I don't quite remember when I fell in love with tea but I do remember the most special moments of me drinking tea. I was eighteen years old and I went to live with my biological mother for four months. I had just met her months earlier and it was awkward for both of us. She and her ex-husband lived a very quiet life in Boulder, Colorado. He was a professor at one of the universities and she was a housewife. After years of drug addiction and being in and out of jail, she deserved the break. I was homeless so she and her husband agreed to let me come live with them. Each evening my mother and I would find a spot in the living room with a cup of tea and a book.

Now, years later, I'm a self proclaimed tea expert. I start each day with a wonderful English Breakfast tea to get me going. As the day progresses, who knows what wonderful tea I will crown queen. But for sure, I have at least three cups of tea a day. And yes, when I can, I have tea everyday at about 3:00 P. M. I love to invite my friends over for tea and cupcakes and so far everyone thinks it’s a delightful experience. I am always in search of the best blend of tea. Yes, I’m a tea snob, I prefer loose tea but I do like some bags also. I have learned not to judge a book by it’s cover. Some bags can be quite nice. And yes again, any Diva knows, what you drink your tea out of is very important.

Tea for me is a way of life. It's wellness for the mind body and spirit. Here, I will explore every expect of tea possible, with a high concentration on wellness. I will review the best teas, the best places to have tea, the best ways to brew tea, the best tea accessories, what tea goes best with what foods, and the list goes on and on. I plan to share my passion for tea with you. And I've been told, nothing I do is ever boring so be prepared to go on this tea journey with me.

RLT Collection Tea Ball Frosted Clear Beads!

Mint Medley by The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

About This Tea:

Until recently I had never drank Peppermint Tea made with loose leaves. And Honestly, I will probably never go back. The freshness of loose Peppermint Tea cannot be denied. When I open the can of Mint Medley, From The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, I feel as if I stepped into a garden of peppermint leaves. It is a perfect blend of organic peppermint and spearmint leaves grown in the US.

Mint Medley has become a favorite and I find myself reaching for this tea tin almost everyday. It is great for on-going nausea. The health benefits and endless. It relieves muscle aches, headaches, migraines, stress. And now that it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have a mean cough, I'm sure it will help to relieve some of this congestion in my chest. Mint Medley has been in my tea cup more than any tea as of late. It has really helped with my winter cough, congestion related to this bout of pneumonia. You can read my full review on The Persimmon Tree Tea Company Mint Teas.

RLT Collection AIDS Awareness Tea Ball!

Welcome to my world of books! As an pre-teen books changed my world. I fell in love with the writers of the Harlem Renaissance period and the more I read the more I wanted to read. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It spoke to my own degradation and gave me hope for a better tomorrow. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

I love to read! Inside a book I escape into someone else's life. There is something wonderful about turning to the next page of a wonderful story. Something intoxicating about the smell of the book and the story it brings to life. Reading brings me joy, and these days with my health in the balance, I find solace in my books.

I spent hours in my bedroom sequestered with the door closed reading the classics from the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes, Larsen, Hurston, Wright and Baldwin. Books became my escape and my salvation. The fiction of this period was powerful and empowering all at the same time. It gave me purpose for my own life and the courage to fight the good fight and never surrender.

Reading is the one thing that the pain of my life could never take away from me. It was the thing that helped to make it better. And even today, living with AIDS, books continue to be the safest place for me. It’s the one thing that belongs to me that AIDS cannot take away from me.The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS.

The RLTReads book club will be books that I choose. It’s me sharing a part of me with you that has nothing to do with AIDS. It’s actually in spite of AIDS. I have read hundreds of books from many different genres and I will pick the best of my reads over the years. I warn you, it will not be exclusively white or black, male or female, fiction or non fiction, it will be all of them.

I’m so excited and I’m grateful to everyone who wants to be a part of this venture. We already have 110 Book Club Members. You can email me @ RLTReads@raelewisthornton.com. The Twitter hashtag is #RLTReads. We can make this book club as wonderful as we want to make it. Who says that Oprah has to have the only ownership to a wonderful book club?

This Month We are Reading In My Fathers House by E Lynn Harris

Read along and join our discussion July 19th at 7 pm CST

For more Tea with Rae "Vlogs" Click here to visit her youtube channel

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

United In HIV!

Black Gay men are our brothers, uncles, fathers, grandfathers, cousins and sons. And for some they are our BFF's. No matter the label, for sure they are a vital part of our village. And I, for one, am fed the hell up with all the blaming that goes on in our community around the infection rate of black women from men on the Down Low.

Yep, I'm going there. The Centers for Disease Control has said over and over again the statistics just don't add up. Down Low brothers have not single handed caused the HIV infection rate among black women. They don't people! About half of the women infected with HIV in the United States are from the use of a dirty needle during IV drug use. And furthermore, we still have a large portion of men infected from IV drug use and those men do have sex with women.

