have access to education, medical choices and health care they need.


COVER FEATURE | other countless murders of back male youth, doing and saying nothing. None of these anti-choice, pro-birth terrorists have been anywhere to rally for black lives on any level. So that’s yet another huge alarm of how disingenuous they are, how anti-Jesus they actually are. I don’t take it lightly, nor do I think that my colleagues should, what it means for a black woman to do what I did. That was a very dangerous thing that I did, at the end of the day. Them being able to “sic” the sergeant-at-arms and sheriffs on me shows how vulnerable I was. Not one white soul jumped up to step in between me and them. Not one white person was like, “Don’t talk to her that way.” Nobody did that. So black women are still very vulnerable when it comes to standing up for our rights, whatever those rights may be. I’ve been followed before. I’ve had to put cameras around a home that I rented because I felt unsafe. We’ve seen this over the course of history. It’s not uncommon for us to be harmed because of our stance on human rights. Black folks are all too familiar with the assassination of our leaders who attempted to fight for our dignity on this stolen land.

Their rude and dismissive behavior also exposed the harm of hijacking biblical scripture and demonizing people, whether they identify as Believers or not, to forward an agenda that is political and not spiritual at all. Due to their behavior, we’ve gotten a considerable amount of support from white Christians who said, “Thank you for speaking up. Thank you for saying something.” Folks have been feeling bullied by these conservatives who say they believe in the Lord and identify as Christian. But the way they operate, the way they’ve been shaming, blaming, judging and ostracizing people shows that what they’re doing is not Christianity and is not love. Their witness is perverted through their harmful behavior and those of us who are Believers have had quite enough.

The tone you chose was bold and unapologetic. Where have you found that gumption to bring your voice forward with such audacity? I sat there as a woman who’s had three abortions in my lifetime. And the one child I have is because I was manipulated into having him by a crisis pregnancy center posing as an abortion clinic. He’s a senior in high school right now. And in 17 years, none of the people who tricked me to keep my child have been there emotionally, financially, spiritually, or physically to support either of us thriving, being healthy or whole. Now he’s big enough to be seen as a man, and they’ll stand by, as they have so many

But my boldness and righteous indignation comes from being fully abandoned by those same people who said they loved God, they loved the baby in my belly, but haven’t been any damn where to make sure that we’ve been okay. It has come from me having to watch my child have to navigate his life as a black male child without his dad, and for me to navigate my parenthood of him without the support of his father. Those things matter to and impact black children. We see what our families and communities have become by not having our men present, healthy and accounted for. It has caused us great harm as a community. Yeah, I’m a single black mom, and I held it down, but I needed his help. So I’m pissed off that these folks have held things that are very dear in their hands, and have taken that from me. They’ve held my child’s life in their hands, at their whim and at their will. They’ve held my self-determination in their hands, at their whim and at their will. The other part of the boldness was holy boldness because I walked in there knowing what my Bible says. So I absolutely sat there with the understanding that I didn’t have a choice but to tell my truth. And I knew that I wasn’t just in that room by myself. I was walking in that room with the lives of

11


they silenced you before you finished your speech? Because I called them out. I hit a nerve. I called out their religious hypocrisy. Nobody is doing that and because of our failing to call in their perverted behavior, we allow their narrative to stand alone as truth. Also, we can’t discount where we are. We’re talking about Tennesseans. We’re talking about white men and women who were sitting there being disciplined by a black woman. Nobody appreciates the black girl with the big voice and the confident speech. Nobody does. So they definitely don’t want to be chastised by a black woman. The chair of the committee said that my testimony did not align with the bill in question, but it absolutely did. You had doctors speaking from a public health position, bringing medical expertise, including one doctor whose wife had a fetal anomaly. That was lifted as a reason they needed to consider aborting their pregnancy and still it was not respected. But I was the only person speaking as an advocate who works with the women they demonize while also being one of the women they’re demonizing. I also was a woman sitting before them as a living testimony to what it means when women are supported, educated and given the tools and resources needed to be their best selves. I now run a reproductive justice organization to pay forward all I have learned and to help shift the trajectory of another woman or person’s life, just like mine was. We educate sisters so they can make good decisions about their health and wellness. And we fight for access to comprehensive reproductive health services to give a sisters everything needed to make those health decisions without hindrance or shame.

black women who died in the sixties and the seventies from unsafe abortions. We work on behalf of all people, but on behalf of black women and girls very intentionally and specifically, as well as femme and gender nonconforming folks, because we know that if we don’t then nobody else will. Women and folks who can give birth, but do not identify as women, are having to navigate this everyday without the proper resources. So that was also me walking in there knowing there are times in our lives when we just have to be brave.

