Jul 22 2011

Abandoned at Birth Now an AIDS Activist: Hydeia Broadbent’s Life a Testament to Early Diagnosis and Treatment

Born HIV-infected to a crack-addicted mother and diagnosed with full blown AIDS at age 3, Hydeia Broadbent was not expected to live past the age of 5. More than 20 years after receiving that death sentence, this beautiful young woman blogs, tweets and travels the country to educate people about the importance of AIDS prevention, testing, early diagnosis and treatment.

“Early diagnosis can be the difference between life and death,” says Broadbent. “Too many people become aware of their status when it is too late for life-saving medications to be effective — I am in this fight because I truly do not want others to go through what I have gone through — but also keep in mind, a positive test result doesn’t have to mean a death sentence.”

Some uninformed people hear stories like Broadbent’s and believe that because HIV-positive people are now living much longer, prevention is not a big deal anymore. Broadbent warns audiences not to fall into that trap. This young lady knows firsthand that living with AIDS is no walk in the park. The drugs have serious side effects, are very costly and they must be taken every day. If you are following Broadbent on Facebook or Twitter, you know her emergency room visits are frightening and expensive.

“People think because I was born with HIV my story does not apply to them,” warns Broadbent. “Well, this same disease I am living with is the same disease you can get if you don’t practice safe sex and know your HIV status and the HIV status of your sexual partner. I ask people to use my testimony as a warning of what you don’t want to go through.”

If you have been thinking about getting tested, but still haven’t found the courage or will to get it done, let this young woman’s concern for you give you the nudge you need to be concerned about yourself.

“We are responsible for the choices we make and I challenge everyone to be accountable. Every 9 ½ minutes someone becomes infected with HIV. Knowing your HIV status is not only a representation of self-love but also states what kind of person you choose to be. Not knowing your HIV status and having unsafe sexual relationships means you could possibly be infecting others,” Broadbent says.

Visit www.HydeaiaBroadbent.com for more information on this awesome young lady.

Jun 2 2011

Scott Heron’s Music ‘Reflected Black Anger’ (WTH ?!) I Can’t…

On Friday, May 27th, 2011, Gil Scott-Heron died, and it was up to the rest of us left here on Earth to decide whether that mattered much. Within hours, the Internet began buzzing about his life, his incredible talent, and the impression his words and music left on the minds and hearts of millions of us, of every ethnicity, around the globe.

I was one of the writers online that day, hurriedly putting together a post that might somehow reflect the impact this man had on me when I was first exposed to his music/heart/genius at a young age. Finding words to explain the emotional connection I feel to this poet/griot/brother I never even met is impossible, so I posted his words instead  and mourned his passing privately.

Two days later, after spending the weekend with his music, I thought I’d try again at a more in-depth tribute to Mr. Scott-Heron. I began a fact-finding mission by visiting Google to find details related to his life and death. I typed “Gil Scott-Heron” “died,” and at the top of the results list was this headline from a Washington Post obituary by Christian Salazar, a writer for the Associated Press:

Gil Scott-Heron, Whose Music Reflected Black Anger, Dies at 62


You’re a journalist for the AP. You are given the great honor of writing Gil Scott-Heron’s obituary.  That’s your headline?

I can’t…

The matter-of-fact obituary was sprinkled with bland tidbits about Scott-Heron’s life, but was mostly a commentary on his “battle with crack cocaine,”  “time in jail,”  and “living with HIV.”

It is beyond me to figure out how anyone who has investigated this incredible artist’s body of work could write 546 words about him without the terms “legend” “genius,” “soul,” “passion” or “intensity” ever coming to mind.

“His songs often had incendiary titles — ‘Home Is Where the Hatred Is,’ or ‘Whitey on the Moon,’ and through spoken word and song, he tapped the frustration of the masses.” -Christian Salazar

There was no mention of  Scott-Heron’s Pieces of a Man:

I saw my grandma sweeping
With her old straw broom
But she didn’t know what she was doing
She could hardly understand
That she was really sweeping up..
Pieces of a man

Save the Children:

“We got to do something yeah to save the children
Soon it will be their test to try and save the world
Right now they seem to play such a small part of
The things that they soon be right at the heart of

Rivers of My Fathers:

Looking for a way. Got to find a way out of this confusion
Looking for a sign point my way home
Let me lay down by a stream miles from everything
Rivers of my fathers. Rivers of my fathers
Carry me home. Please carry me home

or his rendition of Withers’ Grandma’s Hands:

Grandma’s hands clapped in church on Sunday mornings
Grandma’s hands played the tambourine so well
Grandma’s hands used to issue out a warning…

Grandma’s hands soothed the local unwed mothers
Grandma’s hands used to ache sometimes and swell
Grandma’s hands, well they really came in handy…

But I don’t have grandma anymore…
When I get to heaven I’ll look for grandma’s hands.

It feels sadly tragic to me that a person could focus so intently on the perceived deficits in Gil Scott-Heron’s life and character and miss the wealth of love, honesty and instruction with which he gifted us.

