Monday, October 23, 2006

November 7th

To many people that are 18-years old or older, November 7th is an important date because it's the date that many of us will be heading to the polls to vote for new leadership. To the many people that came before us, we have to tip our hat and put our hands together to 'thank them' for fighting, not for the right to party, but the right to vote.

November 7, 2006 also happens to mark the 15 year anniversary that, "Shocked the world" when Earvin 'Magic' Johnson announced that he was HIV positive and effectively retiring from the Los Angeles Lakers. Months earlier, Magic battled Michael Jordan and the Bulls, loosing 4-1 in the NBA Finals, signaling a changing of the guard and witnessing MJ lead the Bulls to their first of 6 Championships.

As I was pursuing higher learning in the smallest state in the Union, it came as a "slap boxing-type blow to the stomach shock" to return to my residence hall and hear the news. When the press conference, held at the Forum Club, aired at 7 PM EST, it was hard to comprehend that Magic, dressed in a navy blue suit and multi-colored tie, was announcing,

Because of the HIV virus that I have attained, I will have to retire from the Lakers today. I do not have the AIDS disease. I plan on going on living for a long time, bugging you guys like I always have, so you'll see me around. I plan on being with the Lakers and the league for a while and going on with my life. I guess I now get to enjoy some of the other sides of living that I've missed. I will now become a spokesman for HIV. I want people to realize that they can practice safe sex. Sometimes you're a little naive about it and you think it could never happen to you. It has happened. But I'm going to deal with it. Sometimes we think only gay people can get it, or it's not going to happen to me. Here I am, saying it can happen to everybody. Even me, Magic Johnson.

Hearing Magic announce that he was HIV positive made the disease that much more real. Like Magic, I, too, thought that HIV and ultimately AIDS was something that people who were either gay or received a tainted blood transfusion got. Now, standing at the podium was a Black man, whom I rooted against when they played the Bulls, who was a phenomenal athlete and a millionaire, saying that he was HIV positive. Many of us that lived in a traditional college communal setting began to look at each other and wonder, in silence, if one of us could very well be HIV positive. For many of my floormates, the tradition of going out on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night gettin' drunk and hookin' up with as many females as they possibly was a weekly ritual. Many did it for bragging rights and the rulese were simple: the more drunk you were and the more honeys you bagged the bigger "Man" you were. I aptly named the game "Dick Roulette" and dudes at the age of 18 and 19 were the loosers...guaranteed.

After Magic's announcement I did notice the guys pump the brakes on DR and there was more talk about using condoms and, "gettin' tested to see if I have any shit." For some of us, the thought of getting tested freightened the shit out of us, but for some of it was par for the course.

So, as you talk to someone about making good decisions, make sure you talk about HIV and AIDS because these days, there doesn't seem to be alot of talk about both. There are few films being made similarly to Philadelphia and Kids that address these real-life issues. Remember that knowledge is key so choose your weapon wisely.

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