12

Why do you believe

I’m the only one who brought an argument about reproductive justice, and that also was very important to me and the greater narrative I need lawmakers to adopt. Like I said to them, we all want to reduce abortions. Nobody’s excited about high abortion rates. I’m not. As someone who’s had three, I’m still not. But we have to be realistic. We must be intentional about what it takes to reduce unintended pregnancies, and that includes working with abortion clinics, advocates and people who have and need abortions. And as I said to them, the only thing that changed my life was having access to comprehensive reproductive and sexual health education which they continue to hinder people from having access to. So you don’t want

us to learn about our bodies. You don’t want us to be self-determinant. You just want to control if and when we’re going to have these kids. That’s a failure of their campaign and Black women must speak up and say that more often.

What happens next? The Tennessee bill comes up for a vote early in the legislative session and, if passed, will accomplish an abortion ban in the state. Right now it’s unconstitutional for the bill to pass because Roe v. Wade is still in tact. So as long as long as there is federal protection of abortion, we’ll still have abortion access in the United States. But Republicans are trying to figure out which state is going to have a crucial enough bill to pass. They already know it’s going to be challenged. But they’re hoping it will go all the way up to the Supreme Court. So what’s at stake are black lives, women dying, teenagers having babies in toilets or placing them in dumpsters, taking us back 45+ years to a time where abortion wasn’t legal. It’ll be like that again. Folks who don’t want the baby aren’t going to have the baby. People will once again be forced to kill themselves, kill themselves and the baby, or do something dangerous to themselves in order to terminate the pregnancy — that’s what’s at stake. What else is at stake is a whole lot of babies being born to people who cannot afford them, and the continuous cycle of abject poverty that many Tennesseans are navigating right now. I would never say that abortion is the magic answer to reduce unintended pregnancies, but if abortion is not accessible, we will have a far more tragic situation on our hands, for sure. In the meantime, there are already conversations among folks on my side of this argument about what happens if we lose the federal protections of Roe v. Wade. We know women are going to start killing themselves again. That’s a problem. We’re all afraid of it. So how do we show up for those same folks to get the support they need? And if they’re going to have an abortion, how do we help them do it safely? At SisterReach, we are already exploring herbal abortifacient education. We are exploring better techniques to educate about birth control, sex education, understanding their fertility, knowing when they’re ovulating. We are doing most of this education right now anyway, but we will be more intentional because of the realities we face as a nation.


SPIRITUALITY | SPIRITUALITY |

her name is Elizabeth

BY ELIZABETH TROUY

W

henever the subject of HIV/AIDS comes up, I remember Elizabeth. At first, she was just the AIDS patient in room 804 but what I learned from her, I carry with me to this day. It was the early 90’s and I was just beginning my career as a Physical Therapist in a local hospital. I was nervous about seeing her. At that time, there were still many unknowns about the disease and we were instructed to wear full protection (gloves, mask, gown) when entering the room. I remember how thin she looked with her long hair pasted to her sweaty head. She was frequently sick and a nausea basin was always nearby and rarely empty. I was afraid. My job was to keep her mobile and strong enough to be able to be independent with bed mobility and bathroom transfers. Twice a day, I gowned up, helped her out of bed and we walked together with her IV and basin in tow. I was very careful about keeping a safe distance and minimizing any contact. I was just doing my job. Rarely was there ever anyone in the room with her. It seemed odd that someone in her early twenties would be alone. It was also evident by her manicured fingers and toes and designer purse that she was not poor. Despite her sickly appearance, she was also beautiful. During our twice a day visits, I learned we had much in common: both Catholic, youngest in the family with big brothers, and we shared the same first name, Elizabeth. We were also only a few years apart in age. She told me she was a senior in college at Ole Miss. She didn’t fit the profile of the typical AIDS patient and I soon learned most of her family had shunned her in shame and embarrassment.

The hospital policy changed while I was working with her and I soon shed my gown and mask but the gloves remained. I also began calling her by her first name, Elizabeth, and I looked forward now to seeing her for therapy. One day she told me how she must have gotten the disease. It was at a frat party. She’d had too much to drink and had “gone too far” with one of the guys. She found out later he was bisexual and had become sick too. It was a mistake many college kids had made; only hers was deadly. It could have been me I thought. Elizabeth deteriorated rapidly. Eventually, we stayed only in the room at bedside; standing for minutes at a time. I no longer worried about her sweat, her spitting into the basin or her frequent diarrhea that I cleaned up for her. I wiped the sweat from her brow. I held her hand when she wavered. Near the end of her life, she became too sick for PT so I sat with her at lunch or after work. I held her hand in my bare hand and I made eye contact with my friend. I needed her to know she was loved. I grieved in silence when she died. Such an innocent life wasted away far too soon. But Elizabeth gave me many lessons that will forever live on in me and I carry them forward to the patients I see today: Never judge. Make eye contact. Hold hands. Be present. Listen. Open your heart. Elizabeth made me see how we are all connected and more alike than we know. Life is fragile. It was an honor knowing you my friend. Love is love and it lives on.

