VOICES from… Chicago, Ill.
I am first and foremost a Black girl from the south side of Chicago who lost a lot of her friends to AIDS. That is the energy that I bring into my work — politely, consistently and correctly.
Kevin’s Room, a short film about brothers in the life, was generated by the spirits of two friends of mine, both named Kevin, who passed away from AIDS-related complications. They were both tremendously complex brothers with a lot of love. I remember going to one of their funerals and not a single person acknowledged that he was gay, let alone how he had died. It was such a sad and empty experience.
I was so angry that I felt a need to get revenge, so I started writing. There is so much power in writing for me. What started out as a simple short story in honor of my friends, transformed into this huge platform with the potential to give voice to the lives of so many Black men who were dying in silence. Even greater than that, though, was the potential Kevin’s Room had to educate so many people, young and old, gay and straight, Black or white, about HIV and AIDS.
So it was a big deal. It had never been done before. There was never a show about Black gay men on television during prime time. So many people had their own idea of what it should look like. I collaborated with several brilliant Black gay men, who served as overseers of the script, to ensure that their lives were truthfully represented. Overall, it was a success. We got some criticism, but mostly rave reviews — and lots of excitement. We are finishing up the series with Kevin’s Room 3, which is in the works.
I like to keep my hands in a lot of social marketing. That is the way of the future. One of the biggest obstacles that we face in this sort of work is the limited imagination of the people that are doing it. People are limited by fear of what they cannot do. I hear people say all the time that money is an obstacle, but I don’t believe that. Just as we have money to build bombs and wage war, we have money to find a cure. We must use our creativity and imaginations to do more.
As told to Keith Green.