Monday, September 20, 2010


GET DOWN will be getting involved with Hip Hop 4 Life's 3rd ANNUAL YOUTHFEST AND RAP SESSION on September 25th in Brooklyn!! This year's topic is “Let’s Talk About Sex” and the rap sessions will cover off on Sexual health, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), HIV/AIDS, birth control, abstinence, responsibility, prevention, sexual pressure, and
teen pregnancy.

YOUTHFEST is an educational, exciting and highly interactive “back-to-school” empowerment and prevention initiative for New York City’s youth. Every year young people, ages 12-18, gather at this annual free event which provides an environment of communication, education, entertainment and positive messaging. YOUTHFEST is the annual conference of HIP HOP 4 LIFE, an organization founded by Tamekia Flowers-Holland, a Brooklyn, New York native and alumni of Syracuse University.

Tamekia Flowers-Holland founded Hip Hop 4 Life with the objective of providing year-round mentoring, social and educational activities and interactive health-risk prevention/life skills workshops which incorporate celebrities, as well as, health and entertainment professionals. "Music, entertainment and youth empowerment have always been my passions," says Flowers-Holland. It is for this reason that I know Hip Hop 4 Life is my purpose in life. I will continue to dedicate myself to engaging, educating, uplifting and empowering the young people who will ultimately define our future!" Tamekia Flowers-Holland currently serves as the organization's Executive Director.

YOUTHFEST is designed to promote a healthy and safe school year and motivate young people to:
  • Build and foster positive self-esteem
  • Develop confidence and sound judgment
  • Be a catalyst for positive change within their communities

SPEAKERS INCLUDE participants from VIBE, Def Jam, Avenue Pink, FACES NY, Island/Universal, Essence and more!

Event Date: Saturday, September 25, 2010
Event Time: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Attendees: 250-300 NYC youth, ages 11-18
Event Location: St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

Click on the YOUTHFEST poster to the right of this post....
Or go to the website via this link

Download the registration form and get it in.

Hope to see you there!

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Monday, September 13, 2010


Thanks to reality series like “Top Chef” and the “Real Housewives of D.C.” spinoff, Washington D.C. is in our households on a weekly basis. The glamour, elite social circles, power lunches and politics of the nation’s capitol stands in stark contrast to the unseen District of Columbia which was illustrated so brilliantly in Susan Koch’s documentary film The Other City.

In fact, upon the launch of “Real Housewives of D.C.”, NPR ran an article by columnist Neda Ulaby that asserted there are two cities. The first, being “Washington”, which sets the backdrop for “Housewives” and the other “DC..” also known as “Chocolate City”, which you will probably not be portrayed in the hit franchises. It was with these thoughts in mind that, given the opportunity to chat with Susan Koch, I had to ask her – a Washingtonian – what her take on that issue was and more upon the theatrical release of her critically acclaimed film.

Susan, what are these “Two Washingtons”?

To people from the outside, the capital of the most powerful country in the world, you hear them refer to it as “Washington, D.C.” but for people who live here in the city, you very rarely hear them refer to it as “Washington, D.C.”. It’s D.C. They way people refer to it really reflects a much larger and deeper story. We are two cities in so many ways. There are disparities on so many levels. Healthcare, Education, Incarceration rates, Poverty. On the one hand, the Washington that the visitors see are the monuments, the Capitol, the government and seat of power. Then there are the people of D.C. that live there, go about their lives, and many are struggling just to survive. I just attended a forum [held August 11, 2010 at Eastern Market Hall] that the [D.C.] mayoral candidates were speaking at about this issue of HIV/AIDS and it was pointed out that one in three kids in D.C. live in poverty and that 65% of Black men in D.C. have some criminal record. So there are just some many disparities that exist and for people that don’t live here, their view is fairly one-sided.

I read that Mayor Adrian Fenty declined to participate?

Yes, that’s right.

How was [his non-appearance] received?

Well, I think people were disappointed given that this is the most serious health issue facing our city.