13


| SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR

Representation Matters Places at The Table By Renae Taylor

I

have really been enjoying the attention that the Democratic Party has given to the needs of the LGBT community through its forums addressing the Equality Act and the rights afforded LGBT people under the Civil Rights Act. Everywhere we look, our rights are being erased away by the current administration banning trans folks from military service and diminishing protections afforded trans students in school. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is currently addressing

14

whether The Civils Rights Act protects the LGBT community from discrimination on the job and other ascepts of life such as when buying homes or facing other foms of consumer-based discrimination, but we probably won’t know their decision until next spring.

While forums concerning these issues have been great, they still seem concerned with the normalization of everyone except people of color, especially black trans folks, trans masculine, trans feminine, and non-binary. It’s

great to be invited to the table, and even better if you are allowed to eat. Yet black trans people are often tokenized for demographics and funding, as we are some of the most marginalized groups within the LGBT community as a whole. We are more often talked at than talked to. In communities that are racially polarized, we are more often told what we need and what is good for us. Many times, we are invited as a second thought, and sometimes with less than good intentions. We need people to be more intentional with their invitations to the table. Who


SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR |

knows our lived experience better than us? Who knows our needs better than us? Who can speak for us better than us?

AIDS and helped to change how people living with HIV/AIDS were seen so that they were no longer regarded as victims.

This makes me think about The Denver Principles written in 1983 as self empowerment for people living with HIV/AIDS, when such individuals were often left out of important decisions involving housing, medication, and funding since their diagnosis was regarded as a death sentence. The Denver Principes guided HIV/ AIDS treatment and prevention for those most affected by HIV/

One of the strongest messages that came out of The Denver Principles was a mantra for the movement “Nothing About Us Without Us!” This slogan was used to communicavmte that no policy should be made by a representative without people in the room who would be directly affected by the policy. Nothing is more insulting than being invited into a space and being

introduced, but then finding yourself ignored as the event continues around you. People, please be more intentional when inviting people into spaces thinking that they are going to patiently wait for their turn to be truly acknowledged. The time to be patient and wait our turn has passed. We aren’t waiting anymore to be heard or seen. Nothing About Us Without Us! Nothing About Us Without Us! Nothing About Us Without Us!

15


IMPORTANT FACTS FOR BIKTARVY®

This is only a brief summary of important information about BIKTARVY and does not replace talking to your healthcare provider about your condition and your treatment.

(bik-TAR-vee)

MOST IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT BIKTARVY

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF BIKTARVY

BIKTARVY may cause serious side effects, including:

BIKTARVY may cause serious side effects, including: } Those in the “Most Important Information About BIKTARVY” section. } Changes in your immune system. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any new symptoms after you start taking BIKTARVY. } Kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do blood and urine tests to check your kidneys. If you develop new or worse kidney problems, they may tell you to stop taking BIKTARVY. } Too much lactic acid in your blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious but rare medical emergency that can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: weakness or being more tired than usual, unusual muscle pain, being short of breath or fast breathing, stomach pain with nausea and vomiting, cold or blue hands and feet, feel dizzy or lightheaded, or a fast or abnormal heartbeat. } Severe liver problems, which in rare cases can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow, dark “tea-colored” urine, light-colored stools, loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, or stomach-area pain. } The most common side effects of BIKTARVY in clinical studies were diarrhea (6%), nausea (6%), and headache (5%).

} Worsening of Hepatitis B (HBV) infection. If you

have both HIV-1 and HBV, your HBV may suddenly get worse if you stop taking BIKTARVY. Do not stop taking BIKTARVY without first talking to your healthcare provider, as they will need to check your health regularly for several months.

ABOUT BIKTARVY BIKTARVY is a complete, 1-pill, once-a-day prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in adults. It can either be used in people who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before, or people who are replacing their current HIV-1 medicines and whose healthcare provider determines they meet certain requirements. BIKTARVY does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS. HIV-1 is the virus that causes AIDS. Do NOT take BIKTARVY if you also take a medicine that contains: } dofetilide } rifampin } any other medicines to treat HIV-1

BEFORE TAKING BIKTARVY Tell your healthcare provider if you: } Have or have had any kidney or liver problems,

These are not all the possible side effects of BIKTARVY. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any new symptoms while taking BIKTARVY.

including hepatitis infection. } Have any other health problems. } Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if BIKTARVY can harm your unborn baby. Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant while taking BIKTARVY. } Are breastfeeding (nursing) or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed. HIV-1 can be passed to the baby in breast milk.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.FDA.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088. Your healthcare provider will need to do tests to monitor your health before and during treatment with BIKTARVY.

HOW TO TAKE BIKTARVY

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take:

Take BIKTARVY 1 time each day with or without food.

} Keep a list that includes all prescription and over-the-

counter medicines, antacids, laxatives, vitamins, and herbal supplements, and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist.

} This is only a brief summary of important information

} BIKTARVY and other medicines may affect each other.

Ask your healthcare provider and pharmacist about medicines that interact with BIKTARVY, and ask if it is safe to take BIKTARVY with all your other medicines.

Get HIV support by downloading a free app at

MyDailyCharge.com

GET MORE INFORMATION about BIKTARVY. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to learn more.

