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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Reflection: You Cannot Go It Alone...

I'm going to admit that sometimes I tend to self-isolate. This is especially true when I'm not feeling good. And that's how it's been lately. It seems like I can't get ahead of this darn illness. As soon as we figure out one thing, there's yet another complicated issue on the table. It becomes emotionally draining on top of the physical discomfort I'm facing. Sometimes I'm so over it that I just shut down. But yesterday I was reminded yet again that I cannot go it alone.

I saw a fellow blogger and Twitter friend, The Cubicle Chick, tweeting about being in Chicago, so I invited her to tea and cupcakes. Another Twitter friend, Curvatude, joined us. But by the time Sunday came around, I was dragging. It took everything I had to pull it together. But the fact that she was from out of town made me push forward.

Cubicle Chick and Curvatude
Since being on Twitter and blogging, I have met some awesome women! Social media has done wonders to help me expand my work around HIV/AIDS. But, it has also helped to expand my network of friends. My therapist used to tell me that you're not gonna meet any new people stuck up in the house, and I'm learning that's a fact! So Sunday I pressed my way and met up with The Cubicle Chick, a lifestyle blogger, and another lifestyle/fashion blogger from Chicago, Curvatude, and we had a blast!

We started out at Starbucks but decided that we needed to get some real food in our stomachs before cupcakes. I was grateful that Danyelle, aka The Cubicle Chick, treated because I was so broke I couldn't pay attention. But after an hour of chatting over brunch we ended back down the street at More Cupcakes and Starbucks.

Over tea and cupcakes, we talked about everything from A to Z. It was really great to share freely with two women who use social media the same way I do. Sometimes there is so much competition between bloggers that it makes you mad. In fact, my trust has already been violated in these ten short months, which has made me skeptical.

But they both shared information to help me step up my game. I am forever more grateful and have already begun working on those suggestions. Soon to come will be weekly videos: A Day In The Life Of A Diva Living With AIDS... And yep, you will see me without make-up #ForReal.  Make sure you subscribe to my YouTube Channel. I need all the support I can get!

We bonded in those four hours. And we laughed and laughed and laughed. I'm sure a few of Starbucks' other customers were over us, but it didn't matter to us. This was not a time for put-ons. Each of us let our hair and guards down as we fellowshipped over Red Velvet cupcakes and tea...

And yet again, it was confirmed for me, that there is no darn reason I should go it alone. There are some good women out there who will lift you up and add value to your life. They both renewed my faith that everybody ain't a user... And we laughed so hard, I'm sure we increased the serotonin to help make me a little more happier in this difficult time full of health challenges. Remember, no matter what you are going through, you cannot go it alone. Sometimes it may be the least expected person to help lift you up. Be open to the possibilities, because you cannot go it alone!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Heart to Heart

Without a doubt I always meet a young adult, who says to me, "I heard you speak when I was in ___." It can be anywhere from 8th grade to 12th grade and it tickles me pink. It's so special to see them all grown up, telling me that they are happy I am still alive and that they were in some way impacted by hearing me speak. It confirms the importance of my work and it warms my heart.

Raijean's 30th Birthday Celebration
And that's exactly what happened this past summer. I was at H&M checking out their AIDS awareness clothing line and some fashion bloggers, who were also there saw my tweets and before I knew it, we were standing on the Mag Mile for well over 30 minutes chatting.

Well, midway through the conversation one of the young ladies said to me the she reads my blog and follows me on Twitter and that she was happy to see that I had not changed one bit since she heard me speak when she was in high school. She went on to explain how I had touched her deeply. I liked that child instantly. Not only was she singing my praises, LOL, but she had this wonderful style about her that I liked instantly. At that time I was in the middle of planning my first Tweet-up; she offered to help and she kept her promise.

I started hanging out with Raijean Stroud and other bloggers over the summer. The blogger world is very small. We all know each other, but honestly, we have paired off into groups of women that think alike and have similar values. Once I got to really know Raijean I discovered that she had heart disease. HUH? But she was only 29. It took a minute for me to digest it all. But in a nutshell, she was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy. It's a weakening of the heart muscle or a change in the heart muscle structure. Basically, her heart wasn't pumping right which led to congestive heart failure in 6 months.

