stealing your breath to birmingham: citizen journalism at icpoz.three — eleven posts, one sentence, one tale retold (368.1)

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richard kearns shite: definition

please scroll down to read icpoz.three, the september issue of the international carnival of pozitivities.

please click on this sentence to read the icpoz.three special report on fourteen toronto iac bloggers on

please click on this sentence to go to the international carnival of pozitivities homepage.


it is a joy to welcome you to icpoz.three, the third issue of the international carnival of pozitivities, a guest-hosted monthly link-anthology of timely, artful and thoughtful contributions to the aids/hiv blogosphere.

make yourself at home. bookmark the page. let’s hang for a while. this month’s harvest of articles will provide us many rich feasts together.

richard kearns birmingham poem

once upon a time i had a student. it is now my delight to report to you i have become the student of my former student. her name is cristi hegranes. she lives in san francisco.

piwdw logo

this month’s first post on icpoz.three (issue three of the international carmival of pozitivities) comes from cristi’s piwdw site (the press institute for women in the developing world (y el instituto de prensa para mujeres de mexico)). the post: the press institute hires inaugural class of citizen journalists in san cristobal de las casas!

. . . five women in san cristobal de las casas, chiapas, mexico have been hired to take part in the press institute’s inaugural citizen journalism training program.

the first group of trainees to join el instituto de prensa para mujeres de mexico range in age from 24-38. some are formally educated, while others have never attended school. they are domestic workers, community activists, teachers, midwives, and young mothers. each woman is bright, brave, and excited to begin her new career as a journalist. (bios of each new citizen journalist are available upon request.)

it is the articulation of the idea of citizen journalism on cristi’s blogsite that is remarkable here. we’re talking about bloggers. i am going to spend extra time and space talking about bloggers, about citizen journalists. bookmark cristi’s site. i recommend you make time to read through everything.

hegranes writes: “the institute was founded on the belief that journalism is an empowering tool that can bring voice, strength and light to issues that are hidden and people who are oppressed. it is in this vein that the institute will train women in the developing world to serve as reporters and writers in their own communities. our journalists are dedicated to telling untold stories and empowering themselves and others through education and journalism. the press institute emphasizes reporting on six core issues that most affect women in their communities:

• domestic violence,
• poverty,
• reproductive rights,
• political oppression, and
• community development.

[my bulleting & bolding – rk]

“education and access to information are basic human rights,” continues hegranes. “so, in addition to our journalistic pursuits the press institute also establishes free literacy centers in every community where the institute operates. . . . we believe that an increase in literacy combined with the production of ethical, thorough journalism will allow people everywhere to live freer, fuller lives.”

the site design is crisp and sharp and sensible, but i ran across an unarmored spot at the bottom corner of the mission statement: “the mission and activities of piwdw are dedicated to the memory of pauline gomez.”

pauline gomez jpg

upon inquiry, hegranes responded in an email: “pauline gomez was my great aunt. she was the first blind woman in the us to attend college, become a full time teacher for seeing children, the first woman president of the federation of the blind and a national treasure. she was a huge pioneer of voice and education and taught me so much. the mission and activities of the press institute are dedicated to her memory.”

namasté: blessings on us all.

“i’m covering this event from the baseball press box on the 3rd floor,” writes citizen journalist / blogger brad biggers (aids combat zone) at the toronto iac (international aids conference) 2006 opening ceremony play-by-play. our second selection for icpoz.three. that’s a snap of brad holding the green sign in the middle, during anthony fauci’s plenary session speech. “my praise,” brad says, “goes out to the organizers of the iac for their decision to grant press access to members of the ‘new media’ such as myself.”

brad green sign

“my opening ceremonies post was inspired by posts at when they cover a conference or event by ‘liveblogging’ it,´says brad. “i wasn’t able to actually liveblog because i was lacking a live internet connection, but i think i captured the feel using play-by-plays.”

yes, you did. sports coverage of the great pow-wow and social pageant, a synergist of community. unique. remember the pow-wow aspect of it. remember this is cultural behavior. how do we offer one another wise counsel? how do we listen?

bigger’s post appeared on, an independent, uncensored activist blog project [remember the term “citizen journalism” here – rk] at the iac in toronto, canada. provided highlights from conference sessions and related events, brought reports and materials from direct actions, rallies and community efforts, and responded to traditional press reports about the conference. correspondents exposed misinformation and hypocrisy, promoted open debate, and broadcast the real voices and images of people with hiv and allies at the conference through multimedia postings.