The March 2009 Washington Post article by Jose Antonio Vargas, who worked with you on The Other City, really resonated with me. It stated that at least 3% of District residents have HIV or AIDS, which surpasses the 1% that constitutes an epidemic. There was also a statement in that same article by Shannon L. Hader, director of the D.C.’s HIV/AIDS administration where she compares that figure to that of Uganda and Kenya. As I was doing research for GET DOWN project, these were some of the statistics that really left me unsettled. There was also coverage about D.C. in Essence magazine (“Capital Offense”, February 2009). It almost seemed as though there was more coverage in the media about HIV/AIDS than I can remember in the past decade, especially with a focus on D.C. Do you feel there has been a bump in coverage due to the 2009 CDC funded report conducted by George Washington University School of Health and Human Services?

Well, I hope so. The Washington Post announced it as the report had been done but they did publish a series of articles about the mismanagement of funds and the bureaucracy surrounding providing treatment on this issue. That said, I don’t think it’s getting enough media attention by the general media.

Why is that so?

I think there are a lot of other issues that people are dealing with but I also think it’s the fact people are still not aware that we still have a problem. You know, back the ‘80s, and early ‘90s, it was very visible. It was always in your face. People who had HIV and AIDS…many people knew someone who was dying. There were so many funerals, marches and protests. There was a lot of activism around it. Then, as life saving antiretrovirals came on the market, there was an awareness that people could now live with this disease. Not all people, but many people. People tended to think ‘ok now it’s done, we’re over it’. But we’re not and the fact is people still die of AIDS, in this country and many die all over the world of AIDS. Too many are dying here in the United States and way to many are getting infected. Even if you don’t die from this, it’s a lot to manage. Thirty years after this disease first became known in this country, there is no excuse why we still have people dying of AIDS.

In your film, Larry Kramer, a long-time AIDS activist expressed his concern that people are still “bare-backing” in this day and age. Yet, in Wisconsin the District Attorney sent letters to local school districts, threatening the possible arrest of teachers who teach the state mandated sex education curriculum (as covered on the GET DOWN Blog, so are we contradicting ourselves as a society asking young people not act like HIV and AIDS does not exist yet, and yet in certain cases, preventing the education and awareness from taking place?

I think you have identified a very serious issue in that we are very uptight about talking about sex in this country and especially talking about sex and young people and the fact is, it’s taking place. We can’t bury our head in the sand and say it’s not happening. There has to be as much education as possible and it has to begin at a young age. The statistics are unbelievable. You mentioned Larry Kramer who can’t believe there is so much information out there, it’s been going on for 30 years, that we still have this young generation that’s not taking it seriously. So we need to figure out ways to not only inform them, but to say this is your future, this is your life you are talking about. I’ve been told many times by people in the field, that they will hear young people say, ‘well, at least it’s not diabetes’.

At the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, where your film played, you stated during the Q&A that AIDS does not exist in isolation. There are many contributing factors such as healthcare, incarceration rates, government funding which affects housing and which ethnic groups get their needs met, the shift from what the “face of AIDS” used to be to what it is now, and the access to medications.

HIV/AIDS definitely does not live in a vacuum. In the case of the film, we have a young woman who is 28 years old. She was infected by her partner that didn’t tell her he, himself, was infected, and she’s raising her three children. She faces losing her home, she’s in an apartment, because she’s in subsidized housing, and the D.C. has decided that her building is one they will no longer subsidize. If you don’t have adequate housing, how do you take your medication? That medication needs to be refrigerated. What happens when you are not feeling well? Where do you go? Are you living on the street? Are you living in a shelter, where one is much more prone to infection? There is no ventilation that exists so they are more prone to respiratory illnesses. Many people who are living in the shelters that are infected, what happens at 7am? They have to be out. So the fact is, there is a very clear link between the need for adequate, safe housing and HIV/AIDS. The rate of infection among inmates is 5 to 7 times that of the general population. If you don’t have access to healthcare, you can’t take proper care of yourself, you are not getting treatment and you can move very quickly from HIV to full blown AIDS. I think this is what we see in The Other City, that this disease is impacted by all aspects of society. It is not in isolation.

The Other City plays New York City’s Chelsea Clearview theater, 260 West 23rd Street, beginning September 17th for one week. It will also be released in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. Check website for more information about the film’s theatrical run.

— Kim J. Ford

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