Tuesday, February 28, 2012

GET DOWN at Sundae Sermon's Kickoff at El Museo Del Barrio

El Museo Del Barrio was the place to be on Sunday, February 26 as Harlem Parks to Park program, the dance party series Sundae Sermon, took over El Museo Del Barrio in East Harlem, New York.  Bridging the East and West sides of Harlem, the series united the community for an afternoon of soulful house music and education.  GET DOWN partnered with Sundae Sermon to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and kickoff the Aids Walk Campaigns of FACES NY and Harlem United, two New York based HIV community-based organizations.  GET DOWN helped organize the donations for the two charities and, along with Anita Bryant of A-Marketing, created goodie bags with donations from companies such as Fairway Market, Sokenbicha Teas, NY Sports Club of Harlem, Harlem Doggie Day Spa, Sesame Workshop, Land Yoga, Modell’s, A-Loft of Harlem and Jeffrey Richards Associates, producers of The Gershwins’ PORGY AND BESS.

Sundae Sermon will continue at El Museo Del Barrio on March 25 and April 29.

For more information on Sundae Sermon at El Museo Del Barrio, go to www.elmuseo.org or www.sundaesermon.com.

To see more images from GET DOWN at Sundae Sermon, check out http://www.facebook.com/getdownpsa, go to PHOTOS.

Read.  Share.  Discuss.  Educate.

--Kim J. Ford
GET DOWN Creator/Executive Producer

Tuesday, February 21, 2012




NEW YORK, February 17, 2012 – The GET DOWN Campaign announced today that it will partner with DJ Stormin’ Norman’s Sundae Sermon Dance Party Series to kick off the indoor series this Spring and raise awareness for HIV/AIDS during Black History Month. El Museo Del Barrio will be hosting Sundae Sermon as a satellite extension of their outdoor music and film festival that runs in Harlem's Morningside Park from June through September. This Winter/Spring 2012 Edition will connect families and communities through dance, leisure and artist exhibits. DJ Stormin' Norman, DJ Qool Marv and other guest dj's will be music maestros alongside live Painters, and face painting for kids. Gonzalo Casals, El Museo’s Director of Education and Public Programs comments, “We are happy to open our doors to the greater Harlem Community through this special partnership with Sundae Sermon. The kind of free programming for families that they offer aligns with El Museo’s goal and mission to make such activities accessible and meaningful for our community.” The series kicks off February 26 and continues March 25 and April 29.

DJ Stormin' Norman, Sundae Sermon’s founder, originally hails from East London, England, and is now a resident of Harlem. In the 90’s, he was part of a groundbreaking DJ collective who set a new precedent in national radio with the “Thunderstorm Mix” on New York’s WBLS 107.5FM. The program introduced live mixing to daytime radio, previously reserved for weekend nights broadcasted from night-clubs. For over 20 years, he's played major New York clubs, exclusive downtown spots, elite private events and world tours.  Norman also has extended his brand with Sundae Sermon Foundation, Sundae Sermon Radio and Sundae Sermon Recordings.  Most importantly, he’s committed to his community. A Harlem resident for over 15 years, Norman is passionate about constructively contributing to its current renaissance. "There are a lot of Harlemites who have to venture downtown or to other boroughs for this kind of experience,” Norman said. “Sundae Sermon lets us support and celebrate this great neighborhood and network, and invite the rest of the city to join the party," he added.

To kickoff the series and raise HIV/AIDS awareness during Black History Month, Sundae Sermon partnered with the GET DOWN HIV/AIDS awareness campaign.  GET DOWN, written, produced and directed by Kim J. Ford (Lionqueen 192 Productions, Inc.), is an edgy new HIV/AIDS PSA that candidly portrays sexually active youth of various sexual identities who are experimenting with multiple sexual partners and the consequences they deal with as a result.  GET DOWN uses multimedia program, that utilizes viral short form content, education (in schools and extra curricular arts education), social media, blogging and - launching in 2012  - youth oriented radio, in order to educate at-risk youth about HIV, AIDS, sexual behavior and safe sex.  “I’ve wanted to work with DJ Stormin Norman for a while”, says Kim J. Ford.  “Sundae Sermon’s socially conscious, community oriented dance parties are the right platform for GET DOWN to spread awareness.  We are proud to partner with DJ Stormin Norman on our first foray into events”.  The event will be hosted by Forces of Nature Dance Theater Ensemble, and will feature live painting, kids face painting and goodie bags, which were coordinated by New York marketing entrepreneur Anita Bryant of A-Marketing and GET DOWN.  The special kickoff event, will also serve as an Aids Walk Fundraiser kickoff for FACES NY and Harlem United, two Harlem based non-profit organizations, who will be on-site to accept voluntary donations. Harlem United will conduct private HIV testing on site.  Sundae Sermon is brought to you by Harlem Community Development Corporation, Experience Harlem, Harlem Parks to Parks, Bikram Yoga East Harlem and Sundae Sermon Radio.

