HIV and AIDS is not a joking matter.
Even though Comedian Charlie Barnett’s matter was comedy.
Born in West Virginia in 1954, Charlie began his career in the 1970’s in the New York City’s hub for Urban Bohemia. A legendary street comedian who was brash and fearless performed in front a diverse audience, pioneered comedic racial differences and labels in 30 minutes sets in Washington Square Park.
In an era where racial divide was still overt, hurtful and unconcealed, Charlie amused crowds with a delicate balance of finding the fundamental angle of humor, taking the context and making it relatable to different audiences. He ridiculed prejudice and diminished stereotypes by encouraging his followers to laugh at their distinctions and embrace their commonality through comedy.
Springing off from the hippy movement, the 70’s was a decade of personal exploration and a colorful awareness of one’s ideas and thoughts. But along with the journey of self-exploration comes self-critic and in the 1980’s Charles auditioned to be a cast member of Saturday Night Live, only to pass up the opportunity due to his inability to manage reading and writing.
The Reagan Presidential Administration began the ‘Just Say No‘ campaign in the 1980’s, it was widely publicized by First Lady Nancy Reagan. The Just Say No campaign was an anti-drug movement to battle the rising and fast pace issue of drug use among young, creative and urban populations. The war on drugs escalated and so did the AIDS epidemic that has since killed 39 million people (2013). Every December 1st the World Health Organization calls for an international day for all to demonstrate solidarity for people living with HIV and Aids. Dave Chappelle’s former manager states in a New York Times article that Dave cried after seeing Mr. Barnett for the first time, saying, “I’m never going to be as funny as that guy.”
And we may never know….
Charles mentored Mr. Chappelle after a performance at the Apollo theatre where Dave was booed off the stage. Shortly after, Mr. Barnett contracted HIV from heroin abuse and died on March 16, 1996 from complications of AIDS.
“He (Charles) was the greatest!” – Dave Chappelle
In the memory of all those who have died due to this complicated and epidemic disease – let’s observe this year’s theme of: Getting to Zero, ending AIDS by 2030. In this video clip Chris Rock makes reference to taking an HIV test and the anxiety that builds while waiting for the results.
– OCM Entertainment
Fear of the unknown is a natural human reaction, but the best way to conquer this fear is knowing your status. Testing is important to your health, your life and your future. The U.S. government theme for World AIDS Day 2015 is: The Time to Act Is Now. The White House in Washington D.C. is hosting a World Aids Day event online. Watch the event live HERE
Today, let’s join the conversation and share awareness through social media by using the hashtag #WAD2015
Who remembers Noogie Lamont on Miami Vice?
RIP Charlie Barnett