icpoz.three highlights the work of fourteen bloggers – citizen journalists – this month in a special icpoz.three report posted on

melinda in india jpg

icpoz.three’s award for the single most useful sentence to rise above all the verbiage in toronto: “stigma makes it easier for politicians to stand in the way of saving lives.” — melinda gates at the opening ceremonies. write it down on the back of a grocery receipt and mini-banner it across your fridge. talk into the bullhorn at a rally about it. ask the vacant, smiling politicians in their high-backed cushy leather chairs: “melinda gates says this. do you agree?” find out who’s awake.

positive nation logo

our third post this month comes from positive nation in the uk. long title: “south african supreme court judge justice edwin cameron stunned africa when, five years ago, he publicly disclosed he was living with aids. PN caught up with this inspiring activist at the launch of his candid new book.”

about another citizen journalist. words by citizen journalist david g taylor. images by citizen journalist piers allardyce

witness to aids cover 200

cameron on inner & outer aids: “it’s too easy to say it’s stigma. there is discrimination and fear of discrimination. women diagnosed with hiv do get thrown out of their homes; people still do lose their jobs, and they’re disadvantaged. so there definitely is stigma. i think more important is the internal dimension. people with hiv feel a sense of self-disentitlement, which prevents them from seeking access to treatment, even when it’s available. that has to be addressed as well.”

i am a big fan of edwin cameron. i would love to correspond with him at please pass it along.

the personal is political. the personal is newsworthy. all news is personal. all news reports are personal. moffie from starts us on that blogging journey.

moffie logo jpg

the piece is titled pcp. read the paragraph below carefully. if it’s never happened to you, imagine it. to me, it recalls my aids-releated dementia, which many hivers have recovered from. i know. i remember i parked two cars in the same mall in denver and forgot where they were. i had rented the second until i found the first. i just thought i was tired.

if you don’t think that’s news, you’re mistaken. moffie writes in his march 1, 2006 post called tim’s hiv blog:

one day, while going to the market about a mile away from our home; i came to a stop sign, and completely blanked out. i knew this was our car, but i didn’t know why i was in the car, and where i was going. i turned the car around and started back in the direction i came from, in the hopes that i would recognize something that would take me home. i slowly motored up the hill and came to a stop sign and looked to my right, and didn’t recognize anything. there were only three or four homes on the block, as the street ended in the “i-25 highway”. i looked to the left and still didn’t recognize anything, but the street name appeared very familiar. i made a slow left turn, and started down the hill, watching very carefully as each home went by, struggling to see something familiar. finally, i noticed a nice home with the garage doors open and one of the cars was my little citroen, moffie. wow, relief, i finally found home. i parked the cadillac in the garage, and went in the house and gave my sweetie the keys and told him of my situation. i wasn’t able to drive for a full three years.

here is a remarkable new voice. her name is dragonette. she is one of our faces.

her site? not perfect at all. she writes awo from somewhere in northern europe:

i hope you don’t mind that i remain anonymous. it’s quite crucial for me at this stage (when i am a famous novelist happily married things will be different; dreams are free aren’t they?). if you read my blog you see that i am from a small middle eastern country ;0). i am not brave enough at the moment. this is only my first year of dealing with this.

i have “outed” myself to my bosses (not all of them), most of my friends, my immediate family, my bf (before he became my bf)… but i have to be careful, as that kind of rumor spreads awfully fast. only today someone from israel wrote me (quote): “if people knew that i penpal with a hiv positive girl it wouldn’t make me more popular”. well, your email [when i contacted dragonette for reprint from awo – rk] is just the reaction to antidote this kind of depressing comment.

this is from dragonette’s September 05, 2006 post, 2 pozzies, 2 recent lessons, a gift from a friend, a book recommendation, and an apology:

j. fears that he cannot go back to his native country for lack of proper treatment, because like me he needed to be treated right away (although his initial counts were about similar to mine now). he is trying to get a position like mine to enable him to stay, and has extended his visa. j. is a fighter. a good man. i don’t want to expose his identitee anymore than this, but he was a good man back in his country, highly involved in the community, helping people. he is just a couple years older than me. he recently managed to get back to his country for a visit and disclose to his family, who embraces him. but like me he prefers to be here. obviously, the treatment options are much better for me than for him (when i switched drugs the new ones were yet unavailable in his country, but now they are, yet in 2 years i lose my “rights”).

taking the test is news, even when the test turns out negative. [what test? you ask. does it matter? — rk] here is a powerful passage posted march 9, 2006 on sideon’s sanctuary, titled waiting:

mike had me look straight ahead while he worked at my side. i felt a tap on my wrist and he said the first needle was done. a moment later, a second tap and I looked down. two needles, about five inches long, were parallel, running length-wise along my wrist and half of the needles were under my skin. i must have gone grey because mike threw a towel over my arm while i sat there and he rubbed my back and told me to keep breathing. i felt a sensation like cold water pouring over my head and temple, down over my cheekbone and jaw line and into my neck; the pain drained away. gone. i sat there and cried, not knowing how much it had hurt until the pain was gone. i was angry and afraid and i cried, remembering my thoughts about dying and how easy it could be to give up. i sat there crying for twenty minutes with needles in my wrist while mike smiled gently and talked softly.