As with countless creative geniuses such as Jackson, Joplin, Gibran, Hemingway, etc. (who possessed an extraordinary ability to tap into the love, hopes, struggles, pain and anger of a people) Heron spent much of his life emotionally raw—it is an existence that often leads exceptional poets, authors, artists and musicians to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

It is interesting/frustrating/infuriating to peruse the Internet for obituaries of other infamous icons and find the legendary Johnny Cash, who fought drug and alcohol addiction and had several brushes with the law, but whose “angry music” is respectfully balanced against his entire body of work.

Yet, somehow the genius of Gil Scott Heron can so easily be reduced to “…black anger.”

Black anger.


I’m wondering what you might say about that today, Mr. Scott-Heron ?

A Prayer for Everybody to be Free
by Gil Scott-Heron

This is a prayer for everybody
In the world
‘Cause I need you and you need me
We need each other

This is a prayer for everybody
in the world
A prayer for you
A prayer for me
A prayer for love and harmony
A prayer for light for all to see
A prayer that someday we’ll all be free

There’s a lot that’s wrong
We must be strong
And not become bitter
If there’s a chance
That mankind will profit
Why should we scoff at something new
Or old – if it can make us better?

This is a prayer for everybody
In the world
‘Cause without you
And without me
Without love and harmony
Without courage and dignity
What would it mean
To be free?

Amen, Brother Gil.


Dec 14 2010

Prince William will be able to say the word “Mummy” again soon

“Being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” -Diana, Princess of Wales

If you’re like me, that whole Disney-style princess thing is one huge turnoff. I mean really, what self-respecting mother is going to teach her daughter that the ultimate happily-ever-after comes from catching the eye of a handsome prince and getting lucky enough to sit next to his throne for the rest of her life?

Uh, no.  I don’t think so.

I’m way more excited about Tinkerbell and her little fairy BFFs who are adorably flawed (Tink has a bit of an anger management problem), are able to acknowledge the awesomeness of their individual gifts, and proudly use those gifts to make the world better for everyone.

It makes perfect sense to me that Diana Princess of Wales was, and remains, so incredibly adored worldwide.  Diana was never content to simply be Prince Charles’ wife, but instead chose to behave more like a fairy princess, refusing to pretend she was flawless, and flying around the world using her powers to relieve human suffering–while encouraging us all to be more loving.

Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life.” -Diana

When she died the world lost a true philanthropist, and her two young sons lost a loving mother and role-model who was teaching them by example how to use their royal positions to serve others.

I will fight for my children on any level so they can reach their potential as human beings and in their public duties.” -Diana

Just 12 and 15 when they lost her, Diana’s influence on the boys did not fade as they matured.  Both princes are now known for their humble and friendly approach to the public, and both have upheld their mother’s legacy of philanthropy by contributing time and money to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, wildlife preservation, environmental protection, the inner-city disadvantaged, the homeless, and African poverty relief.  Harry is co-founder of Sentebale, a joint effort with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho to help meet the needs of children orphaned by AIDS .  Diana’s sons have honored their mother by serving those she would if she were here–underscoring their strong belief that the dead continue on in another life and guide those they left behind.

I’m aware that people I have loved and have died are in the spirit world looking after me.” – Princess Diana

Though she died over 13 years ago, Diana’s legacy as devoted mother of these two grandsons of Windsor (who are second and third in line for the  throne) has recently become the topic of much conversation, as her eldest William just announced his engagement to his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton.  William proposed to Kate a few weeks ago while in Kenya, offering her the sapphire and diamond engagement ring his father Prince Charles had given his mother.

She’s not going to be around to share in any of the fun and the excitement…so this is my way of keeping her sort of close to it all.” -Prince William

The wedding will take place in late April, not long after Mothering Sunday (the UK version of  Mother’s day), a day that is extremely painful for William.  Last year he celebrated the holiday by announcing his patronage of the Child Bereavement Charity, an organization co-founded by his mother a few years before she died.  After several private meetings with bereaved families, he spent time with a group of children who lost parents or siblings.  He spoke candidly with the youngsters, referring to Mother’s Day as an occasion of sadness and emptiness, and describing a loss like theirs as “one of the most difficult experiences anyone can endure.”

Never being able to say the word ‘Mummy’ again in your life sounds like a small thing. However for many, including me, it is now really just a word – hollow and evoking only memories.” -William

Those who cherish the memory of Princess Diana will be watching with excitement and hope as William and Kate begin their lives together as man and wife, and though I’ve never considered myself a “royal watcher,” I must admit I’m eager to see a few years into the future when the couple become parents, something William says they certainly plan to do. That is when Mother’s Day will be transformed from an excruciating occasion into a bittersweet celebration. When the day is spent honoring the mother of  his children and reminiscing about the amazing grandmother they didn’t get to meet, I suspect Mothering Sunday will take on a new and much more joyful spirit for the prince.

God willing, Prince William will be able to say the word “Mummy” again soon, and when he hears it from the mouths of his little ones, he may find it holds a magical quality that, like Tinkerbell’s pixie dust, will lift him high above his pain.