This baby was given a dual defibrillator to detect any cardiac arrhythmia. The doctors are not quite sure of the cause but it's the law of her land right now. She takes 8 pills a day. And she has to continue to lose weight. She has about 50 more pounds to go. The thing that I like most about Raijean is that she has taken it all in stride. She's always been a Diva and she has not allowed her health to interfere with her fabness!

Honestly, I am so proud of her. She has not stopped one bit. She's a single mom raising a "man child," as she puts it, who is two. She never slacks on her fashion blog and she is building her brand as a fashion critic. She is doing that thang!

But it's one thing to do for you, it's another thing to do for others. Raijean is stepping up her game to bring awareness to heart disease. She was recently asked the be a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. But she is taking it a step further with the launch of her own organization, Bleeding Heart, promoting heart health awareness, one heart at a time.

This Tuesday she is having the official launch party for Bleeding Heart and I will be there dressed all in red as she has requested ready to work! Who would have thought, I touched her heart 15 years ago; she has touched my heart with both her friendship and support of my work in HIV/AIDS prevention and education 15 years later.

Please join me and others as we support Raijean in her mission to educate about heart disease. You can also support her Bleeding Heart Project on Twitter and on Facebook .

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tea With Rae: Tea of the Week Irish Breakfast

Tea Bracelet and More Cupcake
Most everyone on Twitter knows that I start my day with English Breakfast Tea. I like a good strong black tea to get my morning going. Irish Breakfast is very similar. It is typically made from Assam Tea, which comes from India. However, Irish Breakfast has a rich malty taste and is a little bolder than English Breakfast.

Often it is drank with a dash of milk. I prefer it black, with a little sugar to enhance the flavor. I asked Linsey's the owner of the Necessi Teas to send a sample of her blend. And by and large it is one of the best Irish Breakfast blends I have had so far. I drink it in the morning to give me that extra boost on those days when I'm dragging. Whether it's English or Irish, that's how I start my day. I leave the fruity, fragrant teas for later in the day.

 I strongly recommend this Irish Breakfast Tea. The Necessi Teas will give my Blog, Twitter and Facebook followers a choice of 3 samples of my fav of their teas when you purchase $10.00 in product. Just write in the "note" TeaWithRae. The Necessi Teas are wonderful funky blended teas. See my blog on Necessi Teas. They also have great customer service!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tea With Rae: The Wonder of Peppermint Tea

Peppermint tea has a wonderful place in my heart and memory. On hot Chicago days I would sit in the yard of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and Ms. J as I call her (Jacqueline) would pick peppermint leaves from her yard and make us a wonderful iced tea. I think I was in equal awe of the taste of this delight as much as I was by Ms. J traveling across the country campaigning for her husband to be president of the United States but yet had time to grow peppermint. She is amazing!

I so enjoyed those days sipping peppermint tea and soaking up Ms. J's wisdom and knowledge. Over the years it seems that each time I drink peppermint tea, my heart goes back to those days when I was young, vibrant, and HIV free. But those days are long gone. These days I'm dealing with the daily struggle of living with AIDS. And with this comes a ton of medication and side effects. #ForReal.

About two years ago I started a medication, Isentress, the very week it was approved by the FDA. I didn't really care about the side effects because taking it meant that I would be free of Fuzion, the HIV medication I injected in my stomach twice a day. Anything was better than that drama. I cried every time I injected myself. Well, let me tell you, it's been one uphill journey with this switch. The medication is working just great so there is no point in changing. I just gotta cope regardless.

But honestly, I was fed up with the intense headaches that Isentress cause, and equally fed up with popping pain medication every day in addition to already taking 15 pills. So, while writing my tea blogs, I've been in search of teas that have wonderful health benefits. One of my tea partners, The Persimmon Tree Tea Company, is very health conscious with their teas.

They had seen my tweets about my headaches so when I received a package of teas from them to review, to my surprise, they had added two teas to help with my headaches.