it’s news when the test comes back positive. this is from nightmare hall, an august 16, 2006 post titled mangled in the medical machine, part one of three parts. (check in next month to read part two)

a nurse called me into a small office where an older woman with long gray hair smiled and asked me to sit down. she took my number, paging through a thick computer printout, “ahh here we are” i knew something was wrong from the expression on her face, she looked like she was going to break down crying, “your test came back positive. at some point you have been exposed to hiv, do you understand what this means?” she sat and counseled me for almost an hour, explaining that there were no real options open and i should begin getting my life affairs in order. she gave me a big hug, suggesting i find a good doctor since i didn’t have a primary care provider. i left fenway feeling like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck. a lot of people i knew were dying left and right from this disease. i had watched some of them die and it was not a pretty sight.

even the unexpected and bizarre is news. this is from ron hudson’s september 29, 2005 post on 2sides2ron tribute to nurses

i asked the nurse if there were anything i could do for the pain of having an empty stomach. she said she would call my doctor and left the room. i was expecting crackers, but a few minutes later, she returned with an injection of morphine.

bloggers are fierce, and their passions challenge the glib opinion mills and millers. this is a september 6, 2006 post by jude nagurney camwell at iddybud.journal, titled hiv / aids: senator clinton treated unfairly by national bcc

iddybug jude nagurney camwell

jude nagurney camwell

iddybug journal mast

the former president’s wife, senator hillary clinton, has cast a lone protest vote on senate approval of a bill (s 2823) that had passed the senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions senate last may. the bill would reauthorize the ryan white care act. there was good reason for that vote, even though her vote is being treated with anger by some activists. she voted to hold out until a new funding formulation is worked out to make the funding equitable based upon not only the number of state-to-state cases of hiv postive citizens, but the numbers of full-blown aids patients in her state of new york as well. new york has one of the highest hiv / aids rates in the nation, and senator clinton could not stand idly by and see such political injustice being done.

bloggers create online resources based on personal experience.

insite, located in vancouver, bc, canada, is the only safe injection site in north america. this is an excerpt from the august 31, 2006 insite fact sheet, posted by a nameless “third year bsc. (nursing) student at university of ottawa in collaboration with algonquin college. i had the opportunity to go to insite this summer and really get an idea of the effect this resource has in the downtown eastside community. there were over 800 visits to the site the day before my tour.”

facts and figures (from insite homepage and pers. comm from my tour)
• people using insite are more likely to enter a detox program, with one in five regular visitors beginning a detox program
• over a two year period 4,084 referrals were made with 40 per cent of them made to addiction counseling
• to date there have been over 500 overdoses at insite. thanks to prompt medical attention there have been no deaths.
• daily average visits: 607
• number of nursing care interventions: 6,227
• number of nursing interventions for abscess care: 2,055
• busiest day: may 25, 2005 (933 visits in 18 hours). So, nearly 1000 needles kept off of the street, nearly 1000 instances where a needle was not shared.1000 instances where an individual had the opportunity to access the healthcare system, not only for drug-related treatment but also for mental health, hiv / aids care, pregnancy testing and maternity care, social work services, counseling and peer-support.

bloggers question authority; they are whistleblowers and fourth-estate watchdogs.

this is a recent post at

q: when is the dea not the dea? a: when its agents are federally - outsourced thugs & political operatives: four photos from the dea raid and protest august 30 in van nuys (364) richard kearns logo


these photos, with the accompanying comments, were forwarded to me for publication in i am a citizen journalist, a member of the new media. i am a fourth estate watchdog.

i am publishing these pictures as a socially - and morally - responsible exercise of my first amendment rights to free speech and our shared first amendment rights to a free press, in the reasonable belief that these are photographs of federally - funded functional political operatives and reprisal - dealing “thugs,” not “legitimate” undercover agents seeking out real crime (whatever that might be).

further, they appear to be working under a strategy that makes an end run around our constitutional guarantees against

- unreasonable search and seizure, against
- cruel and unusual punishment, and ensuring
- due process before depriving citizens of life, liberty and property

in addition to ignoring the will of the people of the state of california as expressed in prop 215 and sb 420.

your comments are respectfully invited below.