Now, don't misunderstand me, YES there are men who have sex with men, and then turn around and have sex with women. They are out there, I have heard countless stories over the years. I have even dated one. Yep, I dated a brotha that was on the Down Low. It was a long time ago, about a year after discovering that I was HIV infected. He knew that I was infected with HIV and was purely comfortable with my status. On his death bed at age 29, I discovered that he had been living a double life. He did not infected me, remember, I was already infected when I met him. But I was angry as hell that all this time he knew my status, but never told me his. Thank God for common sense and condoms or he would have re-infected me.

He was one fine ass, like I mean fine ass brotha and he had lived this double life because people expected him to date women, cause a brotha that fine needed a sista. I will admit it took years for me to get over it, but when I had that Aha moment, I got it! He had been living this double life, with self-hatred, until the day he died. I got it! If the Black community had created space for him to be who he believed he truly was, he would have never lived this double life.

I accepted my culpability as a member of the Black community and I stopped playing into this covert homophobia that has infested the Black community. Even when we have a family member that is openly gay, we don't create space in our families for them to live and breath freely. Do we ask them if they have a partner? If they are lonely? If they are happy? Do we support them in their personal life the way they support us? This don't ask, don't tell policy in our community is unhealthy and it is killing our brothas.

Like how do you show love and concern for one family member's dating life and not the other and do it in their face. Like gee, you have no concern for their happiness? Your silence speaks a lot louder than your words. And don't tell me that your disapproval of their lifestyle is that thing that blocks you from loving them unconditionally. Who the hell died and made you God? This double standard I see is crazy. The shit we let straight men get away with in our community. For Real! I learned the other day that a prominent, prominent minister got his assistant pregnant and divorced his wife and never took any time away from the pulpit to get his act together and that was ok... Huh? Yep, double standard!

When you don't feel loved, you go searching for it. This alienation of Black Gay men in our community helps to fuel their low-self esteem and leads to unhealthy behavior and is a factor in their increased rate of HIV infection. So I'm going on record. I love Black Gay men and ain't a damn thing you can do about it.

Yes, there are brothers that live a double life and yes, the Down Low is a factor in the rate of  HIV infection for black women, but it's NOT the only one. In addition to drug use, there are brothas out there that sling their penis from woman to woman. Yep, they have sex with one woman and then turn around and have sex with another woman. Like the minister I was just talking about.

Yep! That's why I tell women to take control and responsibility of their own freaking body! You have no idea if the penis is with Bob or Barbara when it ain't with you, so why are you out there having sex without a latex condom? *confused look* #forReal. And then blaming everyone but yourself. *blank stare*

So anyway, I'm taking a stand! I cannot be concerned about the HIV infection rate within the African-American community and not be concerned about our brothers. The Centers For Disease Control estimates that one in two Black Gay men have HIV. We cannot throw our brothers away because we don't approve of their lifestyles. Shoot, if I took a looking glass into your life, I probably will not approve of everything that I see. For real! So don't go Holy on me. Please... Let me say it like this, DO NOT come at me with the Bible because I will come back at you with the same Bible and then tell you to stay the hell off my blog!

With that said, I'm so excited about my next RLT Event, #UnitedinHIV Tweet-up. Lip service is over for me when it comes to supporting our brothers, uncles, cousins, sons, fathers and BFFs who happen to be gay. I am very proud to be partnering with the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus and the one and only Cyon Flare.  Together we are taking control through unity and advocacy! United in HIV Tweet-Up is in honor of National HIV Testing Day.

National HIV testing day is this month and it's true, the earlier you know your status the longer you live. And if you know your status the chances are slim that you will infect someone else. We will be offering HIV testing that evening because we want to stop this cycle in the Black community. We don't get tested so we die sooner than our white counterparts and when we don't know we are infected we infect others. About 38% of newly diagnosed cases are people infected by people that didn't know they were infected.

So join me and my friends as we Tweet about HIV and have a blast doing it. It's gonna be fun. The one and only Lora Branch (Director of HIV/AIDS division of the Chicago Dept. of Public Health) will be the guest DJ... This should be fun! And I will be raffling off  RLT Bracelets and yes, some tea items from my tea partners.

The Tweet-up is June 14th at the best gay bar in the city of Chicago, Side Track, 3349 North Halsted Street, from 7-9 P.M. And it's FREE... But a $10 donation will get you a free drink and all the money will go to RLT (me) and the CBGMC, half-straight down the middle...

Please RSVP... Here!!! I'm excited to be partnering with my brothas on this vital issue that has deeply affected our entire community. Be there or be square. But I'm #UnitedinHIV.

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