I gotta tell ya, these two teas, Mint Medley and Amore, are very different but equally wonderful. When I opened the tin of Mint Medley it sent me instantly back to those days in Ms. J's backyard. The aroma of this perfect blend of organic spearmint and peppermint, made from dried leaves of those plants, made me feel as if I was surrounded in a garden of peppermint leaves. The strong aroma is equally matched by the smooth but strong mint taste. Until now I had never experienced a blend of mints. There is something to be said about mixing the two different mint flavors. I can't quite put my finger on it, but they seem to go together just like strawberries and bananas. Alone they are equally great, but together they are sublime.

Now Amore is different in so many ways, but it shares the same aroma power as Mint Medley. Amore is an organic white tea, blended with rose, peppermint and other botanicals, but you clearly know that it has the power of peppermint when you open the tin. The rose and botanicals soften the tea like a flower garden in the middle of a park dominated by green grass. While you can clearly taste the peppermint, the softness in the smell is also in the taste.

I loved them both! Now did they help my headaches? Yes, they did! Not only did they help reduce the pain in my head, but they also helped me to relax.

The benefit that I hadn't counted on was my tummy. You all know the ongoing GI issues I've been having. Well, the peppermint seems to have a calming effect on my nausea.  Basically, the peppermint soothes the inflammation in the digestive tract which decreases nausea and vomiting.

Overall I give these peppermint teas two tea cups up! In addition to helping headaches, including migraines, they are rich in Vitamin B which boosts the immune system. This would be a perfect choice for a cold and/or the flu. Additionally, it is said to reduce muscle pain, which means ladies, it is GREAT for menstrual cramps. And let's not forget, Amore is a white tea, so it is also good for depression. Peppermint tea is a winner! And The Persimmon Tree Tea Company has two wonderful blends that are now a staple in my tea cabinet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blessings Come in Many Ways...

Everyone knows that I simply love chocolate. So I was elated when I saw the Kilwin's sign go up in Old Town, not too far from my house. I waited patiently for them to open but it seemed like forever. They started construction that summer but didn't open until October 3rd.

But OMG the first time I bit into the caramel chocolate dipped marshmallow on a stick I knew my tummy had been blessed. But who would have thought this shop would render more blessings to me then I could have ever imagined.

Jacqueline Stepping Up Her Twitter Game!
After my second visit I discovered that the owners were African-American. I felt a sense of pride to learn that an African-American couple had opened a shop on the Gold Coast. They were so cool, and Jacqueline knew my story. She knew who I was and was excited to meet me. We bonded over small talk and samples of fudge.

 As the fall left and the winter came I would drop in for my chocolate fix. The store was holding it's own but there didn't seem to be a mad rush for ice cream and homemade chocolates. I'm sure that some of the neighbor folk who were not familiar with the Kilwin's chain clung to the historic Fudge Pot down the street. They opened so late in the season that it seemed to be affecting their business. But the tasty delights, the wonderful owners, and a desire to support them kept me coming back. And each time I dropped in I talked to Jacqueline about Twitter. You all know the Twitter addict I am thinks it's the 21st century solution to just about everything.

She was listening to me. She opened an account and I think I saw maybe one tweet a week. LOL! So last week I had had enough. I marched right in and told her husband we should do a tweet-up. Let people know that you are here and alive. My girlfriend, fellow blogger and Tweeter Dwana, and I had been talking about doing something together since forever and it seemed like the perfect fit.

Me and Dwana at #RLTEvent
The next day I went over there and Jacqueline and I sat down to make it happen. She was delighted to host a Tweet-up for National African-American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. It was settled in 10 minutes! Carmel corn, fudge, brittle, hot chocolate and ice cream. Heart to Heart For HIV (#Heart2Heart4HIV). People could come and tweet to bring awareness to HIV/AIDS on this important day and have some wonderful treats at the same time. That's the perfect Tweet-up, something to munch on, tweeting, and conversing all at the same time and no one thinks you're being rude. But my sense of pride about the partnership is strong. People are always talking about what Black people ain't doing about HIV and never about what they are doing. Dwana nor Jacqueline are obligated but they feel it's necessary and important!

Jacqueline  Setting up her Twitter
On that day Jacqueline and I sat and talked for the next couple of hours. I had some delicious hot chocolate and gave her pointers to step up her Twitter game. We downloaded Twitter onto her iPhone and got busy.

