Spoken word artist Timothy DuWhite, 27, shared his views on the political nature of HIV/AIDS and the connection between the disease and the black community.
DuWhite performed Tuesday night in the Solarium at the Indiana Memorial Union as part of a series of events accompanying the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at IU. DuWhite is from Brooklyn, New York, and is HIV positive.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt began in 1987 in San Francisco to commemorate lives lost to HIV/AIDS.
The quilt is now made up of 5,956 blocks, each containing about eight panels that commemorate lives lost to the disease. Twenty-six of the blocks were brought to IU.
Over 30 people gathered in the Solarium to hear DuWhite speak. He shared a series of poems and excerpts from articles he’s written.
DuWhite was diagnosed with HIV on Jan. 12, 2012, as a senior at Montclair State University. He said when he returned to college for spring semester, he failed all of his classes.
“I thought I was going to die,” DuWhite said. “So I thought, 'If I'm going to die, what's the point of worrying about this assignment from X teacher? That's ridiculous. I'm not going to use my last T cells on finishing this paper for this lady."'
One poem DuWhite shared, “Joy Revisited,” was written in 30 minutes, right after he got off the phone with his mother.
DuWhite said after he broke up with his boyfriend from whom he contracted HIV, he only became more and more angry.
“I was building so much anger towards him, and it was festering in me for months or maybe even a year and a half,” DuWhite said. “I was building this festering of anger to the point where I was becoming not myself.”
DuWhite’s poem explores finding joy again as an HIV-positive man and learning to forgive his boyfriend.
Much of the other work DuWhite shared was political. He said he wanted to dig into the stories that were not being told about HIV or given time in the media.
“I also want you to know that HIV today is extremely political,” DuWhite said. “It's not just a disease that you get. It's not just a thing that happens to certain people. There's a political machine around it."