If you are looking through my website you may wonder how I can work on so many issues. It definitely can look like a lot for some people, especially those who enjoy focusing on only one thing. But that is not the way my brain works.I have a high level of curiosity and energy, and I thrive when learning new things and meeting new people.
I use my basic understanding of social justice and public health to govern the work I do. Many public health issues are addressed using a similar approach and tools. Within the different issues, I may take a deeper dive and be more of a subject matter expert, such as with obesity and bullying. With other issues, I may explore an idea or concept that I learned and try to share with others through writing, song, or public speaking.
Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse and childhood trauma are both personal and professional issues that inform much of my writing and public health work. As a survivor of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, I work to prevent, treat, and mitigate CSA through public health efforts and through sharing my story by writing articles and fiction that are based on my true story. My hope is to bring an authentic, compassionate, and calm voice to the issues.
However, my public health and ethics training also helps me participate in thinking about health issues like sexual abuse, HIV and AIDs, mental health, arboviruses, and climate change. While I may not be an expert in those fields, my skill set and my curiosity brings allows me to bring those issues into my world and share my knowledge in different ways.
HIV and AIDS
In the 80s I knew two people who died of HIV and AIDS. One was a friend of our family at the time. He was a gay man who had unprotected sex. He died in the Brooklyn Hospital alone except for one or two visits from his partner, who was terrified he had acquired AIDS as well, and from my son’s grandmother who didn’t believe the hype about how people acquired AIDs. If they did go to see him, David would have died alone because of how afraid people were of ‘catching’ it. The other person I knew died in prison—his family said from leukemia, but we all knew it was from HIV acquired from dirty needles. Andy had probably shared needles when he used heroin. He died alone in a prison hospital. He was a funny, talented young man, with a heart of gold, he was only twenty when he passed. As a public health grant administrator, my first job in public health, I helped manage the NYS AIDS Institute grants and read a lot of proposals before they were submitted to government agencies. I was only supposed to be looking at the budgets but my curiosity led me to learning a lot about the early research on HIV AIDS.
In my story "Second You Are Really Nigerian", the protagonists works at an HIV AIDS clinic. He is a composite of a few researchers I knew at the time. This is a short story I wrote a long time ago for a friend. Actually the story about the story is a story. During the first Iraq war my friend was one of the National Guards who were called to serve. As I went looking for special stationary to begin what would be two years of letter writing -- I found a beautiful set of post cards by Chester Higgins Jr. titled, African Diaspora. On the back of each postcard I wrote a chapter of "Second,You Are Really Nigerian" and mailed them each week. The story was inspired by the beautiful photos. I published the unedited version on Face Book Dream Alibis page. It was the versions that was on the postcards, the story was later edited and submitted to Glimmer Train and won Honorable Mention, as well as accepted into A&U: America's AIDS Magazine.
My painting of Ogun was inspired by a friend of mine who is a Babalawo in the Yoruba religion of the Ogun Orisha. He brought me the cowery shells as a gift from Nigeria after he underwent training in the memorization and interpretation of the 256 Odu or mysteries. Ogun is the only painting I have completed that I like and hang proudly in my home.
And my favorite part of this story is that Joanna Peterson Palladino Resnick reinterpreted the story from the child's point of view and beautifully directed, acted, and produced it as a one-act play called, We Are At The Well. When I think back on this time, I am always humbled and thankful for Joanna's generosity, support and talent she brought to the work. And it was our first project together!
For example, mental health issues such as loneliness, grief, depression are explored in my play Little Red Wagon which has two endings. The first ending addresses the increasing number of death by suicide in activists. The second ending the death by suicide could have been caused by postpartum depression.
Loneliness, grief, abandonment, and estrangement are explored in my anthology of poems and flash fiction, Dream Alibis which was a collaboration with my dear friend, Ryder Cooley, an inter-disciplinary musician, artist and performer. Ryder’s illustrations are included in Dream Alibis.
Climate Change and Animal Extinction
In addition, Ryder’s work weaves together chimeric visions with songs and projected imagery, she creates cinematic music, drawings and installations. Ryder performs with Hazel, a disembodied taxidermy ram, and with the band Dust Bowl Faeries. When I met Ryder, the first songs she taught me were ones about betrayals, animal extinction and animal experimentation. Then I began to learn the songs in her Xmalia project that honor those animals who are suffering at the hands of humans, whether through harming the earth with pollution, or through unnecessary killing for science or products or money or entertainment. It is through my participation in these performances that I feel most connected to Ryder, to the earth and to the suffering we cause animals. Ryder has her own relationship with Hazel that is unique to them, but my relationship with Hazel is one of awe and inspiration. Hazel from my perspective is a teacher. She helps people feel compassion and introduces questions that they may have not experienced before. Like, “why am I feeling upset about seeing a taxidermy ram on a person’s back?” “Why don’t I feel as upset when I see ia taxidermy ram hanging on a wall in a home or a restaurant?” “Why do I think Ryder shouldn’t be wearing a male on her back and should be wearing a female animal instead?” “What is the purpose of Hazel in the performance, in the badn, to Ryder?”There are a gazillion questions that Hazel raises, and in raising those questions to me she is the greatest teacher, especially about the issues that are contributing or that are affected by climate change.
Other Public HEalth Topics
I also love to write screenplays, and theater plays. I have a few scripts that focus on public health topics. My screenplay Centrifuge is about a grip of women scientists who rescue other women working in the maquiladoras in Ciudad Juarez, where over 300 women have been murdered. The scientist teach the women how to test and treat horses equine encephalitis, which is devastating their agricultural communities.
Another play, Lulu and Her Search for Individual Happiness and World Peace, is about an older man deeply regretting his acceptance of a decision an old lover made to have an abortion.