After reviewing the quilt piece I chose, which is in memory of famous musician, political activist, and poet, Gil Scott-Heron, I realized that perhaps one of the most affected by AIDS subgroups out there is that of Black Activism and Pan African pride. THe AIDS quilt piece I inspected uses music and Pan African themes to show the impact AIDS has left on the black community that fights for equality using activism in music, in literature, in action, and art. AIDS has affected millions of people who fight for black equality, and a cycle is evidently clear in the way that black people fight for equality in things like sex education and health care, while being victims of something that could be stopped if their desires were made reality.
Aids became a serious epidemic in the 1980’s, due to the CDC discovering rare symptoms in patients whos illnesses couldn’t be described. In 1985, Ronald Reagan finally addresses the AIDS epidemic for the first time publically. In 1991 the red ribbon awareness campaign was launched. Hip Hop would never be the same after this. Rappers and singers all over the Hip Hop world began to mention safe sex in their songs, suggesting using condoms, and discussing the dangers of contracting a sexually transmitted disease by not practicing safe sex. Overtime we see that this caution about sex fades. Today, rap music, especially after 2012, has taken a turn for the worst in terms of precaution with sex and other dangers such as drugs and street violence. For example Atlanta based rapper 21 Savage raps, “B**** you bad as f*** I might just hit you with no rubber”, the word “rubber” referring to a condom, and “hit” referring to having sex. This attitude is seen in a lot of music, as rappers brag about the large number of women they’ve been with.
On this Pan-African inspired quilt piece, we see three photos of the famous musician, poet, and African American social activist, Gil Scott-Heron. His influence is reflected in this very quilt piece. Gil Scott-Heron was a famous musician and African-American equality activist, and his influence left a mark on rap and hip hop culture today. Scott-Heron, unfortunately, lost his battle with AIDS. The subculture affected by AIDS, Pan-African pride and black activism, is resembled in this quilt piece. The quilt piece has a white backdrop piece. This choice of background helps for the individual items on the quilt piece to pop and be more visible. The years listed are 1949 and 2011. These dates indicate that Gil Scott-Heron lived for only 62 years, which compared to the average length of an American’s life of 76 years, is comparably short. This shows how African Americans who are exposed to the injustices posed by white Americans systematically are affected by AIDS. 44% of HIV victims are African Americans, yet African Americans only account for about 12% of the US population. These dates on the quilt piece show that AIDS has affected a black individual and ended his life. The center image is of Gil Scott-Heron’s debut studio album “Pieces of a Man” released in 1971. This image is here to show an example of Gil Scott-Heron’s accomplishments. Many of his songs and works were intended to present the injustices African Americans face, to the public. AIDS affected the people facing these injustices greatly; this is a result of the systematic racism and restrictions set on African Americans living in urban places with little access to some of the necessities and/or luxuries other Americans from suburbs are granted. Furthest to right we see an image of Gil Scott-Heron which is darker and shows a shadowy background, while picturing his face angled slightly to the side, giving off a dark and more serious tone. Much of what Gil Scott-Heron stood for and rapped and wrote about were the dark truths of the things African Americans face, like oppression. This dark image shows Scott-Heron in a serious and dark setting, bringing light to the dark side of his music. At the top of the photo we see the words “Gil Scott”, in yellow, green, orange, and red material, and at the bottom we see the word “Heron” in the same material. This material is colored red yellow green and orange, all of which are colors commonly found in African flags, and colors used to represent Pan African culture. Below the number 2011, there is a verse from Gil Scott-Heron’s song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. This verse reads, “The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised, will not be televised, the revolution will be no rerun brothers, the revolution will be live.” This excerpt, and the entire song in fact, is on of Gil Scott-Heron’s many examples of political activism. This aspect of the quilt piece resembles a sort of irony. Because of the oppression and lack of resources and systemic injustices, African Americans everywhere are affected by things like drug addiction, crime, and HIV viruses, as was Gil Scott-Heron, a man who dedicated his talent to making a difference on several occasions. On the mid-left side, beneath the year 1949, there is an image of the continent of Africa, colored red, yellow, and green, and a black outline of a fist in the center of the continent. This is a symbol of black power and African pride. Finally, in the left lower corner we see an image of Gil Scott-Heron wearing reflecting sunglasses, and in these sunglasses, we see the left lens there is a group of Klu Klux Klan members, as well as an American flag, and a dollar bill, with the statue of liberty in the background. This lens shows a combination of negative American cultural aspects, such as greed and racism. This lens resembles racist capitalist America, which Gil Scott-Heron stood strongly against, and it showed in his activism. In the right lens, we see African people playing instruments, a black man smiling in the background, and a city skyline. This lens symbolizes African American culture and music as well as black pride, which is what a lot of Gil Scott-Heron’s work implied.
Perhaps one of the biggest cases of HIV the hip hop community has ever had to deal with, is Eazy E’s HIV case. Eazy E was a rapper and producer out of Compton in California, and one of the members of NWA music rap group. Eazy E was diagnosed with AIDS in February of 1995. Conspiracies live on today that Eazy E was infected through a needle from his rap rivals, yet either way, HIV was a serious issue in the rap community during the 80’s and 90’s. In the late 80’s, Big Daddy Kane would introduce the rap community to one of the first incidents of major HIV news. There were allegations surfacing about Kane that he was in fatal condition due to HIV, and the reason for this was because he was allegedly gay. Big Daddy Kane later addressed the topic and claimed to be completely heterosexual and uninfected with HIV, yet his career died afterwards.
Another serious issue in the Hip Hop community that arose with HIV’s existence was that of misogyny. Because of the reputation HIV has, women diagnosed with HIV were seen as disgusting, and a serious threat to men. Miami is a city where this occurred, and as a result of HIV contractions with some women, there became incidents where women where “trapping men” by sleeping with them and passing on the HIV virus to these men, which some men felt, misogynistically, that women did on purpose out of vain. Because of this, rappers such as Fat Joe began to rap about women in a stereotypical, accusational, and extremely offensive way.
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