From Paul Kawata, Executive Director, NMAC
National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) is partnering with the Oxygen Network to provide information and resources for their new show, The Prancing Elites Project. The show airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Oxygen. It follows a group of young non-gender conforming black gay men from Mobile, Ala and their joy of J-Setting. NMAC is partnering with the CBE; their coalition of Black Prides host many J-Setting competitions. On last night’s show, one of the elites came out as HIV positive. Unfortunately, this is still a courageous act. We need to get the message out about the impact that HIV has on young black gay men, particularly in the South. NMAC applauds the Oxygen Network and The Prancing Elites for their honest portrayal. Be sure to watch next week’s episode where you find out how the group deals with this revelation.
J Setting may be a new term to some; it refers to a form of cheerleading and team dance that originated by the Prancing J-Settes from the Jackson State University marching band. Entertainment mega-star, Beyoncé, brought this dance form to the mainstream in her video Single Ladies.
J-Setting teams are a family. Bringing this form of dance back home, J-Setting started as dance competitions between young non-gender conforming black gay men in the South. These competitions now happen across America. In a world that can be racist, homophobic and fearful of people who do not conform to gender norms, J-Setting teams create families with unconditional love and support. This style of dance was inspired by The Prancing J-Settes which was an all women cheer team that had a large gay following.
It’s not easy to be true to yourself, there are many haters. Understanding the discrimination and oppression that black gay men sometimes confront is central to our movement’s ability to serve this important community.
For NMAC, this partnership is important because we will never end the HIV epidemic in America until we are able to reach young black gay men. Our work needs to understand and embrace the cultures, values, and dreams of all communities highly impacted by HIV. We need to meet those at highest risk for HIV where they are and not expect them to come to us. As you audit your prevention and care programs for cultural competency:
- Does your agency reach-out to J-Setting teams?
- Do you have staff from this community?
- Do you honor their culture at your events?
As part of the United States Conference on AIDS’s (USCA) opening plenary on Black Lives Matter, we hope to have a J-Setting dance competition. NMAC is committed to celebrating the diversity of the HIV movement. We are particularly committed to young gay men of color – the group that, unfortunately, is at highest risk for HIV infection.
As a person who used to be a young gay man of color, I’m asking you to be a part of the solution. If current rates of HIV continue, 50% of black gay men will be infected. This is tragic and it must be stopped. Our movement’s clinics, workplaces and prevention sites need to be culturally sensitive and comfortable for all communities seeking services. Black lives matter; this should be true for everyone fighting HIV.