Saturday, December 8, 2012


No More Stigma Film Series on World Aids Day 2012

Intern Kyle Sweet makes directorial debut at the No More Stigma Film Series

SKYPE Q&A with David Weissman, director, "We Were Here" at No More Stigma Film Series

Sunday, October 21, 2012




343 Lenox Avenue, New York, NY


"We Were Here" a film by director David Weissman
Tuesday, October 30th
6:30pm Reception, 7:30pm Screening
Maysles Cinema
343 Malcolm X Boulevard / Lenox Avenue
between 127th and 128th Streets

Suggested Admission Donation $10

GMAD's Youth Advisory Board (GYAB) Fundraiser on Friday, October 26th!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"We Were Here" Screens October 30th in NYC


343 Lenox Avenue, New York, NY

Still image from We Were Here courtesy of New Yorker Films
The GET DOWN Campaign’s No More Stigma Film Series continues on October 30th at Maysles Cinema in Harlem, NY with the feature documentary film We Were Here.
We Were Here, directed by David Weissman, is the first documentary to take a deep and reflective look back at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco. It explores how the City’s inhabitants were affected by, and how they responded to, that calamitous epidemic. 

We Were Here documents the coming of what was called the “Gay Plague” in the early 1980s. It illuminates the profound personal and community issues raised by the AIDS epidemic as well as the broad political and social upheavals it unleashed. It offers a cathartic validation for the generation that suffered through, and responded to, the onset of AIDS. It opens a window of understanding to those who have only the vaguest notions of what transpired in those years. It provides insight into what society could, and should, offer its citizens in the way of medical care, social services, and community support.

Filmmakers David Weissman and Bill Weber co-directed the 2001 documentary, The Cockettes, chronicling San Francisco’s legendary theater troupe of hippies and drag queens, 1969 – 1972. We Were Here revisits San Francisco a decade later, as its flourishing gay community is hit with an unimaginable disaster.
The October 30th event will begin with a reception at 6:30pm, the screening at 7:30pm and a post-screening Q&A with director David WeissmanWe Were Here will be preceded by a short documentary entitled Something About Katie, directed by Rutger’s University journalism major Kyle Sweet, created under the GET DOWN Campaign’s Summer 2012 internship program.

In 2010, the GET DOWN Campaign launched with goal of educating and spreading awareness about HIV/AIDS to a primary audience of 13-24 year old teens and young adults and a secondary audience of their care givers.  Through social media, blogging, viral content, events and now the No More Stigma Film Series, GET DOWN continues using digital media to engage audiences around HIV/AIDS and sexual health.  After developing the concept of for the No More Stigma Film Series, GET DOWN’s founder and executive producer Kim J. Ford approached Maysles Cinema’s Jessica Green, cinema director, about getting involved.  Says Ford “Since we launched with Harlem’s FACES NY as our charity partner and are now expanding to partner with Harlem United, it made sense to approach Maysles Cinema.”  The Maysles Cinema, the only independent film house north of Lincoln Center in Manhattan, is dedicated to the exhibition of documentary film. Ford continues “With their roots in the Harlem community, accessibility, Summer programs for youth, and social issue oriented programming, we knew Maysles Cinema was the right partner.”  The short film Something About Katie, produced under GET DOWN’s Summer 2012 Internship Program, is an example of viral content produced by and about the youth that GET DOWN seeks to reach.

GET DOWN understands that there is a need for more HIV, AIDS, and overall sexual health awareness.  Additionally, more education is required around gender and sexual identity.  Stigma and shame is still a huge barrier to testing.  The No More Stigma Film Series seeks to stimulate open conversation about HIV, AIDS, Stigma and Sexual Identity.  “The No More Stigma Film Series”, says Ford, “has as its goal to to reinforce the fact that HIV/AIDS does not discriminate.”

