Written by Pastor Sande Bailey-Gwinn
February 7 we rally together for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (#NBHAAD), observed annually on this date to increase awareness, spark conversations, highlight the work to reduce HIV in Black or African American communities in the United States, and show support for people who are living and thriving with HIV in these communities. I tend to ponder on this thought, why do I have to wait until February 7 to observe a day of awareness that is designed for me and the health of communities that look like me? I am black every second, every minute of the day. In fact, a day does not go by when I don’t realize that I am black. But the question at hand is, “Am I proud to be Black?”
In 1968, James Brown released a controversial song, Say it Loud - I’m Black and I’m Proud, that became an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement.
Some people say we got a lot of malice
Some say it's a lotta nerve
But I say we won't quit moving
Until we get what we deserve
We've been 'buked and we've been scorned
We've been treated bad, talked about
As sure as you're born
But just as sure as it takes two eyes to make a pair, huh
Brother, we can't quit until we get our share
Say it loud (I'm Black and I'm proud)
Say it loud (I'm Black and I'm proud)
One more time, say it loud (I'm Black and I'm proud)
Written during the height of black awareness, the song focuses on increasing black success and entrepreneurship, improving black health, and enhancing the power of the black church. Historically, the Black church has cultivated a faith that could move mountains just by speaking to it. This faith ignited a fire that brought people of all generations to a place called UNITY! But my concern today is this – what happened to the power of the church that fought for what was right when we saw so much wrong? What happened to the church that was always looking up, speaking up, and finally, standing up?
As a female preacher of 23 years, I have traveled to many communities throughout the Southern States, teaching and preaching the holy sacred text, proclaiming that “Jesus is Love and His love is bestowed to ALL people freely.” However, I do not see the manifestation of those proclamations. In fact, I see the exact opposite. I see the lack of concern for improved health, entrepreneurial investment, thriving lives, and social justice and awareness in our communities. Our people are asking themselves, “Does my life really matter?” Especially disheartening is that far too many houses of worship lack of concern for and involvement in the reparation of the spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing of God’s people. The participation of the Black Church is pivotal to the advancement of Black society. Stated another way – if our churches of faith are not invested in the upward trajectory of communities, we as a people cannot and will not be PROUD! And thus, we are left asking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s question: “Why must we always be a taillight, rather than a headlight?”
James Brown urged us to be PROUD, with no need for anyone’s validation. We have the know-how, intellect, beauty, creativity, and passion to validate ourselves. So, why wait until February to bring awareness to the health disparities that marginalize our communities; kill our young men and young and middle-aged women; and leave our communities desolate from lack of proper healthcare services. NO! It is time that we get back to our roots and play the song “Say it Loud, (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” until its essence feels our spirit, giving us the faith to know that God did not make a mistake when He created us Black and Proud. In fact, Psalms 139:4 says “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (NIV)
So, as we observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, let us continue to shed light on the importance of education, encouragement, and inspiration as we continue the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS throughout the world. Let us commit to creating more spaces for conversations and testing opportunities so that lives can be healed from stigma in our communities. And on February 8, we can ALL say, Say it Loud - I’m Black and I’m Proud.