…And I don’t even know her name (a poem for World AIDS Day)

Did you know I used to be a conspiracy theorist?


I’m still a conspiracy theorist

I’ve conspired about everything

From Klan contraceptive pills in

Kentucky Fried “Chickens”

To why so many poor children I’ve taught

Are now on Ridlin

I believe in almost every conspiracy

Designed to assassinate black leaders

From Shaka Zulu to Patrice Lumumba to Dr. King

And up to the present

I also used to opine

About AIDS being a disease,

Created in Western labs

To dispose of Black people around the world

But then I had to realize

That my theories on conspiracies

Won’t change the fact

That my cousin in Zambia is dying of AIDS

…And I don’t even know her name

Thoughts of AIDS

Coming from gays, junkies,

Or Vietnamese Rhesus monkeys

In Western laboratories

Won’t help my cousin see her next birthday

Or the birthday of her child

It’s insane when I think of those slain in vain

By this disease with “unknown origins”

But of course it’s worse now

Because it’s closer to home

I often think about my cousin

And how she lost her husband

To the AIDS Grim Reaper

But then I dug deeper

And found out that he died

Because he had to choose

Between money for expensive AIDS drugs

And financial aid to feed his children

So now that they are going hungry,

He must have died in vain

…And I don’t even know her name

Western drug companies

Won’t lower the prices of their medicine

And so now she too waits to die

Impoverished and ashamed

… And I don’t even know her name

No more school for her sons

…And I don’t even know her name

Her daughter might be raped

By a gang of infected men

In a futile search to cure their pain

… And I don’t even know her name

Will her children die too

Because of this damn Western drug game?

… And I don’t even know her name

My cousin is dying of AIDS

…And I don’t even know her name!

And I know this sounds repetitive

But for my entire life

Her existence in my mind was negative

And so now that she’s HIV positive

I feel like I have to make up for lost time

Because there’s too much time lost

Before she’s tossed

Into that statistical group of Africans

That die from AIDS, malaria, TB,

And probably common colds

But since we don’t know their names,

And most Americans believe

That all Africans are the same,

Then unless they died from war or famine

Then they must have died from AIDS!

Not old age, not rabies,

Even the babies,

Let them all die

From that disease we call AIDS,

You know that “AIDS”

Some say it means

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

But it might as well mean

“Africans Impoverished Death Syndrome”

Because no one cares for their names right?

Well wrong!

Because from now on,

I’m gonna sing my cousin’s song

And the songs of the throngs

Of those who are dying

In numbers so large

That rivers form from tears of the crying

And mounting AIDS deaths

Keep these rivers from ever drying

But I’m gonna stand strong for my cousin

And fight the fight for her and her husband

Because inability to pay exorbitant prices

For name-brand drugs

Means my cousin might die in shame

But at least for this one soul

It won’t be in vain

Because by the time you read this testimony

I will have known her name

Her name is not “African statistic #10,000,001”

Or whatever figure

Will get these drug companies more money

And by the way I gotta inform my friends

That joking about AIDS

Never was and still isn’t funny

And if they or you ask why,

I will tell them you that my cousin,


She is dying of AIDS

And though some of you may not give a damn,

For those of you who care,

Please join me for a moment of silence

For Kuishi ‘s prayer…

*Kuishi: “to live” in Swahili

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