Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No More Stigma Film Series Kicks Off at Maysles Cinema Harlem

The husband can barely look his wife in the eye when she accuses him of having unprotected sex with other women.  The husband steals glances and shoots back denials, never quite looking her directly in the eye.  The wife continues.  She accuses him of infecting her with HIV.  The husband responds with the accusation that it might have been her ex-boyfriend that gave it to her, and she in turn, gave it to him.  A typical argument between husband and wife, except that the husband has three wives and this conversation was captured by a documentary crew in a rural village in modern day Zambia, Africa.  This scene in the film “The Carrier”, a must-see feature length documentary film by first-time director Maggie Betts, serves as a gap closer between the HIV epidemic among African Americans in the U.S. and our distant “cousins” on the continent.  As I watched the film, I could not help but feel connected.

Still Image From "The Carrier"

Albert Maysles (seated) and Maggie Betts, director, "The Carrier" at the No More Stigma Film Series

“The Carrier” was the first feature film shown at the debut of GET DOWN and Maysles Cinema’s No More Stigma Film Series on Thursday, June 21st.   The evening opened with a sneak preview super trailer from another first-time director Mike Brown“25 To Life” chronicles the aftermath of former Howard University student William Brawner’s stunning announcement that he was HIV positive.   The forthcoming feature documentary captured the reaction of William’s close friends, former Howard classmates, and family to his public disclosure on commercial radio.  According to the film, William’s mother instructed him at age two to never disclose this HIV status.  It was this, states William, that caused him to suppress this secret so deep down inside, that as a sexually active young adult, he was promiscuous and had unprotected sex.  The feature film will chronicle William’s redemptive journey to find past lovers and make amends with those his decisions have impacted, including his protective mother. 

Still Image From "25 To Life"

Peelahr Moore and Leah Thompson, producers, "25 To Life" at the No More Stigma Film Series

According to “25 To Life” producer Leah Thompson, the film includes interviews with his mother, wife, and a few of those past lovers.  The full-length film has had a few test screenings and according to director Brown “A number of people who have seen the latest cut of  "25 To Life" have said that the film will be an explosive conversation starter around sex, STDs, relationships, and beyond.  To help us keep the dialogue productive, we will enlist the support and assistance of experts and organizations such as the Balm in Gilead, Black AIDS Institute, the CDC, and the NAACP, to name a few.”  “25 To Life” has received funding and support from organizations such as the Ford Foundation, Sundance Documentary Institute, and IDA.

Q&A Panel at the No More Stigma Film Series. From left: Adrian Guzman, Center For HIV Law & Policy, director Maggie Betts, producers Leah Thompson and Peelahr Moore, David Lopez, Harlem United and moderator De'Von Christopher, President &CEO Bleu Life Media.

De'Von Christopher and Jessica Green, Cinema Director.
A post-screening Q&A, was moderated by De’Von Christopher, president and CEO of Bleu Life Media (Bleu Magazine), included the filmmakers along with Adrian Guzman of the Center For HIV Law and Policy/TeenSENSE and David Lopez of Harlem United. The conversation became quite spirited around the issue of criminalization of HIV, and whether someone who is HIV positive and has unprotected sex without disclosing their status should be prosecuted as a criminal.  GET DOWN covered this topic last year’s in the blog “Is It A Crime? A Look At HIV Criminalization in the U.S.”  Stopping by the event was Maysles Institute Founder Albert Maysles, who felt strongly that the world needed to see these films and that “The Carrier” is a film that deserves distribution.  We’re with you Mr. Maysles.  We’re with you.

The No More Stigma Film Series will continue on August 23rd, October 30th and December 1st for World Aids Day 2012.  Doors are 6:30pm and the screening starts at 7:30pm.

To stay up to date on the series, FRIEND US at and join the Maysles Cinema mailing list at

To support and find out more about Maggie Bett’s “The Carrier”, go to and visit their website here

Check out Mike Brown’s “25 To Life” here and join their mailing list here

For more information on the No More Stigma Film Series and upcoming films, check out and

Read.  Share.  Discuss.  Educate.

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cool Finds, Good Cause. Shopping For HIV Awareness.

Fifty dollars for a pair of (RED) Chuck Taylors, $30 for vintage denim jeans worn to perfect elasticity, $10 spent on a red triple nylon cord ID bracelet with an engraving of an iconic red ribbon, and the total portion spent going to AIDS/ HIV awareness makes it all priceless.  The fashion industry has been a long time beacon of inspiration, hope, and bold change throughout the world.  Within the past decade the fashion industry has used its power to start making a difference with a cause – to spread awareness on the AIDS/ HIV epidemic.  Organizations and campaigns such as the popular (RED) campaign, Housing Works, Until There is a Cure, and Designers Against AIDS are a few that have taken a stand against the fight against AIDS, one t-shirt and bracelet at a time.

“In America we ignore HIV/AIDS problem and we need to erase the stigma and restart the conversation.  By wearing our bracelets you’re saying this still matters,” said Nora Hanna, Executive Director of the Until There’s A Cure organization.  Until There is a Cure is a organization that started in 1993 and was the first to use bracelets to raise awareness for a cause.  Through selling these bracelets they have been able to fund research and education towards the cause of finding a cure.  Hanna said that the organization was able to “reinvest 22 million dollars back into the cause”, which is 85 percent of the total proceeds.  “When you buys a bracelet, what you're doing is making sure the next generation is born free of HIV,” said Hanna.

Housing Works, another organization dedicated to helping with the plight of the homeless and people diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS, uses vintage fashion and furniture to help support those who have been abandoned due to being infected with the virus.  After 22 years in business they have created twelve spacious and trendy thrift stores /coffee shops set up all around New York City; contributing 100 percent of their funds in support for their community healthcare centers, providing homes for the homeless, and job rehabilitation.  With a wide selection of affordable yet trendy clothes, books, and furniture; buying from this store is not just buying for a cause, but also buying in style.

