Poet has reason for rhymes by hG9ux5

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									Poet has reason for rhymes
BY ASHLEY FANTZ
afantz@herald.com



Last year, college student Devin Robinson went to a seminar
about AIDS that was hosted by the Florida Department of
Health.

And he was bored out of his mind.

''I couldn't relate to what they were telling me; it just wasn't hitting,'' he
said, pulling at his baggy Nautica shorts and impatiently tapping red and
blue Converse sneakers. ``It was like these old people trying to talk to me
about sex . . . and using statistics.''

A year later, this relentlessly energetic 21-year-old theater major is
bringing the AIDS message to young people in his own way. He travels the
country, using his original spoken-word poetry to talk about AIDS in a
vernacular that appeals to a generation of Americans who don't remember
when AIDS was a death sentence.

He has written about 10 monologues. Characters include a self-professed
thug, a convict who has had sex with hundreds and contracts HIV, a 15-
year-old amateur boxer who gets it from a groupie, a college football player
who develops a drug habit. In one bit, Robinson performs two characters at
once, a conversation between a husband and wife about their secret HIV-
positive status.

Robinson leads about 30 other aspiring rappers, actors and singers in the
AIDS Awareness Poets, a student club he founded at Palm Beach
Community College. Members have attended Red Cross HIV training
sessions, handed out AIDS pamphlets and condoms to club-hoppers along
Clematis Street in West Palm Beach and organized free testing on campus.

''I think you have to kind of be there, right where people live and work and
go to school to get them to think and do something about AIDS,'' said PBCC
sophomore Shyndine Moore, 19. ``I think that was the first time some of
my friends even thought about it.''

Robinson's mother died when he was 12, and he was raised in Lauderhill by
his older sister. About the same time, his father left, and a scattering of
cousins and nephews moved in. No family member ever gave Robinson
``The Talk.''

Meanwhile, Robinson and his friends set out ''to have as much sex with as
many girls as possible,'' he said. ``HIV was not on our minds. I didn't think
it was that big, it couldn't happen to me, it was only people in Africa.''
For them, AIDS was synonymous with the healthy image of Magic Johnson,
the 44-year-old NBA legend who announced he was HIV-positive in the
early 1990s.

'You know, you'd look at him and think, `Well, that dude looks great. He's
playing ball. He's not sick,' '' Robinson said.

He got involved with AIDS education as a member of the Florida African
American Student Association at PBCC. But the dry recitation of facts did not
move him.

HORRIFIC TRUTHS

In the statistics are horrific truths: At the end of 2004, the World Health
Organization reported that HIV afflicted about 1 million Americans with
more than 5,000 infected in Florida. The state ranked second in the nation,
according to the latest report from the Florida Department of Health in
2002.

Worldwide, an average of 39.5 million suffer from the AIDS virus and
infections are increasing in people younger than 25.

Abstinence has become a small trend.

More than a million teens are members of the Silver Ring Thing, a national
Christian organization that advocates teenagers wear a band, pledge faith in
God and promise not to have sex before marriage.

For a year, Robinson has resisted having sex. ''When I wake up, it's in my
face -- sex in videos, rappers on the radio telling me all about the booty,'' he
said.

``I feel like I gotta set an example.''

SOFTENED RHETORIC

At his friends' urging, he's softened his rhetoric about abstinence, and now
includes frank discussions of condom use.

As a result, AAP and Robinson are sought after by South Florida gay and
lesbian groups, and made recent appearances at the Ryan White Youth
Conference in Nashville, Tenn., and the National Youth Leadership Council
Conference in Long Beach, Calif.

It performed for about 100 public school students at an annual teen summit
sponsored by Planned Parenthood of South Palm Beach and Broward
County.

''When I first got into sex education, I realized it doesn't matter how
professional I am or what I know, I am still a grown-up to my students,''
said Richard Siegel, adjunct sexuality professor at PBCC who helped
organize the all-day event at Pompei Park in Delray Beach.

``Kids speak to kids, and they listen to Devin.''

								
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