In the after­math of rap­per DaBaby’s homo­phobic and aid­sphobic com­ments at Rolling Loud and his sub­sequent lack­a­dais­ic­al attempts at an apo­logy, a coali­tion made up of 11 LGB­TQ+ and HIV/AIDS organ­iz­a­tions sent out a let­ter to the artist ask­ing for a private meet­ing to edu­cate him about the real­ity of HIV/AIDS, the issues facing the LGB­TQ+ com­munity, and how he can bet­ter edu­cate him­self and his fan­base on these crit­ic­al mat­ters.

Among the organ­iz­a­tions that signed on include Arianna’s Cen­ter, Black AIDS Insti­tute, GLAAD, The Nor­mal Anom­aly Ini­ti­at­ive, Pre­ven­tion Access Cam­paign, Rela­tion­ship Unleashed, The 6:52 Pro­ject Found­a­tion, and lead­ers from the Gilead COM­PASS Ini­ti­at­ive includ­ing South­ern AIDS Coali­tion, Emory Uni­ver­sity, the Uni­ver­sity of Hou­s­ton, and Wake Forest Uni­ver­sity.

DaBaby’s com­ments were not only offens­ive but also dan­ger­ous con­sid­er­ing the inter­sec­tion­al oppres­sion that black and brown LGB­TQ+ people as well as people liv­ing with HIV/AIDS are faced with.

Already accord­ing to the Human Rights Cam­paign, at least 33 trans­gender or gender non-con­form­ing people have been murdered this year and most of whom are black and brown and this ongo­ing epi­dem­ic exists not only with­in the con­text of DaBaby’s com­ments, but also at a time when anti-trans legis­la­tion has been pop­ping up and in some cases signed into law in vari­ous states across Amer­ica.

Even after exactly 40 years since the first HIV/AIDS cases were doc­u­mented in the United States and much pro­gress made on access to life sav­ing treat­ment and pro­gress­ive legis­la­tion, HIV/AIDS still remains a high­lighly stig­mat­ized mat­ter and the let­ter that was sent to the DaBaby issues the fol­low­ing num­bers:

People liv­ing with HIV today, when on effect­ive treat­ment, lead long and healthy lives and can­not sexu­ally trans­mit HIV. Treat­ment can sup­press the vir­us to a point where it is no longer detec­ted in a person’s body. When it is undetec­ted, it is untrans­mit­table, the key mes­sage of the U=U cam­paign.

Approx­im­ately 1.2 mil­lion people in the U.S. have HIV. 13% of them don’t know it, rein­for­cing the need for HIV test­ing and to end stigma around HIV test­ing.

People most vul­ner­able to HIV are those who have lim­ited access to trans­port­a­tion, hous­ing, health­care, and social sup­port. We should focus on advoc­at­ing for resources in our com­munity rather than stig­mat­iz­ing women and LGB­TQ people.

Black Amer­ic­ans account for more HIV dia­gnoses (43%), people liv­ing with HIV (42%), and the most deaths among people with HIV (44%) than any oth­er racial and eth­nic group in the U.S.

The CDC states that the U.S. South exper­i­ences the greatest rates of HIV and lags behind in provid­ing qual­ity HIV pre­ven­tion ser­vices and care. Accord­ing to AIDS­Vu, a pro­gram from Emory University’s Rollins School of Pub­lic Health and the Cen­ter for AIDS Research at Emory Uni­ver­sity, 31,864 people are liv­ing with HIV in North Car­o­lina, where you were raised.

Med­ic­a­tions like PrEP pro­tect people who do not have HIV from con­tract­ing it. The CDC states that PrEP reduces the risk of get­ting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken as pre­scribed.

The entire let­ter can be found here:

This moment has reminded us of the long­stand­ing issue of homo­pho­bia and trans­pho­bia in hip hop which is still a per­vas­ive prob­lem. All one has to do is a google search on some of hip hop’s most beloved artists such as NWA, Eminem, Good­ie Mob, and oth­ers and you will see many of their lyr­ics were riddled with such degrad­a­tion.

