Ace's View

Dedicated to minority issues, topics and everything in between

Red Shoe Diary: On HIV/AIDS Awareness and the Red Pump Project

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The only red shoe I’ve ever purchased.  Also the only suede one.  …Do they still make these?


My senior year of high school (no, I won’t tell y’all how long ago this was, but for those who either know my real age or where I went to high school, y’all will probably figure it out)—we all gathered In our poorly lit auditorium for a presentation on safe sex, HIV/AIDS awareness, proper use of condoms, blah, blah and so forth.

At least, that’s what I thought of at the time.  We’d been beaten over the head with the message since teachers figured out that some of us were probably sexually active enough to hear it.  So they told us.  In Health and Phys. Ed.  In Science class.   In Math.

(‘Cause, you know, 1 Bad Decision + 1 Infected Partner + 2 Young To Know Better= 4ever)

…yeah, some teacher who will remain nameless came up with that gem.  Way to work an equation in there, boss—

–but I came in prepared to tune the whole thing out.  And did a great job until this lady took the stage and started talking.

A very healthy looking black woman in what I thought was her mid to late 20’s or early 30’s.   Black and red dress, and  red high heels. 

Her name was (is) Rae Lewis-Thornton, and she was, then and now, the most engaging speaker I had ever heard talk about the subject.  She knew a lot about it–the disease, and apparently, sex (one of the most memorable lines I remember was, “How did I get it?  Because men want to have sex with women who look like me)–and therefore was able to relay the message about how dangerous unsafe sex was.

Most importantly, she was able to communicate this message to a bunch of desensitized high school students who may have had different ideas of what HIV/AIDS was, but had no idea what the impact could be on us as young black kids.

How?  Because she was—and is, to this day—living with the disease that a few years earlier had been a guaranteed death sentence.  It wasn’t a matter of if you would die from AIDS or a related illness, but when.

After she was done speaking, and I had a chance to speak with her (perks of being a high school journalist, baby!), I remember thinking to myself, man.  We need more people to open themselves up to promote awareness of this.  So much so that I sought her out as a guest speaker when I was in charge of finding HIV/AIDS Awareness Month speakers as part of a fraternity event. (*Writer’s Note: We couldn’t quite get the dates available, but her website was an immense resource for us.)

It was only 12 years later that as one of my good friends was facing the loss of not one, but both her parents to AIDS, leaving her to raise her then 16-year old brother, that I realized that even though Mrs. Lewis-Thornton’s message may have reached me and stayed with me from the minute I stood up to give her an ovation at the end of that speech, there were still people that needed to be reached by the message.

Apparently, it’s not just young folks that need HIV/AIDS awareness.  Or just black people.  Or poor people.  Or gay people.  Or, any one specific group.

It’s all of us.

And, despite her relentless efforts in activism for the cause, we need more than a few voices who have been living with the disease (Magic Johnson comes to mind).  We need a collective effort so that the cause does not go ignored.

Which is why I am immensely thankful that younger people are picking up this movement and carrying it forward so the message doesn’t go forgotten.

Bringing me, in great roundabout fashion, to my segue:

A year or so ago, I stumbled upon, strictly by accident, after she was the victim of some content stealing by another website.

I read through it, not just for the hilarity of the comments and absurdity of the entries (that appealed to a surprisingly wide audience,) but because there seemed to be a little more to the picture than just an entertainment blog.

It was only recently that I realized this: for everyone who might visit that page, there is a very visible link to a non-profit organization dubbed The Red Pump Project.

The main purpose of the project, among many others, is to raise HIV/AIDS awareness by making a visible statement; using red pumps (or any kind of red shoe, really, if pumps aren’t your thing.  I know I won’t be wearing them, myself)—to bring focus back to the issue at hand.

Despite all the progress made in terms of HIV/AIDS awareness, there is still have a long way to go on that journey. 

Perhaps a good pair of shoes will get us there in style and comfortably, all while still calling attention to the issue.

Most importantly, it shows that even years later, there are still young adults who are using the power of the internet and who have the ability to entertain and educate others simultaneously.

In short, if they are normally harder to reach , draw them in with ratchetness and show them the power of your cause.

And I have to say, if one must be ratchet, it may as well be for a great reason.

Still can’t get the badge to work, but use the hyperlinks to stop by Luvvie’s site and show some…well, love, and check out the other events she’ll have going on throughout the year.

For now, though, please be reminded that today if you see someone rocking red shoes of any sort, whether they’re doing it for HIV/AIDS awareness or not, be reminded that this is a path that we will walk together.

And, that it is okay to draw attention (and look good) while doing it.

More later.


Written by aceviewblogger

March 10, 2013 at 6:27 pm

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