HOPE: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica
"It's about soul. It's about humanity. It's about beauty, and beauty can be ugly. But it's still beauty." - Kwame Dawes
Poet, writer, and Pulitzer Center grantee Kwame Dawes read from his forthcoming book of poetry and discussed the experiences that inspired his work early Monday evening at Busboys and Poets.
Dawes' work, "Hope", is an assemblage of poems he wrote while exploring and reporting on the parts of Jamaica hit hardest by HIV and AIDS for the Pulitzer Center last winter and spring.
His perspective as a poet brings a unique rendering of the experience living with HIV in a country where stigma and discrimination often hinder social efforts to control the deadly virus.
In partnership with bluecadet interactive, photographer Josh Cogan, Azimuth Media, and the Pulitzer Center, Dawes' work culminated in the award winning interactive website livehopelove.com.
Executive Director Jon Sawyer and Associate Director Nathalie Applewhite were also on hand to introduce Kwame and present the site. livehopelove.com weaves poetry, music, photography and documentary film into an interactive whole. The project is designed to offer students and the general public a comprehensive resource for exploring HIV AIDS issues in public health policy, as well as journalism, interactive web design, education, music and poetry. The project is also tied to a multi-media event that works across disciplines to put a human face on the epidemic.
After the reading the floor was opened to questions and members of the audience eagerly asked about plans to disseminate the work throughout local public health organizations and to other countries facing similar problems with HIV.
The audience also asked Kwame about his poetry and he was jovial in talking about his work.
"You're looking at mortality dead-on and that's heaven for a poet," he said.
But to Kwame, who was raised in Jamaica and remains in contact with many of the people he interviewed, the work is about affecting change, and he encouraged the audience to spread the word about the project and the hope he found in Jamaica.
How it had me
all I wanted was to do
was crawl in a ball
and dead like that
but see me here now,
see me here now,
man must live, iyah,
man must live.