We’ve made no secrets about our love for Tray Chaney, the actor who found fame as “Poot” in HBO’s edgy, award-winning series, The Wire, but now finds his calling as a groundbreaking rapper with a purpose. With his new album, Be Inspired, Chaney has tackled a myriad of social issues—fatherlessness, bullying, failing schools—with the hope that his music would serve up musical commentary on issues affecting black families. And now, Chaney is training his mic on a serious health issue that disproportionately plagues our community: HIV-AIDS.
In a quest to help stem the devastation the virus is wreaking on our generation, Chaney’s latest video offering, “LIVE—World AIDS Day Anthem” warns of the perils of unprotected sex and refusing to get tested, and implores listeners to be smart about their sexual health. It’s a message that’s not only spot-on, but necessary. Consider the statistics:
Minority Women and HIV/AIDS
- HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects minority women in the United States. According to the 2005 census, Black and Latina women represent 24% of all US women combined, but accounted for 82% of the estimated total of AIDS diagnoses for women in 2005.
- HIV is the leading cause of death for Black women aged 25–34 years. The only diseases causing more deaths of women are cancer and heart disease.
- The rate of AIDS diagnosis for Black women was approximately 23 times the rate for white women and 4 times the rate for Latina women.
- In 2006, teen girls represented 39% of AIDS cases reported among 13–19 year-olds. Black teens represented 69% of cases reported among 13–19 year-olds; Latino teens represented 19%.
Youth and HIV/AIDS
- In 2006, the CDC estimates that almost 46,000 young people, ages 13-24, were living with HIV in the US. Women comprised 28% of these HIV/AIDS cases among 13-24 year-olds.
- African-American young adults are disproportionately affected by HIV, accounting for 60% of HIV/AIDS diagnoses in 13-24 year olds in 2006.
What can we do to help change these numbers? We can start by pulling our heads out of the sand and talking—really talking—to our kids about sex. Lack of education, lack of access to birth control and even high rates of sexual violence in communities of color are creating a perfect storm for not only high pregnancy rates, but also higher incidences of women and teens contracting HIV and dying of AIDS.
Which is why Chaney’s message is so very important. In the video for “LIVE—World AIDS Day Anthem,” Chaney makes his plea for us to protect ourselves by featuring the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a massive cover with more than 48,000 panels commemorating the lives of people who died of AIDS, all sewn by their friends, lovers and family members. The message hits home as Chaney and video director Lamar Tyler of BlackAndMarriedWithKids.com, focus on panels dedicated to tennis star Arthur Ashe, rapper Easy-E and singer Bobby DeBarge, all who succumbed to the disease.
“LIVE—Word AIDS Day Anthem” isn’t all warning, though; indeed, Chaney breathes life into his song by reminding how Erving “Magic” Johnson took control of his life, held on to his faith and built an empire after announcing he was HIV-positive. What I love about the song—in addition to Chaney’s rapid-fire delivery and the delicious R&B-inspired music—is Chaney’s passion: he makes it clear that he wants his people to thrive. “Now everybody push/reach up to the clouds/don’t let it hold you down/I just wanna see you live!”
This, in my book, is all the way live. Shout out to Chaney for using his powers for good. We here at MyBrownBaby are incredibly proud of you! Watch the video, share it on Facebook, Tweet it or email it to your friends, buy the song (or the album, Be Inspired) on iTunes and give a hearty shout-out to Chaney (@traychaney) for caring deeply about our people.