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Gil Robertson: Not in My Family

Book and companion CD explore AIDS in African-American community

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Inspired by the desire to document his family's personal struggle to deal with a brother diagnosed with HIV, Marietta-based journalist Gil Robertson conceived and edited Not in My Family: AIDS in the African-American Community. With an eclectic list of contributors (Patti LaBelle and Yolanda Adams to the Rev. Al Sharpton and porn star Mr. Marcus), the book of essays and corresponding gospel CD intends to spur discussion of this still-raging pandemic among African-Americans, according to Robinson.

Given the diversity of voices in the book, was it a surprise that the same feelings and themes come up again and again?

The feelings and issues around HIV/AIDS are universal sentiments that are not unique to certain groups or populations. ... The book features voices that represent every segment of the black community, thus making it relatable to those distinct populations. The CD does the same, mixing in several gospel-music subgenres – like reggae and even a touch of rap – to make the CD's central message around HIV/AIDS prevention more appealing and diverse.

Do you feel the CD has a greater potential to reach people than the book?

I certainly hope so. You know, the idea for this CD actually came about while I was driving home on I-75 one Friday evening. I was thinking about the balance of essays featured in the book when it occurred to me that I might miss folks who may not be inclined to read. ... That the project features gospel artists is also important because it allows us to reach faith-based communities. I was surprised to learn that nearly every other music genre, from pop to even country, had organized efforts to stimulate dialogue and awareness about this disease [but gospel didn't]. So I knew that we were on the right track.

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