Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bi-phobia at Health Forum Sponsored By Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network

Observations by Keith R. Green

While I praise any effort to educate and raise HIV/AIDS awareness among Black women, I cringe at such attempts that further demonize and stigmatize Black men in the process. The comments of Tony Wafford, National Director of Health and Wellness for the National Action Network (NAN), that are documented in the post below are particularly alarming considering the fact that the organization's President, Rev. Al. Sharpton, is a long-standing advocate for LGBT folks. In fact, Sharpton has stated that he intends to foster healthy dialogue about sexuality among the entire African American community through NAN.

That said, I would like to chime in with my two cents regarding a couple of Mr. Waffords remarks:

- Contrary to popular belief,sex with men who have sex with other men is not the only way that Black women contract HIV

- "The guy could have been locked down or like to 'toss up' men. No one will tell you if they were taken advantage of," he maintained. I mean…REALLY?! "Toss up men?" Can we at least strive for a little political correctness here?!

- "We accept foolishness as standard operating procedure. We got it flipped. Ladies, if you set the bar high, most chumps are going to climb up or go somewhere else. If you raise the bar, they'll come up. Women, you've got to set standards," he said. This sounds soooo very bi-phobic! Which is a HUGE issue among African Americans contributing to issues with disclosure and, ultimately, HIV transmission!

In the spirit of doing better, people, we have to make an effort to do better!


National Action Network's I Choose Life Health and Wellness Center Addresses HIV/AIDS at KJLH's Annual Women's Health Forum

National Action Network's I Choose Life Health and Wellness Center is on a mission. More than 4,000 women from all walks of life came out to the Los Angeles Convention Center for the 11th Annual KJLH Women's Health Forum on April 2nd to take advantage of seminars, free screenings for blood pressure, blood sugar, bone density, cholesterol, body mass index, HIV/AIDS and many other significant factors for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Also, several vendors, medical personnel and volunteers were on hand to share expertise in the health field.

Greeting the crowd, Karen E. Slade, KJLH General Manager, said, "This has been the biggest forum we have ever had and we are glad you are here. Your life and health are a gift from God; they should be cherished and enjoyed. I thank the sponsors and with your help and God's grace we'll continue to grow."

Wafford, the National Director of Health and Wellness for the National Action Network, spoke at the 11th Annual KJLH Women's Health Forum about the impact of HIV/AIDS on African American women. Wafford pulled no punches during his frank and candid discussion about the spread of HIV/AIDS in the African American community; which he said is operating under a cloak of silence. "There's an estimated half million people in the country who don't know they are infected with HIV," said Wafford.

"I have three daughters, and we never talked about how HIV affects black women. I had to teach them how to put on a condom," he said. "I encourage my daughters to have a conversation with any guy they are interested in," said Wafford, adding that many men may not be forthcoming about their sexual history. "The guy could have been locked down or like to 'toss up' men. No one will tell you if they were taken advantage of," he maintained.

Pausing, he added, "Women, you have to carry your own condoms in your purse and you have to learn how to put it on and take it off. Don't fall for the excuse a man will give you, 'I don't want to put it on because it doesn't fit," he warned.

Wafford admitted that in his youth, he was no "angel" when it came to relationships. "I used to run a whole lot of women," he admitted. "But we're at a critical point where we have to have honest conversations with each other about sexual relationships."

Scanning the audience of attentive females, Wafford declared, "Women, you have to plan how you will dialogue and negotiate with a brother. There's no way you can look at a brother and tell what he has been or is doing." As a case in point, Wafford, who regularly counsels African Americans with the HIV virus, said that looks can be deceiving. "I've dealt with homosexuals, dope fiends and thieves," he said, adding that he has counseled some hard looking brothers who look like the rapper 50 Cent. "They admit they have sex with other men. They don't consider themselves homosexual," he pointed out.

"They don't do mandatory testing of men coming out of prisons," Wafford informed the audience, adding that women should demand mandatory HIV testing for their partners. "Most guys coming out of prison are not going back to Pacific Palisades or Beverly Hills, they are coming back to South Los Angeles," said Wafford.

Commenting that black women need to 'speak up' about HIV/AIDS when it comes to their sexual partners, Wafford said, "We accept foolishness as standard operating procedure. We got it flipped. Ladies, if you set the bar high, most chumps are going to climb up or go somewhere else. If you raise the bar, they'll come up. Women, you've got to set standards," he said.

"The reason we're dying is because we don't speak up, that's the biggest problem we have. It's hard, but it's real. Unless we have honest dialogue with each other, we'll be left in the dark," Wafford said.

Other participants at the workshop included Dr. Antronette Yancey, co-director of the UCLA Center for Health Equity professor; Niele Anderson, former Sentinel Religion Editor and Faith and Community Coordinator for Let's Move LA.; and Chris Draft, an NFL linebacker active in men's health outreach initiatives. Recording artist and KJLH owner Stevie Wonder was also present along with Assemblyman Isadore Hall and L.A. Council Members Jan Perry and Bernard Parks to show their support of health awareness.

Spiritual health came from Kevin Nash, KJLH on-air personality, who conducted a session and observed, "This is my second workshop and I believe it is part of God's purpose that I share the message that spiritual health is intimately connected to physical health. You have to start from the inside out. It doesn't make any sense if you're only working on the physical because we are spiritual beings first. Take care of the inside, then the outside."

The result of the KJLH Women's Health Forum was overwhelmingly positive according to many in attendance. Members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority said they attended to empower themselves and others toward a healthier tomorrow.


  1. I don't know about the author of this post and his issue with Wafford. I've interacted with Tony and he's a good man.

    He's very concerned and rightly so about the fact that many states, particularly in California, do not test inmates for HIV.

    I have grave issue with that as well being an African American SGL man myself.

    But let's talk about this bi-phobia concern here. I'm not clear about that, either. While Tony's remarks make clear a discouragement of hetero black women getting involved with bisexual men, there needs to be some understanding over all about bisexuality in the black community across the board. And that includes some understanding among black LGBT/SGL folks.

    There's a huge difference between bisexuality and being sexual with the same gender when the opportunity isn't available to be sexual with the opposite gender.

    I can't call Wafford on the carpet for his statements until bisexuality is even acknowledged that it exists in the black community.

    And so far that has yet to happen. I think what would be a lot more beneficial is to encourage black women and men who are bisexual or have been involved with someone bisexual to talk about it as was done with this post on my blog in which a young heterosexual woman talks about her experience dating a bisexual man.


    I just don't think slinging arrows at Tony Wafford at this time is all that helpful. He's only speaking from the space that is of great concern to him. I don't fault him for that.

    Derrick Mathis

  2. Derrick,

    I have nothing against Tony Wafford nor do I personally possess any evidence to confirm or deny your claims of him being a "good man." After reading your post, I believe that we're actually saying the same thing; there needs to be a conversation in our community about bisexuality. My issue with Tony's remarks have nothing to do with him personally, rather, I was simply acknowledging the fact that he missed a perfect opportunity to start that conference during this gathering, opting to perpetuate the problem instead.



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