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On Thursday June 30, 2011 on its front page, one of the headline captions in the Los Angeles Sentinel read as follows: "Local family wins Verizon Wireless Sweepstakes!" This article reported that the Lathern family had won an all-expenses paid Family Reunion worth an estimated $20,000.
The Lathern family is just one of thousands of African American (AA) families that will participate in family reunions all over the U. S. this year-including this writer. Because of America's slavery, which separated AA families, annual AA Reunions have become popular today in hopes of reuniting with their family's Roots. Also, Alex Haley's book "Roots," and the subsequent T. V. mini-series by the same name helped inspire the creation of an annual National Black Family Reunion Celebration (BFRC).
In 1986, Dorothy Height, the late president of the National Council of Negro Women, founded BFRC in order to counteract negative stereotypes, and showcase a more positive side of the African American family than is usually presented. The celebration is held each year in September on the National Mall in Washington D.C., and more than 250,000 AA attend yearly.
The Lathern family asserts that ... "Reunions are important for making memories, traditions, giving wisdoms, and honoring family members who have passed away and a new member who have joined the family." In addition to this list above, this writer's family reunion adds one more thing to the list: we deal with special issues that could affect the family as a whole. This year we will be dealing with HIV/AIDS-my goal is to challenge all my family members to get tested both old and young.
The HIV/AIDS virus is now an epidemic in the AA community. Blacks are only 12% of the U. S. population but makes up 45% of new HIV infections. Almost 56% of AA are late testers, and are not diagnosed as HIV positive until after they've been HIV positive for many years, according to CDC. Because I am my brothers' keeper and know these facts-biblically, I have an obligation to sound the alarm-to tell others.
As a Pastor, the Bible admonishes that if I know of impending danger, or death that are in the pathway where people are traveling, and I do not warn them; they will die but their blood will be on my hands. AIDS causes death if Blacks are not warned. Also, Christians are commanded by God to help bear others' burdens. As it relates to the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS, the testing of everyone in a family is important: it helps diminish some of the stigma and shame, encourages others to get tested, and it gives permission to those who are afraid of being ostracized if tested. June is National HIV Testing month.
In June 2011, I made myself a committee one; my wife, 14 years old son, and I got tested. I then challenged all the members in my church (from 13 to 86), pastor friends, and relatives to get tested. When I go to my family reunion next month in LA, I am going to challenge all of my family members to get tested.
The bottom line is that our brothers and sisters who are HIV+ can live if diagnosed early and takes care of themselves. NO! We are not responsible for the choices adults make, but we are our brothers' keeper (Caretaker, Guardian) when they are no longer capable of taking care of themselves, or when they fail, or make a mistake. The Bible says, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up," (Romans 15: 1). Therefore, make yourself a commit of one; join me in telling everyone that you know to get tested! There is a testing site near you-go to www.hivtest.org or TEXT your ZIP CODE to KNOWIT (566948).