} Go to BIKTARVY.com or call 1-800-GILEAD-5. } If you need help paying for your medicine,

visit BIKTARVY.com for program information.

BIKTARVY, the BIKTARVY Logo, DAILY CHARGE, the DAILY CHARGE Logo, KEEP PUSHING, LOVE WHAT’S INSIDE, GILEAD, and the GILEAD Logo are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc., or its related companies. Version date: December 2018 © 2019 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. BVYC0102 01/19


KEEP PUSHING.

Because HIV doesn’t change who you are. BIKTARVY® is a complete, 1-pill, once-a-day prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in certain adults. BIKTARVY does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS.

Ask your healthcare provider if BIKTARVY is right for you. To learn more, visit BIKTARVY.com.

Please see Important Facts about BIKTARVY, including important warnings, on the previous page and visit BIKTARVY.com.


| SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR

G R A C E

DETREVARAH

IS SOMETHING SERIOUS

B Y

18

M O N I C K

M O N E L L


SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR |

A: My purpose, as well as the purpose of ALL who attended, was to have political parties of Washington DC and the world who were watching acknowledge that “Trans Lives Matter!” My attendance was to represent those in the transgender community who have been incarcerated or are pending incarceration, as well as those affected by HIV, AIDS, and Hepatitis C, who are suffering from a lack of acknowledgment.

Q: When did you start working as an activist for LGBT Rights? A: In 1998, when I was a student with The Audre Lorde Project’s TransJustice Community School. Also, when I was incarcerated, I was on Prisoner Advisory Boards within the facilities. Q. Do you feel education in our community helps us understand each other and our allies in the process? A: At moments. It will always balance a dilemma or situation that the community is addressing or needs to conquer. However, in my experience, a quick bypass is what’s usually happening in general education. Still, education on all levels is imperative for our survival and to guard our narrative.

The march was held to also let our allies in the LGB community know that when June (Pride Month) is celebrated, we, trans folk, are used as props and other minor acknowledgments. However, at THIS March, we raised awareness on transgender issues such as healthcare, legalities, survival, and placed focus on the murders committed against us every year. We wanted to place a focus on individual state laws, particularly TGNC laws, which are now being viewed as priority not because they’re the priority of those individual states but because of the mobilization of TGNC people, organizations, and our allies. The Supreme Court is addressing equality and gender initiatives and laws, and the outcomes will determine our legal survival in America. Q: You’ve spoken to me that a book is in the works. Tell us a little about what we will learn from reading your book. A: Through my evolution as a young runaway who left home at 18 years old and arrived in NYC, I share my journey of crime, faith, sex work, addiction, recovery, and eventually my renewal as black woman of transgender experience.

Q: When did The Osborne Association start, and what is their purpose?

Q: Explain to our readers why it is so important that we attend your events.

A: The Osborne Association was founded in 1933. The purpose is to transform the lives of families and communities affected by the criminal justice system.

A: In my opinion, it is important to my events because I have lived experience as a formerly incarcerated, unemployable, and unhealthy individual. Through my experiences, I can share with individuals how to become an example of positivity and renewal. We can change our narratives and learn the skills for re-entry into our communities, including how to utilize the healthcare system, reduce harm to ourselves, become employable, renew relationships with our families, and become assets to our communities.

Q: Our current issue is centered on World Aids Day. We are intentional about raising awareness about HIV/AIDS. We believe education is key to defeating this epidemic. What do you believe our readers should know about, and where can they can go for answers? A: Yes, HIV is still prevalent throughout all communities, so let’s keep communication centered on inclusion and the erasure of stigma. We should be interlocking through dialogue with popular and uncommon places such as places of worship, mosques, places of entertainment, Thanksgiving family dinners, neighborhood clinics, hospitals, and community centers. Q: The DC Transgender Visibility March was a big movement this year for our community. Can you tell us about your role in the march, and do you feel the government learned anything to better protect our rights?

Q: How do you see our future with all the work you and the community are doing? Tell us more about your new endeavors. A: In my opinion, we will perish if our wellbeing and advancement are left to the devices of others who care less or aren’t obligated to invest in the lives of the marginalized. Therefore, I will always have a voice to be heard and actions that are realistic, inspiring, and empowering. History has shown us all that “waiting” for one’s freedom, equality, or survival will never end in it just being given to us. It has always been revolutionary acts that have gotten folks over to exist and carry on!