“Recycling is very much in vogue, thrift is the ultimate recycle, your taking old pieces of furniture home and giving it new life; and that's what we seek to do with people, we seek to bring people back to life, by offering them our resources. So by buying our products, your helping give people a second chance on life,” said President and Co-founder of Housing Works Charles King.

According to Kin, buying products from the organization’s thrift stores and coffee shops, helps by keeping the organizations many programs running.  Programs as in health home care, AIDS adult day health care, primary care, mental health services, housing for people with chemical dependency, job opportunities, and legal services.  Housing Works was created in response to his and the other founders role in the organization ACT UP.  Being apart of the ACT UP housing committee, they were concerned with the housing of homeless diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS and the government's lack of involvement for these people.

“We have found in the past, there is a sort of cynicism and lack of knowledge among youth, especially those that were not born yet or were too young when AIDS first broke out.  AIDS is rarely talked about now and is seen as something that can be managed or even scarier as something that is very distant to their existence,” said Ninette Murk, founder and creative director of Designers Against AIDS. “To overcome these obstacles what we thought we would do is present the message through things people are genuinely interested in, so that is why we chose to marry fashion, celebrities and the safe sex message.  By receiving the message through their idols and role models, instead of preaching and other doom-like ways, we hope this message strikes a chord with them and stays with them”.

Designers Against AIDS (DAA) is an international organization that specifically targets spreading awareness of AIDS/ HIV to the youth of the world.   DAA promotes awareness by using international celebrity support and using designers to change the stigmas behind the virus.  The DAA collaborates with many international designers, one of its most recent collaborations was with H&M’s Fashions Fight on AIDS.  H&M Fashion Fight on AIDS collection uses tribal patterns and fun colors to appeal to a young audience, and even more appealing is that 50% of proceeds of the collection goes to organizations supporting the HIV/AIDS movement.

“Our core activities mostly revolve around raising awareness among youth and educating volunteers from around the world about how to make fun and effective campaigns to use back in their own countries. This is big job and we work in diverse ways to keep the message fresh and relevant, that is one of our signature traits,” said Murk.

Safe Sax co-founder Chris Wilkerson said his company supports not only HIV/AIDS awareness but also an openness in discussion of all things usually quieted in society, which is exemplified through the transparency of their fashionable bag designs.  Safe Sax bags are transparent bags, coming in all types of designs, on of which including bags with usable condoms lined on the sides.

“The idea is really about being open, and about what you have open and transparent for everyone to see,” said Wilkerson.

One of the most popular campaigns is (RED).  (RED) partners with brands such as Converse, Apple, and Starbucks to help spread awareness by giving part of their (RED) products proceeds to HIV/AIDS relief organizations.  According to the (RED) campaign’s website, close to 190 million dollars was raised by the purchase of (RED) products and was given to the Global Fund to help eliminate the virus in countries like Ghana, Rwanda, and South Africa.  It's important to see that people can make the biggest difference in the smallest ways; simply by going out out and buying even a cup of coffee from Starbucks can save a person's life. 

For me personally, I think that by going out and buying these products we can truly make the world of a difference.  Consider where you spend your $20 dollars before you purchase the next pair of kicks, t-shirt or rubber bracelet.  Even in doing so, that’s only the monetary contribution.   We as young people should keep the conversation going, not ignore the subject, and understand why wear these cloths, in order to make the ultimate fight for the cause.

Check out the campaigns and where to buy here:

--Kyle Sweet
GET DOWN Youth Blogger

Saturday, June 9, 2012


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.  Cultural mores and spiritual beliefs, which are often reinforced at home and among peers, are often a barrier to gender identity studies or acceptance of alternative lifestyles outside of the home.   Thirty years later, we still have to reinforce the fact that HIV and AIDS does not discriminate.  It is not a “gay disease”.  Stigma is still a huge barrier to testing.  The NO MORE STIGMA FILM SERIES seeks to use the filmed medium to “edu-tain”, and encourage dialogue around all things sexual identity and HIV/AIDS.  The NO MORE STIGMA FILM SERIES will show conversation worthy films followed by Q&A panels.  
Kicking off Thursday, June 21st at the renown Maysles Cinema in Harlem, NY, the NO MORE STIGMA FILM SERIES will highlight an excerpt from "25 To Life", the buzz-worthy documentary by Mike Brown about William Brawner, a young man who kept his HIV status a secret for over twenty-five years, since he was two years old.  Now he seeks redemption from his promiscuous past, and embarks on a new phase of life with his wife who is HIV negative.  

William Brawner, subject of documentary "25 To Life"

Immediately following, the critically acclaimed feature length documentary "The Carrier" by Maggie Betts.   When 28-year-old Mutinta Mweemba first shares all the hopes and dreams she once nurtured as a child, her aspirations seem no different from those of many other young women around the world. She dreams of meeting and falling in love with a handsome man, being married and raising children and hopefully one day providing those children with a better life than her own.  But Mutinta's dreams were never realized. Her soft-spoken husband came with two other wives, and the remote Zambian village that she calls home is being ravaged by a deadly new epidemic -- a mysterious disease called AIDS.  Set against the backdrop of today's most urgent plague, Maggie Betts's "The Carrier" is a stunning portrait of both a family and a community, caught in a desperate struggle to emancipate their next generation from AIDS.

The NO MORE STIGMA FILM SERIES is inconjunction with GET DOWN, Maysles Cinema and Bleu Magazine.  The Maysles Cinema is a non-profit organization and there is a suggested donation at the door.

RSVP here:

-- GET DOWN Team