Ladies, how many times has a mistreating man motivated you to reach in the back of your closet, pull out that “little black dress,” and round up your crew for a night at the club? Perhaps a berating boss, coupled with “catty” co-workers, contributed to you and your “clique” hitting the bar for a few cocktails. And any time is a good time for an outing at the mall, right? No one would argue that these aren’t ample reasons to get out.
Sometimes we all get a temporary fix for a temporary problem by “runnin’ the streets.” Recently, an international artist and five iconic individuals made history by staying in.
Grammy-Award winner and HIV advocate, Alicia Keys, Greater Than AIDS and five fearless females came together for an Empowered Watch Party, “Girls’ Night In!”
Broadcasted on VH1.com and Clear Channel, this inspirational endeavor showcased the launch of “Empowered”, a new campaign geared toward educating women in the United States on HIV/AIDS. More importantly, it provided an intimate view of five survivors.
Although statistics were not the appeal of that night, the obvious must be acknowledged.
There are over 1 million people in the U.S. infected with HIV, with 1 in 4 being women.
The number of new infections in women has decreased; unfortunately there is still a disproportion among African American and Hispanic women affected. It is estimated that if the current trend steadies, one in 32 Black women will contract HIV in her lifetime.
Acquiring public information on HIV is easy, personal stories of these five, not so much.
As Ms. Keys brought us into the “cozy” room and graciously navigated the conversation, we met Christina, Eva, Stephanie, Jen and friend to The Dallas Weekly, “Lady Kim.”
All of these amazing women with one commonality contributed uniquely different stories and shared them unselfishly on that evening. Ms. Keys remarkably respected them all.
Since it would do them a great disservice to simplify their unflinching courage, we respectfully will not. You can see their stories by visiting greaterthan.org/empowered.
A little over a year ago, The Dallas Weekly did an exclusive interview with Lady Kym.
Now back in Dallas from “Girls Night In!” the fearless, ferocious, yet feminine female has granted us another exclusive, giving insight into the event and an update in her life.
“I actually became a part of the ‘Empowered’ campaign in December of 2012 as that was when ‘Empowered’ was birthed. I believe it was The International AIDS Conference that June or July of 2012 and I was on a panel of ‘positive’ women. It was about five of us D.C., not the same ones from ‘Girls’ Night In’,” Lady Kym recalled. “We were talking about being ‘positive’ and how our lives had been impacted. Just so happens Alicia Keys was there and I think she was really touched by being over in Africa, but realized the situation was taking place in her own country and wanted to do something about it.
That is when she and Kaiser collaborated and came up with ‘Empowered’.”
Lady Kym explained that she and other woman had previously dealt with them doing promotions in advocacy work so everything and everyone was already familiar territory.
“They wanted different types of women from across the U.S.; white, black, those having been in the movement from when it first hit. That’s how ‘Girls Night In!’ came to be,”
Lady Kym revealed. “Now that was the first time we actually met. We were in the hotel and got to bond and share, but the interview that everyone saw with Alicia Keys was the first time we all actually sat down and shared our stories with each other that in depth.”
In the “Girls Night In!” broadcast, Ms. Keys commented on how each woman’s story was uniquely touching, but said Lady Kym’s had the greatest “punch me in my gut” factor.
“In my personal opinion, Alicia bonded to my story because she was a newlywed and I also was newly married,” Lady Kym suggested. “It was kinda like ‘Wow’, I just got married, new relationship, said our vows and plan to live happily ever after. Now, here’s this monkey wrench in the game and it’s like, what do you do? I think that’s when the blinders are taken off and you know it’s like this could really happen to anybody!”
For those of you just following Lady Kym’s story, her husband withheld his HIV status.
Part 1 of her story can be found on our website titled, “HIV is not greater than We.”
“For me personally, my late husband was truly my first love and there is something whimsical about your first love. So when I said my vows looking at my parents who were married going on 40 years, although my dad just passed away, God bless his soul, it was like when I accepted the proposal of marriage and said ‘I do’, it wasn’t contingent on ‘he gone act right’, ‘he gone pay the bills’,” Lady Kym expressed. “It was really ‘til death do us part, through good and through bad, sickness and health. That’s what I stood on then and still stand on now. That is why I can say I don’t like the act, but I still love the man!”
Regarding the “act” Lady Kym referred to, she has very strong convictions on disclosure.
“When I’ve met someone I’m interested in maybe dating, that I’m physically attracted to, emotionally attracted to, or their personality attracts me, it’s tough to say ‘ok’, when are we going to have the talk?” Lady Kym conveyed. “I did a Q&A with Essence and you know I have different convictions than the “average Joe,” and the reason I say that is because I know what it’s like to feel like I didn’t have a choice about being brought into a situation. As much as I may like a person and dread having that conversation, it’s something that has to happen. Is it scary, yes; it could lead to rejection. Who likes that?”
Lady Kym took a pause to accurately answer if she felt “less than” because of her status.
“No, I don’t feel ‘less than’ because of my status. I do not because I feel like, you know, everybody has a flaw and this is mine,” Lady Kym professed. “Now would I choose not to have this in my body, yes, of course, everybody would. But I’m still me, nothing less!”
Lady Kym possesses an honesty that is a rare find as she addresses feelings in her family.
“I remember talking to my mom and we were kind of combing through the past four years of when I was with my husband, when we first dated, the courtship with him, with his parents and us becoming one and all those things,” Lady Kym reflected. “And as we went over everything, my mom said, ‘I prayed and I asked God, why my child, why her? And God spoke to me and said, because I needed her voice’. I said mom, that’s real talk!”
Lady Kym managed to convert questionable comments from her dad into constructive.
“Even before “Empowered” came out, when I decided to join ‘Greater than AIDS’ and I was telling my parents it’s about being positive, about beating the odds. My dad said, ‘I don’t want you to do it because you have too much to lose like your job will be at stake. Your face will be out there and it could really count against you and your progress in life,’” Lady Kym admitted. “You’d be putting some very personal information out there and I just don’t want you to do it.’ He was sounding like everyone else I had heard in the world about HIV. I wanted to try it and my support system was saying ‘no’ and it hurt.”
In spite of “questionable” personal support, Lady Kym moves forward within her public.
“What I want the campaign to do is help increase education and help decrease infection.
Just as its title ‘Empower’, I want it to empower those who are already infected to not circum to their diagnoses,” Lady Kym proclaimed. “I want people to know that they can move beyond their status. And if you do find that you can’t get what you need from your immediate dependency, your family; then you seek out, you look out, you reach out, you fight out to get what you need to thrive as an individual, way beyond just having HIV!”
I have not had the pleasure of actually meeting Lady Kym, but I have spoken with her on more than one occasion. My printed words can not come close to conveying her strength and spirit, both resonating in her every word. It is my hope that her voice is forever heard.
Please visit: www.greaterthan.org