19


| SOCIAL NEWS

Black Millennials 4 Flint

Latrecia Adams, Founder CEO & President of BM4F

W

hat is the reason behind the formation of Black Millennials for Flint? BM4F was founded out of spiritual conviction and frustration due to the lack of national acknowledgement of lead exposure and poisoning being a public health crisis. In 2015, LaTricea

20

Adams, Founder CEO & President of BM4F began to first hear about the #FlintWaterCrisis. At the time, she was the Vice President of Thursday Network--Greater Washington Urban League Young Professionals. She noticed that many of the historical civil rights organizations had not even made statements to shed light on the man-made crisis in Flint. So she took matters into her own hands. Like many people who wanted to support, LaTricea organized a national water and wipes campaign in partnership with Thursday Network--Greater Washington Urban League Young Professionals and the Buffalo New York Urban League Young Professionals. However, it wasn’t until January 2016 that the concept of BM4F was in the making. At a membership orientation for Thursday Network--Greater Washington Urban League Young Professionals, LaTricea met her now Chief Advocacy Officer Michelle Mabson. Michelle told LaTricea, “Hey, I love what you did to help Flint,

but you know lead is not just a Flint issue, right?” LaTricea’s immediate thoughts were, “Well...I know about lead in paint chips.” What Michelle said next sparked the movement”Did you know that both Freddie Gray suffered from childhood lead poisoning?” On April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray, Jr., a 25-year-old black man, was arrested by the Baltimore Police Department for possessing what the police alleged was an illegal knife under Baltimore law. He “mysteriously” died while in transport in a police van. This hit VERY close to home as LaTricea had been in Baltimore advocating for justice and healing after the murder of Freddie Gray. She was already pissed, but immediately transitioned into fury. LaTricea facilitated a national call on February 10, 2016 and that is the day the movement for a #LeadFreeUSA was officially born.


SOCIAL NEWS |

How many branches of your organization exist in other cities around the U.S.? We currently have recurring programming in: Baltimore, MD, Flint, MI, Memphis, TN and Washington, DC. (4 service areas) As our capacity and quite frankly, funding increases, we plan to expand further. As of today, BM4F is a 100% volunteer organization. No “staff members” are paid. It is definitely a labor of love where all funding is allocated toward programming. How bad is lead paint and lead pipes infecting our communities? What can we do to assist you in raising awareness? Due to the intersections of environmental racism and dilapidated infrastructure, African American and Latinx communities are disproportionately impacted. While the Flint Water Crisis brought national attention to issues with lead

in water, lead paint in housing is the most medium for lead exposure. Old and homes built prior to 1978 including public housing are the major culprits. In October 2018, Black Millennials 4 Flint was featured in a documentary on BET called Finding Justice: The Baltimore Lead Crisis. The documentary shows the horrors of how lead paint is such a pervasive issue particularly in African American and Latinx communities. One thing to note in Memphis regarding water quality is the known lead pipes which are also located in majority black neighborhoods (e.g. South Memphis, Orange Mound, etc.). Memphis Light Gas & Water (MLGW) actually has an interactive GIS map online where Memphis residents can enter their residential addresses to determine if their home is connected to lead service pipelines: http://www.mlgw.com/residential/ leadservicedatabase. BM4F partnered with the Memphis Urban

League Young Professionals for a #LeadFreeOrangeMound Canvassing project where we used the MLGW Interactive Map to locate homes that were near lead service lines. We shared information with Orange Mound residents on how to get their water tested. With just a group of 3 volunteers we visited over 50 homes that were potentially impacted. Our biggest area of need surrounding raising awareness is engagement via social media. Our movement’s traction is owed to the power of social media. Additionally, blogs, articles, videos (and other traditional communication methods) are also helpful. Potential followers can reach us on: Facebook, Instagram & Twitter as well as visit our website. We also need people on the ground when we have local canvassing projects. And donations are key! Donations can be made here.

21


| SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR

WORLD AIDS DAY By LaWayne Childrey

22


COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTOR | 12 hour shifts at the bank, taking care of my sick mother, suffering through an abusive relationship and spearheading a church festival that included an outdoor concert, health fair, art festival, free food and a children’s village with all the blowup jump houses a kid could dream of.

I

n the spring of 2001 I was in the fight of my life against a gigantic monster named HIV. I call It monster because I’ve seen it suck the life out of dozens of my closest friends like Pretty Ricky, a military man with an affinity for dance and fashion. And Johnny, the sexy physical therapist moving up in his career at rocket speeds while practicing his profession in romantic cities like Miami, L.A. and Chicago. Then there was Choirboy Tim, the levelheaded one who was as wise as a serpent but harmless as a dove. For many reasons I thought my demise would be the same as theirs. You see, In the fall of 1991 I was diagnosed with HIV. During that time doctors still didn’t know very much about the virus and there weren’t many drugs on the market to suppress it. My Infectious disease doctor at the time admitted that he didn’t have a vast knowledge of HIV but was willing to work with me if I was willing to work with him. Together we decided I would start treatment on AZT. However, three months in, lab results showed the drug wasn’t doing anything to help me. So together, we decided I would stop taking AZT. For 10 years I did great but in the spring of 2001, I went through a very stressful period in my life. I was working

