African American Perspectives In Action
For the duration of the 1990s, staff writers at The Nubian Message endeavored to carve out media space for the African American community on campus and for their interests more broadly. While writers succeeded in many areas, from their coverage of politics and government to their coverage of sports and cultural events, one of the most notable areas in which The Nubian Message represented African American interests where other media overlooked them was in the area of health and safety. The Health section of the paper often covered sensitive topics that nevertheless were incredibly relevant to the African American community. Two articles from the mid-1990s will illustrate this point and show how the paper's Health section grew into a strong voice for African American wellness concerns.
In this March 9, 1995 article, Health Editor Tawana Myles covered recent scientific studies of AIDS in the United States. Citing research conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Myles reported that in 1993, HIV was the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 25 and 44 in 79 cities nationwide, including Raleigh, NC. The fact that HIV/AIDS affected so many young people of reproductive age in turn affected society in broader ways, not least of which is that individuals who suffer from HIV/AIDS may not have healthy children. Myles' update on new AIDS research is characteristic of The Nubian Message's robust coverage of the disease, which disproportionally affected African American males. Her report is also an example of the paper's willingness to cover sensitive health issues, from sexually transmitted diseases to testicular cancer (covered in an adjacent article in this issue). What makes Myles' coverage of AIDS unique, however, is that she did not stigmatize the disease, but rather drew attention to the fact that it is a complicated social problem. For example, she noted that AIDS is an issue for many intravenous drug users, not just people in homosexual relationships; consequently, the disease is a concern for many African Americans living in urban areas where drug use is common.
Likewise, in an article from March 28, 1996, Myles discussed the prevalence of acquaintance rape on college campuses. Citing official statistics, Myles stated that one in four women will be the victim of actual or attempted rape while in college, most often at the hands of someone they know. She then described ways that women can recognize potential sexual predators and protect themselves from sexual assault. Myles emphasized that both men and women have the responsibility to prevent acquaintance rape--women by avoiding potentially compromising situations and men by respecting a woman's right to say "no."
As with the article on AIDS, Myles' article on acquaintance rape again brings a sensitive issue affecting the African American community to the fore. As African American women in the United States are more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other racial or ethnic groups, this article highlights a key issue for the African American community that is often considered too shameful to discuss in other media outlets. Myles, however, did not present acquaintance rape as a stigmatizing event or an issue to be overlooked out of propriety. On the contrary, by listing ways that women can protect against acquaintance rape, the article empowered female readers to take control of potentially threatening situations rather than become rape victims. This article is therefore representative of the ways in which The Nubian Message covered African American health issues, and by so doing, inserted African American perspectives and concerns into the media.