Thanks to Island Voice Inc. and The International Center For Journalists, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C in June to partake in many informational sessions with doctors, health care professionals and organizations. But, the most significant meeting of them all, was at DENIM-Developing & Empowering New Images of Men, an organization in the DC metro area geared towards HIV/AIDS prevention among young Black gay men. DENIM, is part of an organization designed to promote awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS in the Black community called Us Helping Us founded by Dr. Ron Simmons.
Prior to arriving at DENIM, I was excited, and nervous. I didn’t know what to expect or if my potential subjects were going to be open to talk to me, openly. I was going into an unfamiliar territory, I had to carefully navigate through. But, that fear wasn’t going to stop me from getting the job done. To say the least, the conversations I had with the five young men who were my subjects, was life changing. It opened my eyes to what HIV has done to the Black community. Specially, to young Black gay men who are in the 13-24 age range. Two of these young men, are HIV positive and both are in between this age range. During our conversation, nothing was off limits. We spoke about everything from boys, sex, drugs and everything that happened in between that eventually lead them to acquire HIV.
This very candid, heart warming, real and raw conversation changed me as a reporter, and more so, as a person. We often get lost in our own mindsets and beliefs, which then leads us wanting everyone to live to our standards. But on that hot summer June day, while I was hanging out with the boys of DENIM, I learned that societal standards were only societies’ beliefs and didn’t validate anyone else’s life, no matter what norms dictate what’s right from wrong.
As a journalist it taught me to be fearless and ask everything all you guys and the rest of the world needs to know. After all, my job is to be a noble messenger. If I’m not providing you with the truth in a way you can understand it, I’m not doing my job. But to get that truth, at times, takes some persistence. Sure, their were some tough questions and unfiltered stark answers but that’s what makes it real.
Had I not gone that day to DENIM, I wouldn’t have learned what I learned or taken with me others life experiences, which eventually just lead me to become a better person.
It’s true what they say, if you never get out of your comfort zone—you’ll never know what opportunities or life lessons lie in places you probably wouldn’t gravitate to.
To hear more of these young-men’s stories and the stories of others, you’ll you have to stay tuned for the article and Island Voice hosted event in October.