Even with the rise of LGB­TQ+ hip hop artists in recent years such as Lil Nas X, Big Freeda, Taylor Ben­nett, and Mykki Blanco to name a few, a vicious back­lash has upped the ante to the point where artists such as Off­set, Pas­tor Troy, Yung Miami, Lil Duval, and oth­ers have at one point advoc­ated viol­ence against the LGB­TQ+ com­munity.

So DaBaby’s com­ments are not an isol­ated incid­ent and there needs to be an urgent need for hip hop to have a long over­due reck­on­ing with its treat­ment towards a vul­ner­able com­munity and it shouldn’t be on the part of the LGB­TQ+ com­munity to be the ones to edu­cate artists like DaBaby on why he is wrong, he needs to do that him­self.

Nev­er­the­less, this let­ter is a noble solu­tion focused effort that should be com­men­ded.

I had the chance to inter­view Rev­er­end Rob Newells ‑New­ton, Dir­ect­or of Pro­grams for the Black AIDS Insti­tute, whose a Black gay man liv­ing with HIV and also a vet­er­an to get his thoughts on the mat­ter.

 What com­pelled the Black AIDS Insti­tute to take this action against DaBaby?

I think every­body under­stands what mis­in­form­a­tion can do to folks’ health in this era when every­body is pay­ing atten­tion to COV­ID-19 and we have known for years in the HIV busi­ness that mis­in­form­a­tion can lead to hire infec­tion rates among cer­tain com­munit­ies and par­tic­u­larly when Black Amer­ic­ans are the most affected com­munity in the United States. DaBaby’s com­ments were spoken to a wide audi­ence and gives us an oppor­tun­ity to cor­rect the mis­in­form­a­tion and arm folks with know­ledge that will keep them healthy.

 What do you hope comes out of the let­ter?

 The best case scen­ario is that DaBaby and his team will sit down and talk about what he said and what the facts are. I know that it is likely very intim­id­at­ing for someone to come in and sit down with a group of organ­iz­a­tions that come out against some­thing that you have said. So maybe a one on one is the best case scen­ario. The worst case scen­ario is that we have a con­ver­sa­tion in the pub­lic about HIV, which a lot of folks thought was a prob­lem of yes­teryear, a lot of folks think HIV is not an issue any­more. So DaBaby’s com­ments aren’t out of the ordin­ary alot people think like he does. So it allows us to engage those people in a con­ver­sa­tion and maybe a little bit of know­ledge and under­stand­ing.

 What is your take on the cur­rent state of LGB­TQ+ accept­ance in Hip Hop?

 I was born and raised in Oak­land, Cali­for­nia. I grew up listen­ing to Too Short base­ment tapes in my lib­rary in middle school in the 80’s. I grew up listen­ing to NWA and DJ Quik. So I can’t say any­thing about the artistry of today but I think that the fact that so many folks have spoken out against the miso­gyny, homo­pho­bia, and the HIV stigma is a pos­it­ive sign that we have come a long way because 20–30 years ago nobody would have said any­thing. We still have a long way to go because there are still folks defend­ing his com­ments and we invite those folks to the table too.

 How can folks sup­port organ­iz­a­tions like the Black AIDS Insti­tute?

 We have 26 affil­i­ates across the coun­try in all com­munit­ies mostly in the deep south which is where most black folks in the United States live which is where most of the HIV in the United States is. So there are oppor­tun­it­ies to con­nect with like minded people and do some work on the ground in end­ing stigma and make sure that folks under­stand their treat­ment and pre­ven­tion options. You can just get edu­cated as well, alot of folks don’t need to be advoc­ates or act­iv­ists, but they can be edu­cated them­selves and share inform­a­tion with their close circles. So we have lots of train­ing pro­grams and look for fac­tu­al inform­a­tion. When you hear some­thing that doesn’t sound right, look for the facts like is a place to get some of those facts but there are oth­ers as well.

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Zachary Draves
I am a viol­ence pre­ven­tion edu­cat­or, act­iv­ist, journ­al­ist, aspir­ing film­maker, adjunct pro­fess­or of social justice and civic engage­ment at Domin­ic­an Uni­ver­sity in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chica­go, Illinois.

About Zachary Draves

Zachary Draves
I am a violence prevention educator, activist, journalist, aspiring filmmaker, adjunct professor of social justice and civic engagement at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. I am based in Chicago, Illinois.