During the last couple of weeks leading up to the festival I lost my appetite, started dropping weight, and began feeling anxious and just plain old worn out. Every day it felt like I had been rode hard and put up wet. The Monday before the event mom and I were in my doctor’s office. She was a huge part of my support system and went with me to most of my doctor’s appointments because she wanted me to know I was loved and not alone. The doctor ran a series of test that determined I had pneumocystis pneumonia, dehydration, a T-cell count of three and I was well within the death zone. Rhetorically, I asked if I had AIDS. He said “yes, you have AIDS.” Fighting back tears Mom asked, “does he have full blown AIDS?” (Remember that term?) Again he said “yes ma’am he has full blown AIDS but we’re going to get him in the hospital, put him on some meds and have him feeling better in no time.” I spent about six weeks in the hospital where doctors and nurses poked, prodded and punctured nearly every part of my body. They were desperately searching for ways to stop the progression of the virus and reverse the damage. This went on for weeks until my doctor found a new antiretroviral combination that was literally bringing people back from the brink of death. Within a few weeks I was getting my pep back, the night sweats ended, and I started regaining my confidence. Weeks later I was back in the doctor’s office for one of many

follow-up visits. He asked how I felt and I told him I was doing much better. He then asked if I was ready to go back to work. That’s when I tensed up and screamed “no, I can’t go back because I am afraid of the ridicule I’ll receive.” In a voice of deep concern he asked, “well what do you want do then?” I said “I’ll go back to school.” He then asked what I wanted to study and I told him broadcast journalism. All he said after that was, “well good for you.” Those four little words changed my life. “Well good for you!” Those four little words gave me the courage I needed to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a news reporter. Since then I’ve won three Edward R. Murrow Awards and penned my highly acclaimed autobiography, Peeling Back the Layers: A Story Of Trauma, Grace and Triumph. Furthermore, in 2014 I was selected as the Alabama Community College Systems most outstanding alumnus in the institutions fifty year history. Today, I’m telling you the same thing my doctor told me. “Well good for you.” Well good for you for taking your medicine on time every day, for realizing life doesn’t have to end because of an HIV diagnosis, and for taking a leap of faith and enrolling in a college or trade school to pursue an old dream or even a new dream. For you are strong, you are beautiful, you are worth it. Let that sink in my beautiful friends and have a fabulous life as you walk in greatness.

23


PPM-Focus-QuarterPgAd.pdf

1

6/7/18

9:31 AM

Rayceen Pendarvis Queen of the Shameless Plug

HOST • EMCEE • SPEAKER MODERATOR • PANELIST FREELANCE WRITER WEDDING OFFICIANT

Free is sexy. C

M

Y

CM

MY

Good times don’t have to come with a price. Get your free condoms from any of our partners all over Memphis.

CY

CMY

High Priestess of Love Goddess of DC

K

@RayceenHRH Rayceen Pendarvis rayceenpendarvis Rayceen will make your event fun, engaging, and memorable! Booking: AskRayceen@gmail.com AskRayceen.com

Pick it up. Put it on. Do it right. FreeCondomsMemphis.org


FASHION |

House of

Colby C

olby C. Butler is the owner and proprietor of The House of Colby an American fashion house, known for formal women’s wear and haute couture clothing for all genders. Colby C. Butler was born in Stuttgart, Arkansas, a small production town in the Delta known for its rice. Butler’s goal was to become an artist, when one day his art teacher told him she was not sure he would be a traditional artist because he “sketched too fast.” She offered more explanation by saying, “the only people who sketched that fast where fashion designers,” and that is when the seed was planted. After graduating high school, he began working odd jobs until he finally decided to make his dream a reality. He asked his mother to purchase him sewing machine and his design career began. Butler designed his first line called the Huntsman Collection in the fall of 2013. The collection consisted of couture evening wear that thrusted him into the spotlight. The House of Colby is now one of the premiere boutique brands in the state of Arkansas. Since 2013, the House of Colby brand has become synonymous for innovative design, sumptuous fabrics and luxurious feel. Butler’s design aesthetic is artistic, exquisite and elegant. Butler’s has shown his collections on runways in cities all over the country to include Atlanta, Chicago, and Little Rock to name a few. Butler’s most recently runway show was Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week in Fayetteville, Arkansas where he debuted his Fall 2019 Collection.


| SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR | SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR

