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While I was in the jungle seeing if plant medicines could help my diagnosis, I remember my maestra asking me, “Well, how did you catch it?” I was what you would call an “at-risk” youth; I grew up with HIV coloring books in my school, The Weeksville School, P.S. 243 (once called “Colored School #2”), and I remember hearing my uncle say as a child, “Why would anyone want to go find out if they have that? I would just rather be dead.” It was a comment he made after a news story, with topics too advanced for me to fully grasp, and so, as a child, I learned a clear thing: Don’t catch AIDS. 

“How did you catch it?” If my maestra asked me today, I would answer: I am a Jamaican man, from an extremely homophobic culture. The rejection from society and family members during my teenage years, after coming out at 16 years old, allowed me the horrible opportunity to internalize being the scum of the earth, because that was how I was being treated everywhere outside of my Karate Dojo. I have language I didn’t know then; this was before reading Don Miguel Ruiz; this was even before meditation.

I thought I shouldn’t even be alive, and I tried to kill myself. I was harassed so much in school that I had to drop out in my senior year, even though I had excellent grades, and get a G.E.D instead. My life was being threatened in the halls. My family was embarrassed, and my mom cried on the couch for a week. My stepfather put his knuckles to my face; it was hard enough, and aggressive enough, to send me running out of the house into the neighborhood screaming. He never did that again. 

I was what they called an “at risk” youth. I remember when an older white male preyed on a group of us; I was reluctant, but his home was more comfortable than my own. The religious abuse had reached its peak with a ritual done on me to cleanse me of homosexuality in front of other family members, after I was asked to strip down to my underwear and embrace a church sister, who shouted in my ear, “You’re supposed to love women. You’re supposed to love women.” They did this ritual just as I was about to head out to Christopher Street Pier, where the Pride Parade ends in New York City, the gay ghetto, my home, where I first saw and learned the moves of vogue. The old white male promised us jewelry then abused us repeatedly for years with alcohol, weed, and forced sex. It was disgusting and confusing. I remember rebelling, even then, saying, “You don’t own any of us,” because he would get mad when we decided to be with each other instead of him. This was a time long before dating apps and the increased availability of meth. 

Want to hear the full story?? You can see my presentation here:

Art by Mariom Luna.



This piece is a short adaptation of Kevon’s presentation in Queering Psychedelics, “How to Cure HIV: Cultural Blind Spots That Psychedelics Can Help Us All Address.”

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Wednesday, June 9th, 2021 from 12-1:30pm PST REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT HERE There is growing enthusiasm in Jewish communities about possible ancient use and modern applications of plant medicine in Jewish spiritual development.  Psychedelic Judaism introduce new potential modes of  healing...