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Poetry, paint night set for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Spoken word poet and HIV/AIDS advocate Mary Bowman will headline the Black AIDS Awareness Poetry and Paint Session 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8 at Club Evolution, 519 N. Reynolds Road.

“Mary is known to be fearless as she shares her story with audiences around the Washington metropolitan area,” Kennyetta White, minority outreach coordinator for the UT Ryan White Program, said.

black-aids-awareness-flyerAt 6 months old, Bowman was diagnosed with HIV. She found out about that diagnosis in fourth grade and began writing poetry to express herself in high school.

On-site HIV testing will be available during the event, which is sponsored by the UT Ryan White Program, Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, MPressive Sound and Club Evolution. Those who are tested will receive a $5 gift card when they receive their results.

Tickets for the event are $5 and can be purchased at the door.

Bowman’s collection of poems, “Lotus,” was named the National Underground Spoken Word Poetry Awards’ Book of the Year in 2011. The book includes the poem titled “Dandelions,” which is about her mother who died of AIDS-related causes in 1992.

“‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ is a quote that Mary lives by, organizing community events to raise money for HIV/AIDS awareness, facilitating support groups for HIV-positive youth, and sharing her personal experiences being born HIV-positive through the art of spoken word,” Richard W. Meeker, manager of fundraising and special projects for the Ryan White Program, said.

In addition to performing and writing poetry, Bowman has established an organization called POET (People Over Entertainment), which uses visual and performing arts to bring awareness and education about HIV/AIDS.

Bowman appeared at the University in 2015.

Local poets Huntor Prey, Lonnie Hamilton, Jordan Shawnee, Lorraine Cipriano and Shawonna Wynn also will take the stage. Elevated Thinkin and Kay Renee will be the hosts for the evening.

“Poetry is a great way to combine entertainment and education to raise awareness and nurture conscious and non-conscious thought,” Moni Featchurs of MPressive Sound said.

“We added the paint element to engage the audience,” White said. “Not everyone can express themselves effectively through words, so paint gives them another form of expression,” White said.

“National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day events bring people together in a safe environment to promote change and encourage learning,” Meeker said.

As of June 30, 2015, there were 968 persons living with HIV/AIDS in Lucas County, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Of those, 47 percent were white, 46 percent were African-American, 4 percent were Hispanic, and 1 percent Asian/Pacific Islander.

“HIV infection is still a major concern among communities of color due to fear, stigma and shame,” White said.

Since 2000, the UT Ryan White Program has provided comprehensive care for individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS. The program offers adult primary care, mental health counseling, case management, advocacy, and HIV testing in Lucas County and the surrounding area.

For more information, contact White at or 419.383.3683.

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