THE LOVES

I’VE LOST TO

Monika M. Pickett

26


SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR |

E

very December 1st, I experience a sadness that makes me realize anew just how precious life is. As World AIDS Day approaches, I struggle as I recall the number of friends whose lives have been robbed by AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency). It is easier to remember their smiling faces than the courageous battles they fought to the very end. I am comforted as I reminisce about the beautiful gay men who taught me about courage and resilience when I came out at the age of thirteen. Their bodies were strong and their spirits were radiant and full of life, even as the world, including our families, turned their backs on us for being gay. They became my chosen family when my biological family no longer chose me. Those men introduced me to a whole new world. I remember dancing into the early mornings as night turned into day. I envied their muscular bodies as they pranced beneath the strobe lights. Their movements were unlike anything I had ever seen. I was amazed watching the boys dance. They sashayed from one side of the dance floor to the other. Their eyes were often closed as the hypnotic bass moved through them. They twirled and fell to the floor in dramatic poses. Their lean bodies looked like exquisite works of art. I later learned that this was known as “Vogueing.” This style of dance evolved out of Harlem’s gay underground scene of the 1980s. The men marched and danced as if they were owning a Paris fashion runway. Their full lips were pursed over sharp jawlines as they tried to out-dance each other in the most theatrical ways possible. But day by day, one by one … everything began to change. I watched as AIDS ravaged their bodies, transforming their muscular frames into feeble remnants of who they once were. They were once young and vibrant, so full of life, but now I held back tears, seeing their skin stretch over protruding bones. My strong and fearless heroes were slowly but surely wasting away. In the late 70s, AIDS was an unexplained epidemic with no known cure. It felt like a blazing wildfire that spread quickly, scorching the lives of homosexual men. I braced myself regularly for the next phone call of death and despair. I was ill-educated about whether HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) was an automatic death sentence. As more gay

men became infected, public compassion for the increasing numbers of lives lost was overshadowed by a tidal wave of moral judgment. AIDS was seen as a “gay disease,” spread among homosexual men. When AIDS became a global epidemic by the early 80s, the stereotype as a disease only of gay men was more entrenched, earning them condemnation and fear. Intravenous drug use was also a factor in causing the hysteria and bias towards people with AIDS. It didn’t seem fair. None of my friends were intravenous drug users. When one of my loved ones was diagnosed with AIDS, my grief was magnified. I was heart-broken. They did not fall into the category of gay male, someone who engaged in homosexual activity nor intravenous drug use (I use the pronoun “they” so as not to disrespect my loved one’s memory or their family). But their family was no different from others who lost loved ones to AIDS; when the decision was made to misidentify the cause of death in their obituary, I realized that the stigma of AIDS is still prevalent. HIV/AIDS is a chronic infection, an illness like any other illness. We, as a society, must stop shaming individuals stricken with HIV/AIDS, stop driving them back into a closet of fear, humiliation and rejection. While the medical community has made great strides with the advancement of life-prolonging HIV/AIDS drugs over the years, no one should become complacent. I pray that my loved ones, not just those in the LGBTQ community, don’t embrace a false sense of security. The gravity of AIDS can often be overshadowed by the fact that you can be afflicted with HIV/AIDS and live a full life with long-term treatment. I think of my friends who have passed away from complications of AIDS and I wonder. Who and what could they have become had their lives not been cut short? Would they be proud of me as I walk through doors they never had a chance to open? Would they be pleased to see more representation of who they are in the media, and more acceptance and compassion for those whose HIV status is positive? I smile as I hear their voices in my head, snapping their fingers dramatically. “Miss Thing… You Betta Work!”

26


| WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENT

Meet Ealy - Scruggs

Cake Credit: The Frosted Oven

O Photo

28

g raphe

r C re d

it: R yan

Ealy

n October 6, 2019, with stunning views of the Mississippi River and iconic Hernando DeSoto Bridge as their backdrop, Jonathan M. Ealy and J. David Scruggs were joined together in an intimate ceremony at Butler Park near the South Bluffs. Ealy, Director of Special Events for Opera Memphis and Chairman of the Board of Directors for OUTMemphis: The LGBTQIA Center of the Mid South and Scruggs, a nationally award-winning Facilities Senior Service Director, specializing in multi-family housing for Independence Reality Trust, were married by Dr. Rosalyn Nichols, Senior Pastor of Freedom’s Chapel Christian Church & longtime family friend of the Ealy family. Jonathan and David, who have been dating since 2013 and became engaged in 2015 shortly after the historic marriage equality Supreme Court victory, had originally planned to have their wedding celebration in October 2020. After losing a very close family member in late summer, they decided life was too short to wait to begin their lives as husbands and planned the elopement in a just a few weeks. For the ceremony, the couple specifically selected text from 1 Samuel 18 “…the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” They composed their own vows and exchanged diamond and Tiffany & Co. wedding bands during the short ceremony. The reception dinner was held at Memphis’ Original Prime Steak House, Folk’s Folly where bottles of Moet Nectar Imperial Champagne flowed freely as the couple, close family and friends ate, drank and danced the night away celebrating this union. The newlyweds have planned to honeymoon in Italy in Fall 2020.


COMMUNITY NEWS |

MILDRED EDWARDS Q: Each year there are HIV/AIDS campaign to help raise the public awareness. Do you think enough is being done to eradicate HIV? A: I think what’s being done now as far as awareness is starting the ball to rolling. I come from an era where talking about HIV was not allowed! Families & family members suffered because of the stigma around the disease. Having this conversation openly I believe is a step towards saving the generation that’s coming up. Remember the disease don’t kill anymore however the stigma surrounding the disease does! Q: You are now a grandmother. What is the biggest joy this baby has brought into your life? A: Just the ability to see another piece of me come into this world was a joy within itself! People thought I would be dead and gone a long time ago from HIV. I wasn’t expected to see my own children grow and it was unthinkable to believe one would bring forth life! I’ve been to many funerals but never my own (Praise break)! It’s safe to say that Milauni (my granddaughter) is the joy that I’ve waited a very long time for. Q: You have been the face of so many HIV Campaigns. What keeps you saying yes, when they call you?