Then, as it goes for women who connect, we shared our life stories. LOL! I told her about my lack of speaking engagements and holding on by a thread finical; And she shared with me the struggles of being a businesswomen. We also talked about Twitter and how I was using it for HIV/AIDS education and prevention. I also talked about the need to have the iPhone 4 so I could step up my Twitter game.  But with no speaking engagements in site, I didn't see it in my future anytime soon.

But in these last few years I've learned to live with what I got, not with what I want. But I've also learned you never know how God will bless you. I tell people all the time not to box God in. God's dreams for your life is much larger than your dreams could ever be. Be patient. #ForReal. God's time is not our time. I also say, it's just nice to be nice, you never know how, when, or why a person, even a stranger, will enrich your life.

The next day, Jacqueline tweeted me that she had a surprise for me. Yep, you guessed it! Her husband took me straight to the Apple Store to get me my new iPhone 4. I think I'm still in shock. It's been so hard for me in these last years. And many people who I thought would have helped me, punched out. But it's clear to me that God always fills the void.

Who would  have thought that this woman, basically a stranger to me would be such a blessing to me in so many ways. She blesses my tummy with those delightful creations in her shop, she's sponsoring our Heart To Heart For HIV Tweet-up for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and she sowed a personal seed into my ministry with my new iPhone 4. Now I can tweet and never leave my bed on those days that I'm not feeling well. Yep... It's true, Blessings Come in Many Ways... Don't box God in, you may miss your blessing looking in the wrong direction.

Note: Next week a review of  Kilwins wonderful delights... In the meantime we hope that you will join us on Feb. 7th... Don't forget to RSVP.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tea With Rae: What's In Your Tea Cup?

Just like with chocolate everyone has a different taste in tea. Like it took me years to acquire a taste for dark chocolate, now it's what I prefer and the darker the better. Same with tea, my preference has always been black, but now I find myself reaching for white and red teas more often than I would have ever imagined.

And just like with taste, there's a difference in each brand. I don't just love one brand, I choose from the best of the bunch. Yes, I'm a bit of a food snob. I much prefer La Maison and Godiva chocolates, but I go to Teuscher for my Champagne Truffles and no one will ever be able to dethrone a good old fashion Snickers Bar. It's the same with tea. I love Esp Emporium's White Grape, Teavana's Lavender, The NecessiTeas' Orange Creamsicle, Tea Gschwendner's Bossa Nova, and Tea of Republic's Double Matte Chocolate, but brewed Lipton makes a mean iced tea!

As I make my way through different tea companies and tea blends I'm learning that the world of tea is much larger than I could have ever imagined. Each day a new tea company reaches out to me about my Tea With Rae project, and let me tell you in just four weeks it has been an amazing journey.

I hope that with me you will venture out of your comfort zone and try new tea blends and new brands. I will let you decide what makes your taste buds say #HappyDance, and I will keep sharing with you as honestly as I possibly can as I travel through this wide world of tea.

But, no matter what tea you choose, remember that tea is more than a beverage. It's a way of life. A strong breakfast tea in the morning will give a jump start to your day, while at the other end, a cup of chamomile before bedtime will signal the close of the day.

Confucius said, "Tea tempers the spirits and harmonizes the mind, dispels lassitude and relieves fatigue, awakens thought and prevents drowsiness, lightens or refreshes the body, and clears the perceptive faculties."

I agree with Confucius. What I know for sure is that tea is wellness for the body, the mind and the spirit! What's in your tea cup?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stop Being a Part of the Problem

My heart is so heavy this morning. For Real. It's been months since I've woken up in the morning and actually felt good. And on top of that, I can count on both hands the number of balanced meals I've had in months because my GI system is off. The doctors are saying my brain is not telling my stomach what to do and that is causing havoc. Nonstop nausea, no appetite, sporadic diarrhea, and no matter how much I eat, there's an overwhelming feeling of fullness. But in my hardship, I'm not so self-centered that my heart can't be heavy for something/someone other than myself.

