Expressing my view!

Sharing with whoever would read my thoughts

Conflicting Sexuality: Exploring sexual abuse in the Internet age

An autobiography with online chat rooms

By Antoine Craigwell

(New York, NY) – Cybersex: The Play, morphed from a 10-year-old seed, as an idea in the mind of Jason Duvall Hunter, to finally growing into and becoming a tree that bloomed and bore fruit with a performance at the New York City Producer’s Club.

At the Producer’s Club, last Saturday night, Jul 10, more than 60 people gathered to share in Hunter’s dream of producing a play. A real estate broker by day and the play’s writer, producer, director, and sound and lighting master, Hunter was finally able to bring to the stage his vision of melding his story with current technology: exploring his sexual abuse as a child with his search for love and affection in Internet chat rooms.

“I’ve thought of this play for over 10 years and with the rise of the Internet and computers, this is also autobiographical where I explore sexual identity and conflict. It’s also an opportunity for me to create this using my own life experience as a template,” Hunter said.

CyberSex: The Play is an adult rated play, which describes in graphic detail the sexual escapades that people engage in online chat rooms. It features a cast and crew of 13, and consists of people of different racial backgrounds, who, according to Hunter, were chosen from an open casting call and is intended as a reflection of diversity in society.

The play, with Harmonica Sunbeam as the Online Host, began with introductions into Internet Chat Rooms by the character “YouMe69n” (a handle used by several of the characters), played and with dance sequences choreographed by FranCisco Vegas – in drag, Michael Smith, Oscar Salazar, Nick Dorvill, and DJ Baker as “Shine2Fine”. Using different chat room handles, the characters include “Boy1683n” played by Delvon Johnson, “ShavedFratboy” played by Yvette Quintero, “Kenny1744n” played by Tristan Sample, “Tyboy1215n” by Nemian Quaid, and “LindaSue49n” by Unique Mills. The play devolves into the story of David, played by Alton Alburo, dressed simply in a black T-shirt and pants, who interleaves into the play a monologue describing his seduction and rape when he was 8-years old by his older cousin.

FranCisco Vegas as "YouMe69n"

It is in Internet chat rooms that David turns to find his sexuality identity, to determine if he is gay, straight, or bisexual. And, it is by entering into the Chat Rooms, in six different scenes, that he encounters people who populate these Internet sites, and are not who they say or claim to be; that in fact, many are hiding their true selves behind masks and various costumes with attitudes and behaviors. He realizes that as he searches for meaning in the chat rooms, he is the only one being truthful.

David reveals toward the end that since he was raped, his sexual development has been stunted: although he has participated in several different sexual acts, including having a girlfriend who turned out to be a lesbian, and with many different people, the trauma of the rape has prevented him from ever achieving an orgasm.

A scene from a sex chat room

“I want people to come away from seeing this play with perceptions of themselves, to see in the people they know, the costumes and the masks people wear, and the lies people tell, especially the covers people use as they interact with each other online. This is basically an exploration of sexuality and sexual identity, and is a peeling away of the layers to reveal true selves,” said Hunter.

Sharing in the play’s production, associate producer Nathan James, a writer and advocate for and of the LGBT community, said that working with Hunter and Bill Johnson, the co-director, was a privilege to create a performance that is at once both provocative and groundbreaking.

“It is provocative in that it’s a play that steps outside the boundaries of convention and engages the audience with intriguing concepts regarding our sexual identity and some of our darker life experiences,” James said.

DJ Baker as "Shine2Fine"

Bill Johnson, 14 years as a director, who participated in productions such as “Colored Museum” by George C. Wolf, and “Bus Stop” by William Inge, said that he was glad to have been given the opportunity to give voice to Hunter’s personal story. He said he took the writer’s words to ensure that the story is told through direction, lighting, costumes, and props, which were minimal.

“It’s a good story. Unfortunately, molestation is too much part of life. Too many men have been molested and haven’t dealt with it, and don’t know how to deal with it. This play addresses this issue and I hope it opens some lines of communication,” the co-director said.

Hunter, who has been working on producing the play since January, had a

Alton Alburo as "David"

table reading in February this year and depending on the success of the play, plans to pursue an extended run for about three or four weeks in the Fall at a mid-level theater, such as the Helen Mills Theater or a theater with about 140 seats. His vision for the play’s future is that it would attract sponsors and with a bigger budget go off-Broadway or even ambitiously, to Broadway itself.


July 14, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, Blogroll, Caribbean, Caribbean Community, community, Elderly LGBT, Guyana, Health, HIV, Immigrant rights, Jamaica, LGBT community, LGBT Immigrant rights, LGBT Rights, LGBT Seniors, Male Health, Public Health, Theater | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Status Is Everything

Knowing means better decisions, choices, and responsibilities

By Antoine Craigwell

As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and for many young Black men in the city of Newark, NJ, being aware of their HIV status is taking responsibility and making choices, for themselves and for others.

