Arts.Advocacy+Wellness: "Cornelius spotlights Brandon Littlejohn and the 'p2 Initiative' ""
Brandon Littlejohn and the 'p2 Initiative'
Well on his way, as moving force and leader amongst young urban professionals in America, is Mr. Brandon Littlejohn. A graduating senior at the University of Michigan, with a double major in Communication and Music, Littlejohn's
educational pursuit has allowed him to blend his passion for the arts, media, and social justice. The rising music and media mogul has began to use his art as a vehicle for social change, on college campuses, by creating a campaign (p2 Initiative) to promote safer-sex and HIV/AIDS awareness, testing, and education.
We got a chance to catch up with Mr. Littlejohn this A.A+W Wednesday and he's what he shared:
Mr. Littlejohn...tell me, where are you from?
BL: I'm from Detroit, MI but I currently call Ann Arbor, MI home. However, in two months or so, I'll be making the transition from the midwest to NY.
Tell us more about your background?
BL: Well, I will be a recent graduate of the University of Michigan come May 1st. GO BLUE!! Basically, most of my life I've been involved in the arts. In high school, I traveled and toured with my high school choir, Renaissance Varsity Chorus. For that part of my life, music was all I did. I knew I wanted to stay involved with music, but I wanted to do more. Eventually, I applied to UM as a double major in Music and Communications. I spent a lot of my time in undergrad
performing and event planning. I had a lot on my mind about what I thought people should be concerned about lol. That was way before the Blacks in America's and media attention on the plight of black men and women. I got my feet wet producing events at the tender age of 18 after I joined my fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and I've been keeping it up ever since. One of the very first events I planned was called "The Extinction of the Black Man". So I developed two passions... Music and Activism, and I've been working to blend the two in everything I do. A few internships later (MTV and Sony Entertainment) and a few arguments with my parents, I decided that I was going to
pursue my creative endeavors full time. And here I am.
How was the p2 initiative birthed?
BL: The 'p2 initiative' was actually born from an event called GET AHEAD 102: The Promiscuity Project. Now, the Promiscuity Project was a brainchild of myself and Rod Gailes OBC that got its start over a some great pizza at Pizza House in Ann Arbor. We were talking about doing a film screening of some shorts that were apart of an HIV Testing Initiative Campaign formed by the League of Awareness. We had done a screening of the films at UM before and they were well received. So the second time around we decided to go bigger. This meant making an entire event out of the films and moving beyond the typical film screening. GET AHEAD 102: The Promiscuity Tour blended the realms of music, film, and art in order to promote HIV awareness, education, and safer sex practices to a younger audience. It featured five short films by executive
producer Rod Gailes OBC as part of an HIV/STI Testing Initiative Campaign formed by the League of Awareness, an underground film collective charged with elevating community response to societal concerns. It took the “preaching” out of HIV education and reaches young adults on a level that can inform,
engage, and entertain....
From there myself and Rod put our heads back together to figure out how to keep the success we had with The Promiscuity Project going. It seemed like a no brainer to launch a high impact, low energy campaign
that extended the message of the Promiscuity Project throughout the entire school year. We got together and conceptualized a 10 image 10 week campaign to launch that featured prominent UM students participating in healthy and active lifestyle scenarios. I partnered with the Multi Ethnic Student Association and University Health Services to set up weekly free 1 hour testing sites. I even coordinated dates where Rapid HIV testing was available because our campus clinic did not offer it. I didn't want to promote getting tested without providing students a space to follow through with the p2 initiative slogan, which is... Get the Ultimate Status Symbol: Knowing.
Can your share any personal stories or testimonies about HIV in relation to your life?
BL: Actually, the work that I've done with The Promiscuity Project and p2 initiative is my first time dealing with HIV. I've never had someone in my family or someone close to me that I knew of contract HIV. I was always a stickler about diseases, stds/sti's, especially the ones that aren't curable. When I was younger I always thought every time I got sick, I had mysteriously contracted some illness that would be the end of me. So, I started getting tested even
before I became sexually active.
When I first embarked on this journey I just wanted to do something that was fun with a positive message. However, when I would walk into the testing sites and see the faces of my peers... it hit me. This work was actually life changing for people. Some people had never been tested before and said that the p2 initiative was the reason they came. It made it cool to get tested and eliminated the stigma around it. In communities of color there is always skepticism about going to the doctor, and when sexual health is involved... things get really hush hush.
Testing is very important, especially for young African American men and women, however, I feel that is not the end all to HIV. What happens when you test someone and say they are HIV positive, what are their next steps and how does p2 initiative help to mobilize the person back into
living? Basically what I'm asking is, what happens next? After testing?
BL: That's a good question. In the initial phases, I was nervous as heck about that! But those nerves were the very reason I moved forward. People needed to know, no matter what the outcome. The HIV counselors were more than equipped to handle that conversations that need to take place immediately following a positive result. I also set it up so students could talk with a CAPS therapist on an ongoing basis. CAPS is our Counseling and Psychological Services center. I didn't want to leave student on their own to cope. I definitely wanted to have resources in place to immediately direct student to.
I'm curious to know more about your fraternities involvement. How has that helped the project?
BL: Oh wow. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Epsilon Chapter was a HUGE HELP! As a matter of fact, all of the male subjects in the p2 initiative photos are all my frat brothers. They helped in raising some of the money to get the campaign off the ground. They dealt with the hectic schedule of the shoots. We shot the campaign mid November, which is basically winter weather without the snow in Michigan. So they froze their butts off while Rod and I were wrapped up and warm lol. They even helped promote the campaign via Facebook and Twitter and word of mouth. And most importantly, they all came out to get tested as well. Some were first timers!
If I am correct, the campaign has ended on the LSA/UHS campus, so what is the next move for the "p2 initiative" and for yourself Mr. Littlejohn?
BL: Well, the p2 initiative has ended for this semester at UM but I am all about keeping a good thing going. Rod and I already have a new series of p2 initiative images in the works for the fall semester. Everyone who partnered up with the initiative wants to see it go up again next year. This year was a test run of sorts with a lot of learning on the job.
The second time around will be bigger and better! The next portion of the campaign is going to be year long with deeper reach into campus and other communities. We are planning to relaunch The Promiscuity Project with additional films, new music, and newer attractions in the fall as well. Currently, we are trying to book the event and campaign at other school. I personally want to focus on Big Ten school as well as the top 15 HBCUs.
I will be relocating to New York, finally... now that school has set me free. I have a potentially awesome new job lined up and I'll be spending a lot more time doing the work it takes to develop this initiative even more as well as few other of my side projects.
A future favorite: Name 1 guilty pleasure.
BL:Oh, that's easy! Buffy the Vampire Slayer! I have seen all 144 episodes of the entire 7 season at least 3 times each. I own all 7 seasons, the movie, several books and even comics. I've done research papers on Buffy and can rattle off a 3 hour lecture on the show at the drop of a dime. Buffy rocks!
A.A+W and Future Fans
definitely stay in touch with Mr. Brandon Littlejohn