The Instrument: Erik W. Chambers

Name: Erik W. Chambers
Age: 33
Originally From: Kansas City, MO

A moody writer with a self-deprecating sense of humor, and questionable taste in music, film, literature, and fashion...

I would like to acknowledge the folks who helped me realize the person I am right now. Several did it unwittingly, a few did it maliciously, but most did it consciously & from a place of love. It's a blessing to recognize that they've all brought me here. They are:
God (in all of his/her manifestations), Eila M. Chambers, Ram Chambers, Bobby Ray Wilkerson, Jr., Monte J. Wolfe, Janet Jackson, Shannon Eckler, Anthony Lucas, Ray Elliott, Somilia Smith, David Barnes, Darrell Dancer, Lee Duclos, Tim'm West, Eugene Newkirk, Keith Caldwell, Chaka Khan, Amel Larrieux, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Rahsaan Patterson, Palmer Weston, Steven Carson, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Neale Donald Walsch, Songyal Rinpoche, Charles Massey, and Dennis W. Chambers.

The When/Where/How/Whys

13 years into my relationship with HIV, I'm still in (occasional) denial. But, just like the salt in the stew, the disease (as well as my race, sex, sexual identity, etc.) is only one ingredient of my identity; it ain't the entree. And that's what I keep reminding myself. The reminders require less frequency the older I get, but they are still necessary. So "when" I decided to be honest about all my truths is kinda amorphous, because that's a decision that I make every day. But when Monte introduced to me his idea about BSC in February 2006, those daily decisions at once became easier to make.

I was living with my mother at her house in Kansas City, Mo., when I told her that 1) I was gay and that 2) I had tested positive for the HIV virus. I was 16-years-old during the former, and 17-years-old during the latter. Kansas City was where I first spoke my truth to people closest to me: my family. And now with BSC, Washington is where I choose to first share my truth with people I've never met: the world.

I believe that every individual has their own path to establishing and strengthening their faith. Some use religion or theology to guide them, and others don't. Though I grew up in a Baptist household, I unabashedly admit that I, as an adult, have ascribed to no particular religion, organized or otherwise. MY OWN relationship with God does not depend on what any particular document or individual's idea of what is "right" or "wrong". LIVING and OBSERVING has been the guide that fortifies my faith and relationship with God. I recognize God in everything that I encounter: literature, song, even film. For me, most "divine communication" is most easily recognized through artistic expression. Therefore, we, as BSC writers, singers, performers, etc., believe that using the arts is the most logically efficient platform for our message.

I am tired of defending my birthrights and very existence to folks who've used the whole "down low" movement to justify their homophobia. Ironically, because of powerful & ubiquitous media figures like Oprah, the DL lifestyle is more visible in our society than the lifestyle of proud HIV negative AND positive black men who love other black men. For too many, a man who is black and same gender loving is stereotyped as a liar, a cheater, a weapon of mass destruction aimed directly at black women. With BSC, I hope Monte, Tim'm, and I can create a community of folks like us who aren't ashamed of the lives we live and are speaking (out) about it. The well-being of future generations of black men depend on a culture of truth-telling NOW. Our (black) community, our house, has no more room for the closets that past generations of our forefathers lived, suffered, and perished in. And ultimately, establishing a society where being gay or being HIV positive is not a disgrace or even a disappointment, will benefit ALL of us - including the women living with or married to men who feel like they have no other choice but to lie.