TheBlackManCan heads to Chitown to interview Karyn Brianne of The Fabulous Giver and The Red Pump Project. Check out her story as she shares her passion to raise awareness.
TheBlackManCan: Karyn, when did you become passionate about better health outcomes in the Black community?
KBW: Improving health outcomes has always been important to me even as a child. My mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis before I was born so I always knew about doctors appointments, medicine, and preventative treatment options. My life was a living example of how a health situation could affect social and economic standing. In my mother’s case, her multiple sclerosis couldn’t have been prevented but there are so many diseases and conditions that we as a community can prevent. The prevention space is where I found my calling.
TheBlackManCan: You are focused on using media to promote positive social and health behaviors. What role can technology play in how process health information and make decisions?
KBW: Technology has completely changed the game when it comes to how we acquire, absorb, and process information. Everything that we need to know is right at our fingertips, if we know where to find it. Technology gives us the ability to reach people where they are at. Now that the tools are available, we have to make sure that everyone can access them and that the right information is being provided.
TheBlackManCan: You created a blog titled “The Fabulous Giver.” Why the name “The Fabulous Giver?” What kind of content can be found on your blog?
KBW: I knew that I wanted to create a blog where I could talk about fun ways to support causes and volunteering. I was on a flight and started just writing words on a napkin and that blog name just popped into my head. On the site, I may talk about fashion items that support a cause or my experience giving back. It really depends on what mood I’m in. No matter what though, the content is always either inspirational or philanthropic in nature.
TheBlackManCan: Can you share some of your favorite charities to give to and volunteer at?
KBW: The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has always (and will always) have my heart. My mother regularly volunteered and attending support groups in Chicago. I keep up that tradition by going into the office a few days a year and volunteering at special events. I also love the work that Bright Pink is doing. It’s a phenomenal breast and ovarian cancer organization led by a young woman named Lindsay Avner. She’s incredible and incredibly inspiring. Then, there’s my own nonprofit, The Red Pump Project, which focuses on raising awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls.
TheBlackManCan: What ignited the spark to start The Red Pump Project?
KBW: My co-founder, Luvvie, and I wanted to do something to recognize National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day so we tossed around an idea to do a simple social media outreach campaign. With both of us being bloggers, we were very familiar with the power of the Internet and we wanted to motivate women across the country to exercise that power for a very important cause.
TheBlackManCan: Tell us more about The Red Pump Project. What is the meaning behind the name along with the mission and vision? How can someone get involved?
KBW: Luvvie had previously mentioned that she always wanted to do an event that connected red shoes with HIV/AIDS. So, as we brainstormed names for our social media campaign, I suggested that we title it “The Red Pump Project.” At the time, that’s what it really was – a project. We didn’t know what the results would be. In 2009, we set a goal to have 100 women bloggers participate and within 8 days, we were able to get over 130 sites to join in. The rest has been history.
Many people often ask us, “Why red pumps?” First, red is the color associated with the fight against AIDS. Then, red pumps are what we gals like to call “power shoes.” They catch your eye. They are bold, sexy, and conversation-starters. That same power and confidence is what we wanted to bring to this epidemic. We rock the red pump to unite women and show our sisters who are infected and affected that we stand with them – in a fabulous way (of course).
TheBlackManCan: Why is it important for more initiatives to be created around HIV/AIDS that focus on education and awareness?
KBW: HIV/AIDS is disproportionately affecting people of color to the point Black America is in the middle of an epidemic. The CDC estimates that 1 in 16 Black men and 1 in 32 Black women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. To me, that’s beyond absurd. It’s heard to understand why this is happening to our community until you remember that stigma is a huge barrier to disease education, care, and treatment. We have to normalize the conversation around smart sex practices and HIV/AIDS. We don’t have a choice.
TheBlackManCan: You are raising the awareness about the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls. Why is raising the awareness so important domestically and globally?
KBW: It’s important because we can’t end this epidemic without a focus on women. Globally, we’re at a disadvantage when it comes to advocating for safe sex, accessing HIV preventions services, and information on how to protect ourselves. Fighting HIV/AIDS in women and girls requires that we take a look at larger issues including domestic violence, education, economic development, and self-esteem. Awareness is the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a very important start.
TheBlackManCan: You have successfully used social media to create change. What advice would you give to others that would like to do the same thing?
KBW: Be authentic. Tell a story. Create a unifying theme. And, be consistent.
TheBlackManCan: Where do you see yourself and The Red Pump Project in the next five years?
KBW: I see myself doing more of what I’m already doing – promoting positive health and social change. I’m finishing my graduate degree in Health Communication next year, and I’m looking forward into parlaying that into more opportunities to discuss health both through Red Pump and other community efforts.
TheBlackManCan: Why is it important for Black Women to see positive images of Black men and boys?
KBW: Black men and boys are the backbone of our community. You are our leaders and our hearts. Society tells us everything that our brothers are doing wrong, so it’s important to remember everything that you guys do right. We love y’all.
TheBlackManCan: What words of advice do you have for young black girls?
KBW: The same words that my mother once told me: Don’t be common. When she told me that, she wasn’t talking about money or material items. She was talking mindset. As black women, we can do anything that we put our mind to but it’s up to us to believe that we can do the incredible…that we can accomplish the impossible. To my young sisters, protect your dreams, guard your heart, and never stop learning. It’ll take you farther than you ever imagined.
Exquisite Women is where we at TheBlackManCan highlight Black Women who are making positive and remarkable contributions to society. Nominate a Black Woman today on the contact page or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: Exquisite Woman!