The No More Stigma Film Series kicked off in June with the feature documentary The Carrier and a sneak preview of the highly anticipated 25 To Life.  The October 30th screening of We Were Here marks the second of a three event screening series in 2012.  The final event of 2012 will take place on December 1st – World Aids Day.

--Team Get Down

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Ethiopian Education

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Ethiopia for one month.  With two other students from my university and six from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, we spent our time at Yesewasew Genet orphanage in Debre Libanos, which is about two hours north of the capitol city, Addis Ababa.  Our goal was to establish a library and teach enrichment classes to the students at the orphanage.  I flew 14 hours and 7,000 miles to a country that has surprised me in every way.  I was not expecting the lush green countryside, the misty mountains, monkeys, constant sound of Ge’ez chants, or the good-hearted and wonderful people I met everywhere.  I’ve learned a few dozen words in Amharic, the local language in the area I stayed in, and I became very close to the beautiful children that I worked with.

Africa. It sounded like another world to my middle-class, suburban ears.  Everything about the continent seemed exotic and dangerous.  I was warned about the dangers of mosquitos carrying malaria, food that I won’t be used to, and the very, very wet weather in the mountain region.  The Ethiopians I met at my school told me about the welcoming culture, the extended families that span from one side of the country to the other, and the unceasing friendships I would make there.  Before going to the country, I only knew how to say one word in Amharic: “Amaseganalo,” which is Amharic for “thank you.”  I used that word more than any other during the trip.

Debre Libanos, Ethiopia.  Photo by Virginia Marshall.
My mother was mainly concerned about my immunization from diseases prevalent in the area like Typhoid, Yellow Fever, and Hepatitis B.  She is a doctor, and all too familiar with illnesses due to ignorance or unpreparedness.  I had six shots in the month proceeding my departure, and I took malaria pills every day while in the country.  But my mother’s caution is a luxury, and even for American citizens whose mothers are not doctors, health care is luxurious compared to the availability of medical care in countries like Ethiopia.  In Ethiopia, 1.5% of the populations is living with HIV/AIDS, according to USAID’s website, and many villages are still struggling to get clean water, electricity, and plumbing.  The orphanage I stayed at thankfully had electricity, but their water source was a single pump in the center of the compound, and we had to drink bottled water because our stomachs were not used to the types of bacteria in the water. 

Most people in Ethiopia still live in very remote and rural areas where there are no schools for the children, let alone access to hospitals or medications.   At-home births are risky because of the high probability of unsanitary conditions, and mostly responsible for the high infant mortality rate; 88 out of 1,000 children do not live past age five.  Then there is the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, a danger that has been pretty much eliminated in the United States.  It is possible to prevent mother-to-child transmission, but the mother must take the proper precautions before giving birth.  She must take a series of pills, which is easy to do in a developed country like the United States where health education and resources are funded by the government.  However, most Ethiopians live days away from large cities where there are health clinics and doctors.  Very few doctors travel around the country educating citizens.  There is one doctor for every 36,000 Ethiopians, whereas in the United States, there is approximately one doctor for every 500 people, according to

But thanks to Ethiopia’s new Minister of Health, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and USAID, there are programs in place now that bring nurses and health workers to these remote villages to educate the people about getting testing and prevention of HIV.  In a new program known as the “Female Army” (technically, the Health Extension Program), women are trained in basic medical and preventive care, and then sent out into remote areas of the country where they might assist with home births, or provide basic medical services.  As Dr. Ghebreyesus said in an interview with USAID, To make these women’s groups really work in the whole country, they need to be able to address three things: maternal mortality, neonatal mortality and prevention of mother-to-child transmission [of HIV/AIDS].”      

Debre Libanos, Ethiopia.  Photo by Virginia Marshall.
These exemplary women do much more; they will lug clean water to remote farming families, and, when possible, try to convince women to deliver their babies in hospitals rather than at home.  Ayelech Getachew told USAID reporters in June that the satellite women center she runs offers women information about various methods of contraception that can help limit the size of their families.  “Anyone coming for family planning gets HIV tests,” Getachew added.