The Sundae Sermon indoor series schedule is as follows:

African American HIV/AIDS Awareness Month
GET DOWN Campaign, FACES NY, Harlem United
Aids Walk Donations To Charities

Guest Female DJs, Music Influenced By Women

Traveling Exhibit, Five Harlem Artist Pay Tribute
Live Painting

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Is It A Crime? A Look At HIV Criminalization in U.S.

Brooklyn native Nushawn J. Williams was informed that he had HIV in 1996.  Despite this, he was determined by health officials to have had sex with up to 75 partners.  By his own unabashed admission, he actually slept with 300 women.  He did not use protection in these encounters and caused an outbreak of HIV in upstate New York. [i]  His youngest partner was 13 years old.[ii]  By 1998, two of his partners had given birth to HIV-positive children.[iii]     His case was one of the earliest involving HIV status disclosure and Nushawn became the poster child for HIV criminalization.

When you hear stories like this, the question of whether to criminalize HIV exposure seems like a no-brainer.  Legislators apparently agreed; Williams’ case was cited in a number legal proposals, including requiring states to keep registries of HIV-positive residents and making it a felony not to disclose one’s positive status to sexual partners.[iv]   

As of 2008, 34 states in the US have laws that allow prosecution for criminal HIV exposure.  The provisions of these laws vary widely by state and by the context of exposure.  In New Jersey, for example, someone who knows he or she is HIV-positive and has sex without a partner’s informed consent is guilty of a third-degree crime.  This offense can be punished by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.  In states such as California and Alaska, being HIV-positive can be an aggravating factor in sexual offenses.[v]

Those who argue against HIV criminalization often claim that mandating disclosure for individuals with HIV violates their right to privacy.  Additionally, it can increase the stigma associated with the virus.  Such laws therefore infringe on the civil rights of the HIV-positive person.[vi]  

William Brawner was born with HIV and had developed AIDS by the time he was in college.  Described as a ladies’ man, he had unprotected sex with numerous girls before going public with his status and participating in a documentary on his journey with AIDS.  When asked in an interview with Loop 21 if he wished he had come clean sooner, Brawner responded in the negative.  He said, I think everything happens in its time.  Everything has its time and has its purpose. It was just my time.”[i]

The obvious counter is that the right time would have been when Brawner first had unprotected sex.  The HIV-positive person’s right to privacy ends where he or she puts another person at risk.  What about the rights of this person?  You didn’t bother to tell me that if I have sex with you I may end up getting a horrible disease that changes my life and that’s ok because you have a right to privacy? Really?


While the high profile Williams and Brawner cases are cited here, there are many other cases that go unreported in the media.  Further, many are not as clear cut.  For legal purposes, it is difficult to prove which party originally had the virus, especially when multiple partners are involved.  The first person to get tested and find out his or her status may shoulder the blame, even if he or she was actually infected by someone else who was not diagnosed until later.  It also possible for people to use the legal system to seek revenge against former partners who are HIV-positive.[i] 

Laws that criminalize HIV exposure may have the paradoxical effect of increasing transmission.  Research does not support the idea that the law plays a role in anyone’s sexual behavior.  Sexual activity is often impulsive and laws based on rational analysis therefore have a very limited impact.  Getting tested for HIV, on the other hand, requires deliberation and effort.   Laws that impose obligations on those who know their HIV-positive status and make it possible for this status to be made public and used against them in prosecution may deter testing.[ii] 

While there should be legal options for extreme cases like Nushawn Williams, criminalization is not a very useful tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  We would hope that those with HIV do the right thing and be honest with their sexual partners.  However, legally mandating that they do so is not an effective prevention tactic.  At the end of the day, it is up to you to protect yourself. 

Here’s what you can do:

1.    Get tested
2.   Have your partner to do the same
3.   Always ask what someone’s status is before a sexual encounter
4.   Be honest about your own status
5.    Don’t go through with it if you don’t trust them to tell you the truth or you’re not willing to take the risk
6.   Use protection

To find an HIV testing site near you, please go to http://www.hivtest.org/

--Melanie Pino-Elliott
GET DOWN Youth Blogger

[ii] Richard Elliott.  Criminal Law, Public Health, and HIV Transmission: A Policy Options Paper. http://data.unaids.org/publications/IRC-pub02/jc733-criminallaw_en.pdf

[i] Darren Sands.  “25 to Life: In New Film, Man with AIDS Confesses Unprotected Past.” http://loop21.com/life/coming-clean-hiv-postive-man-confronts-lives-he-destroyed

[i] Michael Cooper.  “Drifter Says He Had Sex with up to 300.” http://www.nytimes.com/1999/07/29/nyregion/drifter-says-he-had-sex-with-up-to-300.html
[ii] Jennifer Frey.  “Jamestown and the Story of 'Nushawn's Girls.'”  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/features/jamestown0601.htm
[iii] Richard Perez-Pena.  “Two Births Lengthen List in One-Man HIV Spree.”  http://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/29/nyregion/two-births-lengthen-list-in-one-man-hiv-spree.html
[v] American Civil Liberties Union.  State Criminal Statutes on HIV Transmission—2008.  http://www.aclu.org/files/images/asset_upload_file292_35655.pdf
[vi] AVERT.  Criminal Transmission of HIV. http://www.avert.org/criminal-transmission.htm