Shame: HIV/AIDS and the Church in Jamaica

July 16, 2015

Over the past six years the rate of HIV/AIDS infection in Jamaica has remained around 1.7 to 2 percent. This steady rate has caused many to forget the challenges of stigma and social rejection that HIV-positive Jamaicans continue to experience. Despite efforts within some churches to increase awareness of the disease and acceptance of individuals living with HIV/AIDS, the church in Jamaica in many ways remains space of silence and neglect.

Dawes and Lambertson combine original Pulitzer Center-supported reporting, long-form journalism, poetry and photography to reveal the complex combination of secrecy, shame, bravery, compassion, paranoia, anxiety, hopefulness, anger, and fear of Jamaicans whose lives have intersected around the issue of HIV/AIDS.

Their interviews with ministers and theologians, activists and advocates, individuals and communities explore the church’s response to the epidemic and its evolving views on homosexuality.

Dawes’ first project working with the Pulitzer Center resulted in “Live, Hope, Love”, the award-winning interactive multimedia on the human face of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica combining poetry with original reporting, rich photography and video documentary created by Dawes and a small team of grantees and staff. Honors for the Live, Hope, Love team included a Gracie Award for outstanding radio documentaryand an Emmy for new approaches to news and documentary programming.

As with “Live, Hope, Love” and its related Pulitzer Center project “Hope: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica” an extended article in Virginia Quarterly Review, poetry and photography are at the core of “Shame.” The Pulitzer Center’s reporting on HIV in the Caribbean is supported by the M·A·C-AIDS Fund.

Kwame Dawes. Ghanaian-Jamaican writer and poet Kwame Dawes is the author of more than a dozen collections of verse, including the critically-acclaimed “Wisteria: Poems from the Swamp Country.” Dawes is also the author of numerous plays, essays and books.Dawes is currently a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the editor-in-chief of Prairie Schooner. A former Distinguished Poet in Residence at the University of South Carolina, he is the executive director and founder of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative and the director of the University of South Carolina Arts Institute as well and the programming director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, which takes place in Jamaica in May of each year. www.kwamedawes.com

Andre Lambertson is a New York-based photojournalist, teacher, and filmmaker committed to documenting stories of hope, healing, and transformation. He creates award-winning photo essays on social issues for magazines, books, foundations, advocacy organizations and museums including Time, US News & World Report, Life, National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, The Ford Foundation, The George Soros Foundation and The Smithsonian Museum. His work has also been published in the books “A Day in The Life of Africa,” “A Day in The Life of The Military,” “America 24/7” and “RISE,” a project on gifted Black and Latino youth. Lambertson has taught at the International Center of Photography for the past six years. He has also taught photography to children at the Brooklyn Museum, as well as former child soldiers in West Africa, to aid in their transformation and healing. Lambertson has received four “Picture of the Year” Awards, the World Press Photo Award, the OSI George Soros Media Fellowship, and a Pulitzer Center grant for work on child soldiers in West Africa. His work has been exhibited at the International Center of Photography, the Smithsonian, the Corcoran Gallery, the Darkroom and Perpignan, where he was given a special award by Visa Pour L’Image. His most significant body of work, Ashes, is a study of juvenile violence in America. Other recent projects include Junta Rations, a documentary about sexual slavery in Sierra Leone and Ausungate, a documentary about the spirit of an Andean peak, and the people who live, work, and worship there. Mr. Lambertson recently shot Skydancer, a film about a renowned female lama living in a remote Himalayan plateau, and also worked on a documentary about the UN mission in Haiti last year. He is currently shooting a documentary called The Whole Gritty City, about marching bands that help stem street violence against youth in New Orleans.