Another surprising part of Ethiopian culture was the huge influence of religion on every day life.  The orphans that came to know lived in a monastery town, and many of the boys were training to be priests.  Every day both boys and girls had to take four to six hours of spiritual lessons, and all children were encouraged to follow the strict Ethiopian Orthodox calendar of fasting.  In order to honor many of the saints, Orthodox Ethiopians abstain from food and attend church for a good part of the day.  I have found Ethiopia to be a country absorbed in traditions, many of which I have come to love, such as “gorsha,” when a person serves the first bite of injera and wot (very moist flatbread taken with hands and dipped into a savory stew) to another person as a gesture of friendship.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in an article called “Ethiopians Trade Holy Water for AIDS Drugs” published in March of 2012, many Ethiopians prefer their traditional remedies to taking western pills for ailments that are new and frightening, such as HIV.  There is a holy water site on Mt. Entoto, very near Addis Ababa, that is thought to cure AIDS.  By bathing in this water and drinking at least a gallon of it daily, some Ethiopians believe they will be cured, and so many adults suffering from HIV/AIDS travel to Entoto.  But in a new push to get ARV (antiretroviral) drugs into the country, medical workers encourage those who are HIV positive to take ARV pills along with their holy water remedies.  Some priests still warn that taking ARV pills is an anti-Christian act, but many priests are now seeing the positive affect of taking drugs.  Whereas three years ago there were 71,900 deaths from AIDS yearly, in 2010 there were 28,100 deaths thanks to the ARV drugs.  One priest who works at Entoto, Woidbesenbet, said, “I encourage people to get baptized and to take their medicine each day.”

Debre Libanos, Ethiopia.  Photo by Virginia Marshall.

Aside from the “Female Army” education program, Ethiopia is doing a lot of work to make sure their citizen know the facts about HIV.  Again, formal schooling is hard to coordinate for remote Ethiopian communities; the students at the orphanage I worked at had to live in another town in order to attend public High School, and many of the oldest children had difficulty reading and doing simple math because of the scarcity of education. According to, only 42.7% of Ethiopians over the age of 15 can read.

USAID reported that less than 1% of Ethiopians have a TV, but 41% of households own a radio.  Therefore, the primary mode of communication with the public is through radio shows, not formal classes or written pamphlets.  One radio series, “Journey of Life,” is broadcast every Sunday.  The radio show was developed by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and its goal is to educate about HIV, and start conversations about the tough topic in remote communities.  Here is an excerpt from the show:

Azeb’s Mother: No, my dear. As a mater of fact, there are more and more young people dying. As far as Dessa is concerned, she was ill for two years.

Azeb: What was her illness?

Azeb’s Mother: It was the disease of our time… you call is YEDS?

Elias: Oh, you mean AIDS?

Azeb: (Laughs) Did you say YEDS, mamma? So (feels sad) Dessa dies of AIDS?

Azeb’s Mother: It is not only Dessa. It is said that Abebe, who had a shop in our neighbour [sic], also died of YEDS. Anyway, many young people are dying of the disease. It must be more serious in the big city, Addis Ababa.

Elias: Mother, AIDS does not differentiate between country and town. The disease is caused by people traveling from place to place, and failing to restrict themselves to one.

Azeb’s Mother: So, it’s God’s wrath against mankind?

Azeb: Mamma, have something to eat and we will talk about it later.

Azeb’s Mother: Just a minute my dear… you said people get AIDS from traveling from place to place?

Elias: No, don’t be mistaken, Mother. One need not to travel to get AIDS. For example. One can catch the disease through blood transfusion, if blood from an infected person is given before it is tested.

And so on.

This particular episode aired in 2001, and the full transcript can be found here: 

I hope that the classes we taught and the books that we brought to the new library at the orphanage in Debre Libanos will encourage the children to continue their education.  I have come to care deeply about the children I met, and each one has the potential to make a difference in their own country.  One day I hope to go back to Ethiopia to see what the children have done with their lives, and to return to the place where I first learned about the power of education.

Check out this Wall Street Journal article “Ethiopians Trade Holy Water for AIDS Drugs”.  It’s a good read.

You can check out the program I am travelled with here.  It’s called Kids Helping Needy Kids, and it is a non-profit organization started by my friend and classmate at college, Mehron Price, and her sisters:


--Virginia Marshall
GET DOWN Youth Blogger

Monday, September 24, 2012

Jamar Rogers Speaking at NYU

 Meet JAMAR ROGERS from Season 2 of NBC's hit show 
"THE VOICE" at NYU in New York this Thursday!  

He will be speaking at NYU in Manhattan with MOVE THE CROWD 
about how he turned FAILURE into SUCCESS!

On the evening of the 27th, Move The Crowd will present the next installment in it’s critically acclaimed School Of Hard Knocks Series: Flipping Failure To Success. This networking event will be an intimate Oprah Style Interview with the up and coming star and renowned Cultural Innovator-In-The-Making - Jamar Rogers.  This candid in depth interview will be an opportunity to discover actionable, real world insights about failure, success and longevity from the ground up.

Jamar Rogers reigns from New Orleans, LA. Growing up, he showed tremendous talent for singing as early as six years of age, but soon fell prey to negative influences and quickly became addicted to drugs.  As his life began to spiral out of control; Jamar was declared HIV positive. Completely broken, Jamar somehow found the light in the darkest time of his life and began to turn things around.

After six years of being clean from crystal meth, Jamar auditioned for The Voice and “the rest is history,” as they say.  Since becoming a finalist on The Voice, Jamar has appeared on popular shows such as The Today Show, Ellen, CNN, E! Entertainment News, MTV News, and many more!
This is a $50 event but if you register now, our ADINKRA HOUSE friends get in for FREE! That's right! FREE!!!

Details / REGISTER HERE --->

Move The Crowd School Of Hard Knocks Series presents JAMAR ROGERS
Doors open 7:00 p.m. FREE if you register before midnight tonight. $50 if you don't.

NYU Open House Gallery
528 LaGuardia Place
New York, NY 10012




Monday, September 17, 2012

Are We Still Acting Up Over HIV?

“ACT UP could easily become your life,” said John Riley at a weekly ACT UP/NY meeting held earlier this Summer on June 18th, 2012.  He was talking about ACT UP when it first started in 1987, when Americans were angry and scared, watching an incurable disease take the lives of their friends and family.  “Meetings used to be held in Cooper Union, and up to 400 people would go,” said Riley, who is one of the early members of ACT UP, and a co-founder of Health GAP (Health Global Access Project an organization that works to provide generic AIDS drugs to developing countries.

Now, ACT UP meetings are quite different.  ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, is a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis ( This year, ACT UP celebrates its 25 birthday.  When I went to the June 18th meeting, there were about 20 people who eventually trickled in, mostly older, original members.  There were maybe five other people there around my age, all from other organizations like Queerocracy or VOCAL-NY (Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders).  It seemed to me that ACT UP had fractured and branched out into a dozen new organizations focused on different aspects of the AIDS fight — housing, health reform, community development, and global distribution of HIV/AIDS drugs.

Part of what made ACT UP so powerful in the beginning years was its mass of determined youth.  Demonstrations wracked with symbolism and anger attracted publicity, and publicity attracted the government’s attention.  Suffering young people were uniting to demand solutions to the AIDS crisis—they wanted cheaper healthcare for those with the disease, and since very little was known about AIDS, ACT UP demanded government money for research.  “I was HIV positive in 1981, back when they were calling the disease GRID — Gay-Related Immune Deficiency,” said Eric Sawyer, one of the founders of the ACT UP, and a co-founder of Housing Works and Health GAP. 

