by David Waggoner
Fight for Your Right
For your consideration….That phrase starts off many Oscar campaigns, when nominees address voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, but, in the case of the film Selma, it will only be attached to its Best Picture campaign. As many cultural critics have pointed out, Selma received only two nominations; it was shut out of Best Director and all acting and writing nominations. In fact, this year’s nominations did not include any African-American actors or actresses. Some argue that it was not happenstance—the nominations are tied to racial politics; others argue that Hollywood itself has a dearth of plum dramatic roles for actors of color, thus shrinking the odds that any might be nominated, let alone voted for.
The irony of voting privilege is perhaps rich. Selma is a movie about civil rights organizers in the South, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., marching to protest disenfrachisement and the shutting down of African-American participation in our country’s democratic process. The goal? Passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The right to vote had become a calculated series of hurdles, designed by white supremacists to keep Blacks and other racial minorities away from the polls and to preserve the power and privilege of whites. Literacy tests, their questions often selectively chosen and administered at the discretion of voting officials, posed questions like, “A U.S. senator elected at the general election in November takes office the following year on what date?” Don’t know the answer? You can’t vote.
Of course, in the grand scheme of the empowerment of African Americans, the Oscars are not the biggest arena in which to fight for justice and to raise awareness that #BlackLivesMatter. Committed people have been coming out in droves to protest police brutality, from Ferguson to New York City. And in terms of HIV/AIDS and health justice, organizations and individuals are taking the opportunity to get the message out for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (February 7) and Black History Month. (Visit www.blackaidsday.org to see what is happening in your community.)
We’re taking the opportunity, too, to get the message out—that HIV matters. Actress and singer Sharon Leal, our cover story interview, shares with A&U’s Dann Dulin that youth need more sound education and that positive women, in particular, need to be supported in their efforts to live full lives with HIV/AIDS. “HIV-positive women must talk about it. If you’re not talking about it, you’ve almost given up and you’re probably not getting the proper care,” she avers, mentioning The Well Project as one organization that creates an environment for dialogue.
Enriching the dialogue abounds in this issue. Eric Sneathen interviews the editors of Black Gay Genius, a new anthology of essays devoted to writer, editor, and activist Joseph Beam, who was at the forefront of the Black gay publishing movement of the 1980s and who helped raise awareness of AIDS, which took his life much, much too soon. The essays show that his fire is sparking a new generation, that his insights are not lost to history. Current writers are adding their voice to the chorus, too. Editor at Large Chip Alfred offers our readers an interview of Asha Molock, a woman of African descent and member of Positive Women’s Network-USA who has penned a book of affirmations to help everyone living with HIV/AIDS to stay the course and fulfill their potential. And, finally, Walgreens’ Well Beyond HIV campaign encourages individuals fifty and above who are living with HIV/AIDS to tell their stories about long-term surviving and planning their next steps.
anthology from Black Lawrence Press. Art & Understanding: Literature from the First Twenty Years of A&U brings together poetry, drama, fiction, and creative nonfiction that we published bewteen 1991 and 2011. It’s our little piece of AIDS history, because, like African-American history, remembering is the first step of our survival.
David Waggoner is Editor in Chief and Publisher of A&U, the first national HIV/AIDS in the U.S.