Tyler Perry and World AIDS Day:The Connection You Should Know About12/02/2010
This AIDS-related post may look like a commercial for Tyler Perry's new movie , For Colored Gi...
This AIDS-related post may look like a commercial for Tyler Perry's new movie, For Colored Girls (Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf)". But, no. This is just expression of frustration with The Way Things Are when it comes to HIV/AIDS awareness in the U.S.
For background, you should know that last October, New York City revealed that all of the city's newly diagnosed cases of HIV were among Black or Latina women.
Well, OK. Not all of New York's new HIV patients are women of color. Just 93.4%. Feel better?
Across the United States, right now, women make up more than 1 in 4 new cases of HIV/AIDS. Of those women, 2 out of 3 are African American. Almost all of the women contracted the disease after unprotected sex with a man. If you're a woman reading this , you should be sitting up a little straighter right now. If you're a black or Latina woman, you should you belooking for your keys because you're leaving to get an AIDS test or pick up your man and get one together.
One more thing: I'm sure I speak for the Centers for Disease Control when I say, please check out the ages of Americans newly diagnosed with HIV in 2008:
Ages -- New HIV Cases
20-24 -- 5,427
25-29 -- 5,646
30-34 -- 5,096
35-39 -- 5,418
40-44 -- 5,788
45-49 -- 5,023
50-54 -- 3,254
HIV isn't all about the kiddies. Heck, there's not even that big of a drop for the fiftysomethings. HIV/AIDS is about you and me. And whoever you're having sex with, and whomever they had sex with, and on and on.
Here's where Tyler Perry comes in.
Black women are falling, and failing, because of misinformation, lack of information and a community that by and large even now wants to believe that African American men either prance like reality TV types in heels, or they're Capital H Hetero. LL Cool J.
Neither the church nor popular culture wants to acknowledge the men of color who have sex with women out in the open and in secret with men. We know what "being on the down low" means, even as we deny it exists.
I searched the Internet again and again for reviews of Mr. Perry's version of For Colored Girls (as opposed to the 1976 Tony Award-winning play by Ntozake Shange). To keep it quite real, Mr. Perry is both demonized and lionized by the black community, so I found blog posts that made me think deep thoughts and reviews that shocked me with their crassness.
Here's what I didn't find. I didn't find anyone commending Mr. Perry for using his "must-see" movie to shake Black women out of their "couldn't happen to me" denial about HIV. If you found it, send me a link. Please.
In the film, Juanita, played by the scene-commanding Loretta Devine, works as a nurse in a women's clinic where she teaches about condoms and offers the best safe sex advice of all: High self-esteem can save your life. Mean it when you say, "No glove? No love."
The character played by Kerry Washington has become infertile from a sexually transmitted disease she contracted before she met her husband, the movie's adorable Good Guy.
It's left to superstar Janet Jackson (channeling Miranda Priestly) to serve as the viewer's ultimate wake-up call. She plays the long-suffering wife of a distant husband who is having sex with other men. [SPOILER ALERT] Her orderly world crashes with the revelation that her down-low husband has given her HIV.
The film deals with issues of dysfunctional relationships of every stripe, domestic abuse, rape, war-induced post-traumatic stress, religious fervor. African American commentators are fired up from coast to coast. Oooh, For Colored Girls makes black women look bad. Oooh, it makes black men look bad.
AIDS makes everybody look bad.
Props to Tyler Perry. More black women will catch the messages about HIV-prevention in this movie than a fleet of educators and social workers could ever capture. I do wish there'd been a MAJOR corresponding HIV-education campaign rolled out with For Colored Girls, but I'm not mad at Tyler Perry. Not at all.
Karen Malone Wright is a modern communication strategist assisting organizations, businesses and individuals looking to grow business, find donors or simply tell a story. Her blog, Communications Goddess, celebrates modern communication in every form, with an emphasis on all things Internet and the needs of professional communicators.