In 2001, the African-American Office of Gay Concerns (AAOGC), an inner city community-based organization was founded by Gary Paul Wright, its current executive director, to address the needs of the Black gay community in Newark, NJ with a slogan, “Status Is Everything.” Using its own tagline, the organization embarked on an ambitious promotional campaign to encourage Black gay men in their early teens to middle 20s to be tested, get to know their HIV status, and be able to make choices in their lives that are more informed.

The “Status Is Everything” campaign blitz, which cost approximately $35,000, was launched with an all day event at the Newark City Hall on Thursday, Feb 4. As a campaign, it would feature images of young Black men on posters placed inside and outside Newark city buses and the city’s Light Rail, on a Washington Street billboard, use social media, and in public service announcements on cable television and in the movie theaters; to encourage other young men to be tested and know their HIV status.

At a conference for African-American men, Wright said, he noticed that there was no organization taking up the cause of fighting for these men, “Status is everything is my brainchild and it is more than the tag line to the organization. It began in my kitchen with my partner and six other friends.”

Funded by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), and from the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control, the effectiveness of the “Status Is Everything” campaign is monitored by a team led by Anne Dey, Ph.D., program development administrator with the HIV Prevention Community Planning Support and Development Initiative of Rutgers University, whose department would be tracking the numbers of young men who go to any one of three testing locations around the city and reporting to the state. The testing locations include St. Michael’s on Central Avenue, UMDNJ Rapid Testing Center, and the NJCRI HIV Counseling and Testing Team.

Unlike other campaigns, this exercise makes use of contemporary technology, including YouTube, Twitter, and FaceBook: someone could text, using his cell phone, to one of the locations and receive instructions to the nearest testing site. If a person does not have access to a cell phone, he could call the number on the posters and receive testing locations and information.

The fact that from start to finish researchers and campaign planners listened to what the target population had to say made the project exciting, Dey said, “When the billboard went up in Washington Street, we got word that someone saw it and went to a testing center to be tested.”

According to Wright, the AAOGC staff waded through streams of data on the numbers of young Black men who are HIV positive, and as a practical project, moved beyond his kitchen. After five focus groups had met and examined the best and most effective manner of reaching the target audience, including messaging, encouraging young men to get tested, and reviewing six competitive bids; contracts were signed in October 2009 with FEMWORKS, LLC, a Newark, NJ-based public relations firm, and Robert Penn Productions, a NYC-based film production company, to develop and promote the “Status Is Everything” campaign, which is scheduled to run until Jun 2010.

Following an evaluation and depending on the responses and effectiveness of the campaign, Wright said, the AAOGC would approach the state and the CDC about continuing it in Newark and expanding it to other cities.

“If there is an increase in the numbers of young men who get tested and we see this through anyone of the modes, it could be replicated in other parts of the state. But, if there is no increase, then we would ask what did we do wrong, where we failed, and it would be lessons learned exercise,” Dey said.

In support of the slogan, “Status Is Everything,” driving the campaign and giving it a reason, a Jun 30, 2009 New Jersey HIV/AIDS Report, ( states that as recently as of the middle of last year, Black men who have sex with men (MSM) – an estimated 25,899 –  accounted for close to one-fifth, 19.5 percent, or 5,048 of the accumulated reported HIV cases.

As a demonstration and a more comprehensive understanding of the significance of the impact of HIV on the state, the report included those MSMs identified as injection drug users (IDUs), who make up close to 4.46 percent or 1,155 of the overall population. Against the statewide numbers, of an estimated, 11,132 Black men living with HIV, approximately 24 percent or 2,654 are MSM, and 3.43 percent or 381 are MSM-identified IDUs.

Drilling down from the state to the county level, the report stated that of the13, 552 HIV/AIDS cases in Essex County, (, Blacks were 77 percent or 10, 451 of that population, of which 20 percent or 2,714 were MSMs, and 4.52 percent or 613 were categorized as MSM-IDUs. In Essex County, Newark tops a list of cities in the state with more than 100 HIV/AIDS cases with 13,744 cases.

In Newark, ( Blacks were 74.50 percent or 2,537 of the 3,405 people living with HIV. Of the numbers in Newark, the men living with HIV with the highest numbers are those 35 to 44 years old, who make up 25 percent or 840 men, and 38 percent or 1,277,  who are between 45 to 54 years of age.

“This is the most professional emerging campaign I’ve seen in a long time and I’ve heard from a lot of clients that they have seen it,” said Dey.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, community, Health, HIV, HIV Status, LGBT community, Male Health, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment