For anyone who is an avid follower of college football, the Magic City Classic in Birmingham, Ala., is not to be missed. The Classic is more than just a game. For 76 years it has been a state-treasured tradition.
Each October, in-state rivals Alabama State University (ASU) and Alabama A&M University (AAMU) square off on Legion Field for what has become Birmingham’s largest event. The week prior to the actual game is filled with festivities, pageantry and even celebrity-hosted parties. The game itself holds the record for being the highest-attended Division I Football Championship Subdivision game in the nation.
This year more than 50,000 fans, as well as local and national drill teams and bands, attended, and both teams participated in the game despite frigid temperatures and driving rain.
However, 2017’s Magic City Classic included more than the usual football festivities; it featured a partnership with the local chapter of the Black Treatment Advocates Network (BTAN). A collaboration between AIDS Alabama, the Alabama Department of Public Health, Birmingham AIDS Outreach, the Jefferson County Health Department, Montgomery AIDS Outreach (formerly known as Medical Advocacy & Outreach of Alabama) and the 1917 Clinic, the local BTAN partnered with the Classic to increase awareness of HIV and AIDS among the event’s swelling crowds and captive audiences.
The Birmingham BTAN created multiple outreach opportunities. It prepared thousands of Safe Sex Kits, including condoms and information leaflets, which were distributed to Classic attendees. More than 330 kits were handed out at the Thursday, Oct. 28, Classic Kickoff Pep Rally, which featured step performances by the Divine Nine and a band showdown between the AAMU and ASU bands.
Local BTAN members attended airings of Black radio legends—and, coincidentally, Alabama natives—Tom Joyner’s and Rickey Smiley’s broadcasts, with Smiley hosting from the Alabama Theatre and Joyner hosting from Legion Field. Both events saw thousands of spectators, and 1,000 Safe Sex Kits were distributed between them. Thirty-two people were also tested for HIV at the Smiley event.
During the Coors Lite Pre-Game Tailgate, the BTAN chapter administered HIV tests. Each person tested was entered into a drawing to win two VIP passes to attend “The Rebel, the Soul & the Saint” concert by Black AIDS Institute AIDS ambassador Ledisi in Birmingham in November 2017.
More than 2,200 Safe Sex Kits were distributed over the weekend, and a total of 132 people were tested for HIV—100 people were tested at the Tailgate Party alone. The chapter also distributed BTAN swag, including about 700 “Game Changer” T-shirts and 200 pairs of PrEP sunglasses.
This year’s Magic City Classic was more than just a football game between rival universities. It was also a successful HIV/AIDS awareness outreach event for the local community and beyond.
Whitney Alese is a writer and blogger whose work has been featured in BuzzFeed and several other publications.