So this morning when I saw a tweet about 90 girls pregnant at one high school in Memphis, I surely thought it was a joke. I went searching and found that it was true. I'm absolutely heartbroken to hear this, but I'm equally heartbroken about a culture that makes this acceptable. A double standard in our lives that celebrates unacceptable behavior on the one hand and curse it on the other. We have helped to create this culture where teen girls believe unprotected sex is acceptable and having a baby is a prize of some sort. A culture that says the dangers of unprotected sex are minimum.

I'm gonna start at the top of the food chain. There's a denial in the Black community that HIV is a problem. We continually say that the statistics must be wrong. The other night, Anderson Cooper had a program about AIDS in the African-American community, and the tweets I saw, even from AIDS activists, disturbed me. Tweet's that said, "Stop making AIDS seem like it's a "Black" problem, other people are infected with HIV also." Well hello, African-Americans are 46% of the HIV cases and 45% of all new cases in the United States, and we are only 12% of the population. I don't know about you, but I consider that a Black issue.

It seems that we are stuck on stupid. I even hear people saying amongst ourselves that the "white man" is just making us look bad, that the statics are not true. With this continued denial we send a subliminal message that we are not at risk. Which on the one hand makes it acceptable for woman, both young and old alike, to have unprotected sex. What's the worst that could happen? Get pregnant, no big deal.

But the fact of the matter, in Memphis, Shelby County, 80% of all HIV cases are African-American. So it stands to reason that each time a young lady lies down she is putting herself at risk for HIV and a host of other sexually transmitted diseases; birds of a feather tend to flock together, including STD's. It would be a shame for a young girl to be told all at the same time that she is pregnant and that she also has HIV. Her life will never be the same. She becomes an instant adult, not only a child raising a child, but a child who will have to start fighting for her life for the rest of her life.

But this double standard is not just in the African-American community. It's a part of the larger society. This culture that says anyone can be famous. No need to work for it. Get  pregnant and you can be on a reality TV show with all the fame and perks. There is not just one reality show, but two. 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. Girls are getting pregnant just for a chance at reality show fame. And teen pregnancy is not just occuring among African-American girls. A group of girls in Gloucester, MA, made a pact to get pregnant and raise their children together.

If we are going to change this tide we all must become a part of the solution and stop being a part of the problem. We must challenge abstinence only programs in schools across this country. We must give young people all the information so they can make smart decisions. Even churches need to stop threatening teens with sin and God's wrath. God is a loving God and wants us to live whole and healthy, but how can they live whole with only some of the information. How can young people respect and trust you when Pastors are being accused of sexual abuse of young men and other Pastors and church leaders across the country are silent.

How can our young teens respect your advice when you are still lying about how Uncle John and Aunt Mary died. When no one in the family has mentioned the word AIDS at a family gathering but are whispering about it in the corners of our homes. And when are mothers and fathers gonna take a real leadership role in our families and sit with our teenagers and give them honest information about sex.

Change must take place at the top of the food chain. We must all become a part of the solution and stop being a part of the problem. Just the other day someone asked me if I had to use profanity on my blog post to make a point. It was one of my Fuckin Friday blogs. You damn straight. If cussing is needed to get the point across then that's what I do. I will never be so damn self-righteous that it interferes with my desire to help bring positive change. My sex blogs get more visits and retweets on Twitter than any other post. That means young people are getting my message and sharing it.

Let's move beyond our hypocrisy, self-righteousness and denial so that we do not lose a generation of our young people. We must all become a part of the solution and stop being a part of the problem.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Reflection: Doers Not Dreamers...

Most people know me as an Emmy Award winning AIDS activist, but my life was committed to social change long before I appeared on the cover of Essence magazine. In many ways, my work in social justice paved the way for the work that I do now. My training ground was Operation PUSH, a legacy of which I am very proud. I remember one of the first assignments given to all the interns was to read, Why We Can't Wait, by Dr. Martin Luther King. It was the first of Dr. King's writings I had ever read and it set the tone for everything I did after.