We now know that HIV does not only affect Gay men, but in 1987 it did not matter what the disease was called because thousands of people were dying from a disease that might be curable, if the government would only listen. “Every other week there were obituaries read out during the general meetings—obituaries of members who had just died from AIDS,” Riley remembers.

Where has ACT UP gone? That is a question Larry Kramer asks in his article in the Huffington Post ( ) called “Happy Birthday, ACT UP, wherever you are.” Kramer is a founding member of both ACT UP and GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), but in his recent article, he wonders what and where ACT UP is today, and talks about the organization as if it only exists in the past. According to Kramer, ACT UP was started by “a bunch of terrified kids,” but it’s thanks to those scared young activists that those diagnosed with HIV over 25 years ago are still alive and well today. 

Today, the fight against AIDS suffers from apathy because we have medications that can extend the life of a person with HIV to its natural length.  We know how HIV is transmitted, and how to prevent the spread of HIV.  Indeed the United State has not only made pharmaceutical advances, but also political advances. This July, Washington DC hosted the International AIDS Conference after twenty-two years of not allowing people with HIV to enter the country.  Today that law is no longer in existence, but there are still policies in this country that feed discrimination or prevent those infected with HIV from receiving the highest level of medical care.

At the Convention in Washington DC, protesters gathered to object to the current United States ban on the entry of sex workers and drug users into the country.  As these two populations are among the highest risk groups for contracting AIDS, many protesters felt that to ignore these populations is discrimination, and it is a human rights violation to prevent them from receiving necessary medical attention.  Those who showed up to the protest were not explicitly representing ACT UP, but it did not go unmentioned that this tradition of protest is mainly thanks to the original organizations that set precedents for how to object and how to draw media attention to an important issue. According to an article in The Nation ( ), protesters chanted “No sex workers? No drug users? No IAC!” near the place where the conference was taking place.

As the father of the branch organizations that demonstrated at the International AIDS Conference, ACT UP—and specifically ACT UP/NY—was also getting ready for its time in the spotlight.  When I attended the general meeting in early July, ACT UP/NY was planning to join forces with Occupy Wall Street to campaign for the Robin Hood Tax.  This tax is something a coalition of forces around the world, including ACT UP/NY, conceived to solve many issues with one tax on government and big business practices such as currency and stock exchanges.  The idea of the Robin Hood Tax, or the Financial Transaction Tax, was brought to OWS where young and angry people began to rally support for the tax that will raise money for poverty reduction, green energy implementation in developing countries, and AIDS and healthcare coverage in the United States.  OWS started in much the same way as ACT UP/NY; both were formed by young people who were frustrated with the government, and both started on Wall Street (the site of ACT UP’s first New York protest).  This must be the sort of thing that Larry Kramer is looking for.  ACT UP is still fighting and protesting with OWS and other AIDS activism organizations.

At the ACT UP/NY meeting, plans to protest HIV criminalization during the Gay Pride march were discussed. “We now have the history of 25 years of activism, and we know now what to expect,” said Sawyer after the meeting, when I learned a few of ACT UP’s current goals: decriminalization of HIV and financial propositions like the Robin Hood Tax. Individual members of ACT UP had their own goals for the future of AIDS reform, and many have devoted their careers to AIDS activism. Sawyer, who now works at UNAIDS said “It’s not fair that I can buy thirty years of life while people in the developing world die within two years of receiving diagnosis.” Riley, Health GAP co-founder, also stated his goal that generic AIDS drugs will one day be available to people in developing counties as well as those with money in developed areas like the United States and Europe.

ACT UP is not gone. The size and goals of the organization has changed, but as long as people are willing to fight for the cause, ACT UP will continue to affect change for another 25 years. By sharing goals and ideas with other activism groups today, ACT UP will be able to share its wisdom and knowledge of how to unite a group of people to affect social and political change.


--Virginia Marshall
GET DOWN Youth Blogger