She aims to save a million lives
Former Elginite’s story about HIV/AIDS being made into
film; she hopes it will have impact
By Lenore T. Adkins
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Monday, October 02, 2006
“It’s crazy what life will take you through, and it’s funny what love will
make you do, like contract a disease from a (man) you was faithful to and it
turns out he never felt the same way for you.”
— Excerpt from “She’s Dying,” a story written by Keyana Ray that will be
turned into a short film.
For Keyana Ray, saving just one person from contracting AIDS, the disease
that has killed millions, won’t be enough.
Instead, the 17-year-old former Elginite hopes to educate millions of young
people about the disease when her movie, a cautionary urban tale about the
dangers of unprotected sex, airs in February on Black Entertainment
The aim is that the 20-minute, yet-to-be-named film will eventually be
distributed to high schools, community groups and film festivals around the
country. It also will stream live on the Scenarios USA Web site.
Keyana Ray, 17, is picking up where her late
aunt Marilyn Jenkins, in the framed photo,
Over the summer, Keyana left off when it comes to teaching people
won a story and about HIV/AIDS. Ray wrote an urban tale
screenwriting contest through about the dangers of unprotected sex, which
Scenarios USA, a nonprofit will be made into a short film scheduled to
organization that lets youths debut in February on Black Entertainment
express themselves about Television. Jenkins died of AIDS in the
issues shaping their lives. early 1990s. (Paul Beaty/Daily Herald)
This year, teens wrote about
living in the age of HIV and AIDS.
The teen will work with Gina Prince-Blythewood, director of “Disappearing
Acts” and “Love and Basketball,” and with Gina’s writer/husband, Reggie
Rock Blythewood, to convert the story into a short film.
Keyana’s story, called “She’s Dying,” was chosen from nearly 500 entries
across the country, said Sonya Wells, Scenarios’ project manager.
“She covered every little scenario that young black teens are going through,”
This year marks the 25th year since the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention introduced the world to the disease now known as HIV/AIDS.
The virus has become disproportionately destructive in the black community.
Blacks account for 40æpercent of the 1æmillion AIDS cases reported in the
United States since the virus was first detected here, but they make up only
13æpercent of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control
HIV and AIDS are topics Keyana knows well. When she was 5, her maternal
aunt Marilyn Jenkins died of AIDS after having contracted it through
unprotected sex. She was only 32.
Keyana’s Elgin connection comes through her aunt Shirley Bassett, another
maternal aunt, and uncle Robert. She lived with them earlier this year.
She has since moved back to Maywood to live with her mother, Ivory
Jenkins, and two siblings. Maywood is where the movie will be filmed.
The Daily Herald sat down with Keyana in her Maywood home to discuss
her upcoming movie. Here is an edited transcript of the interview.
Q. What’s your story about?
A. Three teenage girls and how they deal with relationships, boyfriends, and
even parental relationships. All three of these girls are sexually active, so
they’re at risk (for HIV and AIDS). The three males in the story that the girls
have relationships with are at risk. One of the girls’ mothers is a drug user,
so she’s at risk. She has a child, so the child is at risk. You will see that the
presence of the mothers is not where it should be. These girls really confide
in each other more than they do in their parents.
Q. Is this based on real life?
A. The characters are based on bits of pieces of people I know, but it’s not a
true story. I just tried to make it seem real.
Q. What was your inspiration for this story?
A. My aunt died of AIDS in the early ’90s. And a lot of people misconstrue
the story, it’s not about her. I actually just wanted to reach out to the younger
generation because we, too, are dying from this disease. My aunt was
actually a teen when she contracted it. She found out at the age of 28 and
died at the age of 32 in 1994.
Q. What do you remember most about her?
A. She dedicated the rest of her life after she found out that she had the
disease to educate others about the disease through poetry, speaking in
schools, things of that nature.
Q. Are kids your age talking about AIDS? If so, what are they saying about
A. It’ll just be like they don’t know what they’ll do if they get it. But they
rarely talk about it. I guess they think if you ignore the subject it’ll go away.
People don’t think it can happen to them. They don’t expect it to happen to
Q. What’s the biggest misconception about AIDS in your age group?
A. The biggest misconception is probably, “Oh I can tell when somebody has
AIDS.” Like they’ll be skinny, that they’ll look sick.
Q. What impact do you think your movie will have on people’s behavior?
A. Hopefully a big, big huge impact because it’s crazy. It’s a lot of STDs out
in the streets right now. I think somebody’s going to make a better decision
because of watching the movie.
Q. If there’s one thing you want people to take away from your movie, what
would it be?
A. I want the message to come across that it could happen to you and that it
only takes one time. Use protection, definitely get tested regularly and
anybody thinking about having sex, I would just say try to hold off for as
long as possible because it’s so many other things that go with it. My auntie
used to always say: “If I could just change one life.” I think the number of
people who have AIDS has increased, so I feel one life is no longer enough.
We’ve got to save more than one life now. I’m aiming for about 1 million.