Operation PUSH began as Operation Breadbasket, the economic arm of Dr. King's work in social justice. Dr. King appointed Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. as the national director. After Dr. King's death, it evolved into Operation PUSH where Rev. Jackson and a host of Civil Rights workers continued the work. They shut down A&P grocery stores on many Saturdays, demanding economic reciprocity. A&P's saturated Chicago's black communities getter richer daily from our dollars, yet only hired blacks for the most menial of jobs. Rev. Jackson, under the realm of Operation PUSH, fought for that change.

Operation PUSH was always referred to as Dr. King's workshop. It was seen as an extension of Dr. Kings work in Social Justice. Our focus was not remembering the dream of Dr. King, but the work of Dr. King. In fact, I can't ever remember the I Have A Dream speech as a starting point for conversation. Instead, we were reminded that Dr. King was assassinated working. He was in Memphis supporting the garbage workers boycott. We were reminded that Dr. King's work began with Civil Rights but once African-Americans were given the right to equal accommodations and the Voting Rights's Act was passed, King didn't quit. No, King shifted his work to the other important issues that affected not only African-Americans but all Americans. He shifted his work to economic fairness, poverty, and the Vietnam War.

Dr. King's workshop was a place where people came to work for change. Everything we did was about the advancement of others. This was not an organization, we were a movement. There was no set work day, we worked until the job was done. Many of us worked 10-12 hour days. One of my first projects was the boycott of Anheuser-Busch. A large portion of their sales were from African-Americans, but there were no distributorships, no senior management, and no investments in the Black community. They also held these Super Festival's with Black entertainers and all Black audiences, but yet, they used no Black promoters or public relations' companies to run these festivals.

I organized college students across the country, "Bud Is A Dud, Don't Drink Those Suds," was our battle cry. And we shut down those festivals in city after city after city. Anheuser-Busch lost money that summer and it forced them to sit down with us.

Yes, my time spent at Dr. King's workshop was about making change happen not dreaming about change. As the National Youth Director for Jesse L. Jackson for President campaigns, I crisscrossed this country registering college students to vote and organizing them to help get the vote out. I worked the Democratic Convention in '88 when Rev. Jackson fought for the one man one vote change in the Democratic party, which, by the way, paved the way twenty years later for Barack Obama to win the Democratic nomination. It was an exciting time in my life. I sat in meetings with women like Dorothy Height and Alexis Herman. Staff meetings were run by Rev. Jackson. To sit in his presence and absorb it all like a sponge helped to shape me into the woman that I am today. My peers were women like Donna Brazile. It was an awesome time in my life.

I was at the epicenter of it all fighting to help bring about change. We were doers not dreamers. My work in HIV/AIDS is just an extension of my work at Dr. King's workshop. I remember that Rev. Jackson was the first presidential candidate to have an AIDS policy. He would sleep in AIDS hospices and share meals with people dying from AIDS at a time when the current President couldn't get the word AIDS out of his mouth and discrimination was running rampant in our schools, hospitals, churches, funeral parlors, and even our homes.

My transition to an AIDS activist is a natural one for me. It is some of the most important work for African-Americans at this time in history. We have got to change the tide of AIDS in our community. African-Americans are 46% of HIV cases in the United States and only 12% of the population. AIDS is the number one killer of African-Americans in the United States between the ages of 25-44. There are 30,000 new cases of HIV a year and African-Americans are 42% of that number. We have to change the tide.

We must change the tide. We must challenge stigma and shame. We must educate so behavior can change, and we must challenge the government and traditional AIDS organizations to give us access to the money and resources for us to do the work. I get asked often by someone in the AIDS community, "What are Black folks going to do about AIDS in the Black community?" Yes, we do have to step up to the plate even more than we have. And don't be confused, there are Black people who do the work. But my question is, "What's the AIDS community going to do to help?" We deserve the same support and resources that the gay community received in the earlier period of the AIDS crisis in the U.S. Bottom line: There is much work for all of us to do.

So, for me, I make a renewed commitment to continue to do the work until the day I die. Looking back, over twenty-five years later, I'm grateful I learned all that I needed to know to carry out this work inside Dr. King's workshop at the feet of Rev. Jesse L. Jackson. I am honored to be a part of this legacy of doers not dreamers.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fuckin Friday: I Just Don't Get It!