Face of

the

A: Because of the promise God has fulfilled in my life, it’s only right I keep my promise to Him. Upon diagnosis of HIV I asked God to protect my children from the virus and bad choices I had made. I specifically remember saying “ Lord if you protect and keep my children covered from HIV, that there wasn’t a soul I wouldn’t tell about my status to help raise awareness. I would make sure that when people see Mildred, they would know it was God that has kept her! That promise to God is what keeps me saying yes to the many calls I get. I get calls to go into the City Jail called “201 Poplar”, the County Prison called “The Penal Farm”, Churches... Even into the living rooms of people who call on me to help save their children. And I’ll continue to say YES!

29


| ENTERTAINMENT

anthony OAKES COMEDIAN EXTRAORDINAIRE

Hailing from North Carolina, Anthony D. Oakes is a District of Columbia resident who is taking comedy by storm on the east coast. His clean yet edgy wit and southern intellectual humor will have you reeling with laughter. Performance cities include: Atlanta, New York, LA, Chicago, Virginia, Maryland, and DC. He has graced the New York City stages of the Broadway, West Side, and Greenwich Village Comedy Clubs. You can catch him locally at: DC Drafthouse, Bier Baron Comedy Loft, Wonderland Ballroom, and Busboys and Poets. He also produces several comedy shows in the DMV area.

30


ENTERTAINMENT |

Q: How did you discover your passion for comedy? A: Although people have been telling me that I was funny my entire life, I never thought it would lead to doing stand-up. I was at a really dark place in my life. I was heavy into my drug addiction with no purpose or direction. I moved to Washington DC to change my atmosphere… start anew. I was working at Loc Lov Natural Hair Care Salon as a shampoo assistant. A client pulled me aside, asked if I did comedy, and gave me the name of a young man he thought could point me in the right direction. I discarded the number. The following week, another client asked me the same question. She told me she had taken a workshop and that I should sign up. A month later, I was taking the workshop, which was two months long. It was also during this time that I met my now partner, Kevin. At the end of the workshop, we invited our friends and family to a showcase. As I performed my first joke and received the warm infectious laughter, it was in that moment that I knew I had found my purpose in life. I knew that I could no longer do drugs and expect to still do comedy and be with Kevin. That was almost five years ago, and I’ve been clean since then. After the showcase, one of the mentors pulled me aside, told me I had something special, and gave me a name and number I should reach out to. It was the same name and number that the first client had given me, Alexx Starr, now a mentor and friend who still books me to this day. So it was in my first joke that I found my passion for comedy. It saved my life, and I am grateful. Q: What are your feelings about society’s perspective on a mainstream gay comedian? A: If you’re a comedian, your funny should stand out above all else. It wasn’t until I was two years into comedy that I began to do ‘gay’ jokes. I didn’t want people to label me as a ‘gay’ comedian. I wanted people to know that I was funny first, then BOOM… I’m gay! Richard Pryor was known to be within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, but he wasn’t labeled as a ‘gay’ or ‘bi’ comedian. He was labeled as one of the greatest that ever did it. That’s how I want to be known… as one of the greatest that ever did it, not one of the greatest gays that ever did it. Society is more accepting now, to a certain extent. Lil Nas X has proven that mainstream society’s perspective

on openly gay artists in fields where they’re not normally accepted has changed for the better. I am optimistic about my success across the board. Whether gay, black, mainstream, or otherwise, I’m going to slay! Q: If you could chill with your top 5 stand-up comedians of all time, who would you choose and why? A: Richard Pryor. He is the greatest of all time. His comedy pushed the envelope across color, gender, and socio-economic status while being engaging, insightful, and completely hilarious. Joan Rivers. I would do Joan Rivers impressions as a child. She was spunky, witty, didn’t give two figs, and although she looked like a lady, she would sock it to the audience just like her male counterparts. She was fearless! Paul Mooney. I love Paul Mooney. I’ve never been sure of his sexual orientation, but I always thought that his comedy was sharp just like a queen reading someone for filth! His cynical, sarcastic, unapologetic delivery wins me over every time! Wanda Sykes. This lady is crazy hilarious. I would love to chat with her about being black and gay in the field of comedy. Tyler Perry. I know he’s not considered a comedian, but on the business side of entertainment, HE IS A BEAST. I would love to pick his brain, ask for advice, and bounce some killer ideas off him about some modern black LGBTQIA+ content for television and the big screen.

31


Mobile is HOTTER THAN EVER CHECK OUT: sexy member videos, hot user stories, and new search filters.

Profile for The Unleashed Voice Magazine

The Unleashed Voice 2019 World AIDS Day Issue featuring Cherisse Scott CEO of Sisterreach  

Advertisement