–richard kearns


1. witnesses at the van nuys protest august 30 identify the man below as joseph s. bryson as he left to obtain a search warrant hours after the raid began.

finally, in the hope that it will help make sense of it all, here is martin luther king jr.’s retelling of the tale of the good samaritan. i excerpted it in an epigraph for a post on other topics, but i will give you the link to the stanford collection. you may read the other post if you like.

one day jesus told a parable. you will remember that parable [–the good samaritan —rk]. . . . (oh yeah) and that parable ends up saying that this good samaritan was a great man; he was a good man because he was concerned about more than himself. (oh yeah) . . .

i say to you this morning that the first question that the . . . levite asked was, ‘if i stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ (that’s right) but the good samaritan came by and he reversed the question. not ‘what will happen to me if i stop to help this man?’ but ‘what will happen to this man if i do not stop to help him?’ this was why that man was good and great. he was great because he was willing to take a risk for humanity; he was willing to ask, ‘what will happen to this man?’ not ‘what will happen to me?’ (all right) . . .

three dimensions of a complete life
by martin luther king, jr.

wise guys king, kliban & kearns converse with everyman dobson in observance of’s first birthday (320)

it has been a treasure sharing this time and thought with you. i encourage you to post comments at the site of different anthologized articles. as dragonette noted, hearing from you makes a big difference. i look forward to meeting you on the page again.

i also wish to acknowledge the love and support of ron hudson and brad biggers, the two previous host editors for the international carnival of pozitivities. as ron said, “the beauty of this flower is it will have many incarnations.” ron is photographing new blooms even as i write this.

i also am grateful for the continued support of peter dobson at

this third issue of the international carnival of pozitivities is dedicated to the memory of louis mammato, a member of the life group la, whose celebration of life / memorial service was september 9, 2006 from noon to 4 pm. i was working on icpoz.three and too worn to attend in person. however, i felt him at my side as i wove this issue together. that is as it should be. he always was, is, and continues to be a surprising ally.


richard kearns

style note: i have very carefully gone through and made everything lower case in all the posts (with a couple limited, reasoned exceptions). it is a stylistic signature at roll with it.

One Response to “stealing your breath to birmingham: citizen journalism at icpoz.three — eleven posts, one sentence, one tale retold (368.1)”

  1. cristi hegranes Says:

    [from an email to awo — rk]

    our training officially began today. i wish that i could find the words to describe what has happened in san cristobal today.

    nine women are sitting in a library, most with little in common. some are indigenous and unimaginable carry social, cultural, and political burdens in their every step. they participate in conversations about honest and thorough journalism as though they have waited their whole lives to say the words that they suddenly find pouring from their mouths. one has lived her whole life as a domestic worker, but when she heard about the opportunity to become a journalist she immediately shook off labels of cultural oppression that had, until now, forced her to remain someone’s housekeeper. two others are a bit younger and were born of a generation in chiapas where rebellion and tumult is all they know. while others look to journalism to shake things up, they seem to think about it in terms of bringing order, telling truth, uniting their community through fact. the last trainee is the most outspoken. she is a chiapeco and a lesbian, which she tells us is not often a welcome combination. she wants to write about political oppression and abortion. others say they have a burning desire to tell true stories about what poverty and sickness are like way down here, at the bottom of mexico. the two staff members, one american and one mexican, are so eloquent and poised, they do the craft of journalism proud. as they describe terms like objectivity and fairness our five trainees nod and their expressions reveal that they have known these terms all their lives. it dawns on me that ethics are innate and it is society and the harshness of our realities that talk us out of living by them. as we plough through the curriculum trying to define terms like objectividad, credibilidad, independencia, and eticas, one trainee speaks up and says she knows just what journalistic ethics are, though she says, most people think only doctors have ethics. she says ethics are things that make your work have meaning; ethics are the things that mean you are fair; ethics are the things that other journalists here don’t have. without ethics she says, it isn’t really journalism.

    the last woman in the room is me. only in seeing this idea in reality does it dawn on me how far-fetched it was to bring the inspiring, empowering, difficult, and courageous craft of journalism to women who lived far beyond the bounds of my own reality. as we sat here today, the first day of this training, i saw the words and ideas from our curriculum leap off the page and enter directly into people’s hearts. the language of journalism is universal and the desire to practice it with consciousness and dignity are more common than our world would let us know.

    this day has brought amazing transformation and realization. four hours ago we were a group of strangers with different backgrounds, ideas, and professions. and almost like magic, we are all journalists now, we are all of a sudden united with this funny goal of reporting, truthtelling. and lo-and-behold, our program works.
    early this morning i was still so nervous about funding and about how we were going to sustain this program and bring other women the same opportunities we brought to chiapas. but now after only one day, i realize that there is no way that this won’t work. there is nothing stronger than the human spirit and the human spirit is exactly what came alive in this room today.


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