I really don't understand the fukin problem. I just don't get it. Is it that men think something will happen to their dicks if they wrap it up? Have you men made yourselves believe that feeling her pussy is the most important thing? Do you believe that your dick is the best thing that ever happened to her, that she would never step outside of the relationship? Huh? Is feeling her pussy worth your life? Do you think she is so fine and so clean that she couldn't possibility have HIV? Or, that she's so upright that she would be honest with you. The fact is, about 38% of all newly infected people are infected with HIV by someone who doesn't even know they have HIV. So, you are expecting her to tell you what she may not even know herself.

And what about you ladies? I'm not going to put all the blame on him. It takes two to tango. He ain't fucking by himself, he's fucking with you. So why do you surrender the power you have of how, when, and what enters your innermost self? Is your self-esteem that low? Do you need and want a man that bad that you would put your life at risk? Do you think your pussy is made from gold? So wonderful that he would never put his dick in another pussy? Just wondering ladies because it's 2 to 1 that if you have unprotected sex with a man who has HIV, he WILL infect you. About 50% of all women infected with HIV are infected from having sex with a man. With odds like that, you couldn't pay me enough to have sex without a condom.

Now let me go there, because I'm not concerned with who you fuck, that's your business. I'm more concerned with how you fuck. That's my bottom line. So man and woman are not the only people who fuck in this world. Straight up! I'm not on a mission to prevent HIV with some and not others. HIV does not discriminate and neither do I. I want everyone having sex to understand their risk.

So, men do have sex with men? Let's go there for a moment. Why are you in denial gay/bisexual men who just have sex with men (MSM) (whatever category you put yourself)? Is it that you think, if you are the one penetrating and no one penetrates you, you can't get HIV? That does not matter. Whether you are a top or a bottom you are still at risk for HIV. And don't tell me you only have oral sex, because oral sex will not save you. Men do become infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases from MSM oral sex! For Real!

Or is it that you are living in the expectation of doom? When I hear this I just shake my fucking head. You think since you have sex with men, you are gonna get HIV anyway, so whatever. Now that's some stupid logic! The fact is, the Centers For Disease Control reports that 1 out of 2 Black gay men have HIV. With a fact like that Brothas, there is no way in hell I would let a man look at me without pulling out a condom first. And don't be tripping on that craziness I hear about gay sex all the time, "Well, AIDS ain't a big deal. I have friends who have HIV and they only take one pill a day." Right!?! If they ass keep living they will one day end up taking 15 pills a day, just like me.

And don't think have forgotten ladies, that some of you have sex with women and not men. And there is a stupid ass myth floating among women who have sex with women that you can't get infected with HIV. Let me say this quick, you playing with some serious Russian roulette. Yes, honestly, it's true that the statistics are very low for lesbians, BUT low does not mean none. And the sharing of sex toys increases your chances of HIV infection. And bisexual women increase their chances even greater. If a woman is infected, all the wet stuff coming from her vagina is infected too! Bottom Line!

So now that I have covered all the sex groups, back to the point. We are all at risk for HIV infection no matter who you have sex with, or how you have sex. And guess what, HIV is not the only sexually transmitted disease you can get. 1 in 5 Americans have herpes and don't even know it. gonorrhea and syphilis is on the rise. And let's talk about HPV. Over half of American women between 14-59 have HPV and don't even know it. And we haven't even begun to truly count the numbers of HPV among MSM.

There's a lot of fucking out there and for as much fucking there is an equal amount of sexually transmitted diseases to match any kind of sex you could ever have. So Why, Why Why, would you put yourself at risk? I just don't get it. What's the fucking problem? AIDS is the number one killer of African-Americans between the ages of 25-44. 72% of all new cases of HIV in women are African-American women. African-Americans are about 48% of the HIV cases in the United States and we are only 14% of the population. So I just don't get it.

