Lonely and growing lonelier, older Harlem residents struggle with HIV/AIDS

Originally published at NYCInfocus and Manhattan Times


A senior resident sits on a bench at King Towers. Photo: Sumi Naidoo/NYCinFocus.

Lemuel Jones, 76, is all alone. At Martin Luther King Jr. Towers in Harlem, where Jones has lived since 1958, there is “no place for old men,” he said.

It wasn’t always like this. Nineteen years ago, Jones’s friend Henry Sherwood asked if he could stay in Jones’s apartment overnight. Chronically unemployed and mired in an alcoholic depression, Sherwood stayed for 12 years. When he was in his mid-50s, Sherwood met a young woman from Brooklyn. At about the same time, he started having unprotected sex with young, substance-abusing women from around the area.  Sherwood’s girlfriend got sick and died soon afterwards.

At 57, Sherwood was diagnosed with HIV. He didn’t tell Jones he was sick until three years later. Within a few months, he was dead.

Now, Jones is left with only his grief for company.

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Being Heard at Forest Houses in the Bronx

Originally published in NYCInfocus

Thomas Hirschhorn's Gramsci Monument in Forest Houses, South Bronx, Photo by Sumi Naidoo/NYCInfocus

Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument in Forest Houses, South Bronx. Photo by Sumi Naidoo/NYCInfocus

At open mic Sundays, residents of Forest Houses in the Bronx crowd onto the Antonio Lounge’s homemade stage. Some belt out Aretha ballads and rap songs. Others listen and clap their hands. DJ Baby Dee, a retired public servant named Harry Drake, emcees here seven days a week and artfully segues from live performances to remixed recordings of the Jackson 5. In a wooden shack behind the lounge, a state-of-the-art music studio streams the program out to the world.

So goes a typical weekend at Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument – a temporary structure of connecting plywood rooms, dedicated to honoring the life and theories of Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci. Since June, Hirschhorn, supported by the Dia Art Foundation, has run a library, museum, computer room, radio station, bodega and newspaper press from the grounds of a public housing development in the South Bronx under the watchful eye of an ever-present police patrol car.

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WQHS’s Top 10 of 2012

Originally published at WQHS.org

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