I don't understand why we won't protect ourselves. We spend a whole lot of time talking about what others are NOT doing about HIV, the Black Church, the Government, the schools. But my question is, what are you doing to prevent HIV? No one can save you but you! Every nine minutes a person becomes infected with HIV in the U.S. I just don't get it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tea With Rae: The Power of White

Without a doubt white has always been the color to symbolize purity, sacred, freshness, cleanliness and for the most part all things good. And without a doubt, this describes white tea. And while that sounds all good, in my mind white foods are always bland and sometimes boring. I mean take white rice, I don't know about you, but good Lord, it needs salt, sugar, butter, or a wonderful sauce to stimulate my pallet.

For that reason alone I never paid much attention to white teas. I'm such a black tea lover that white seems so opposite from black. For one, I love the strong bold taste of black and I assumed that a white tea could never compare to black, so what would be the point? But as I broaden my horizon's on this tea journey, I'm learning to never judge a tea by it's color.

So for the very first time, I tried a white tea last week. Well, I tried two white teas last week and I'm on a mission to find more. I'll tell you about the taste after I tell you a little about white tea and it's power. Looking at this picture of a camellia sinensis plant you can see it's natural beauty. And believe it or not, it's the same plant that harvests black, green and oolong teas. For Real. But there are a few differences. For one, white tea comes from the more delicate buds and younger leaves of the plant.

But the real difference is in the process to make this tea. After being picked, the buds are placed in natural sunlight to wither before they are lightly processed. This is done to prevent further oxidation and/or fermentation. In this scheme of things, this process preserves the color, the light delicate taste, and most of the antioxidants that give us health benefits from white tea.

And the health benefits are off the freaking chain! The thing that stuck out the most was the benefit for depression and for me that is important. It is no secret that I struggle with depression. I mean, shoot, if some of you lived one day in my shoes, it would be enough to send you over the edge. For Real. But depression is very common in people with HIV. That's why I have always been a big advocate of therapy and anti-depressants if needed. Meaning, if the physical effects of depression are present that may be a route one needs to consider.

But shoot, isn't it great to know that something as simple as tea can also help you on this journey. And don't act like it's just me. The winter months alone make us sad and decreases the serotonin in our brain. The shorter days with less sunlight has an effect on EVERYONE! I aint gonna bore you with all the details but here is a snapshot. White tea contains a compound called L-theanine. It's an amino acid that enters the brain and has shown to reduce different types of stress. It's a natural compound that works much like antidepressants by increasing the serotonin, dopamine, and gamma aminobutyric acid levels in the brain. And guess what, you can drink as much as you want, it's harmless. So when you are feeling blue, put that darn bottom down and have a cup of white tea!

Now to the good part. Did I like it? Yes! Yes! Yes! It was a much milder taste than black tea for sure. And if you are looking for that caffeine boost, look another way. It has about 1% caffeine. Sorry. But I tried  Pai Mu Tan from ESP Emporium. This particular tea is a sub category of white tea and comes from the plant white peony.

It's a light airy tea with a very mild spice taste. I always add a half packet of Splenda to boost the flavor. It will be a great tea after a long day at work. The color is more amber which throws the black tea drinker off a bit. The impulse is to brew longer, but please don't. Also, the hot water for white tea should not be as hot. Once you turn the tea kettle off, give it a minute or two. If the water is too hot it will scorch the tea leaves altering the taste.

I also had a blended white/green tea from ESP Emporium which was a tad more exciting. It's Pai Mu Tan: green tea, cinnamon rods and apple pieces. Snowflake reminded me of cinnamon, spice and the holidays. I also think those who find Chai Tea, like me, too overbearing with the spices, will find that they enjoy this blend of sweet caramel and spice. ESP Emporium have a host of blended white teas, I'm hoping they will let me try them to report back to you.

The thing about a white tea such as Pai Mu Tan is that the taste is so mild that you can mix it with another tea to get a bolder taste, or more caffeine and still have the health benefits! And did I say white tea boosts your metabolism and that's great for weight loss, lowers your cholesterol, lowers your blood pressure, has free-radicals that fight cancer, boosts your energy, and it has fluoride, huh? Yes, to help your teeth, relieves stress and the list goes on and on. Enuf Said!!!

ESP Emporium offers all my readers a 10% discount. The coupon code is TeaWithRae. Give them a try. They have one of the largest online tea selections I have ever seen. The teas are fresh and customer service is great!

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