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Strange Fruit: Elizabeth Taylor Ran A Drug Ring (For HIV-Positive People)

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World AIDS Day

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This week, on World AIDS Day, we reflected on those we've lost and those who are still fighting — against both HIV/AIDS itself and the ignorance that leads to shame and criminalization.

We also learned about a piece of AIDS history we never knew before: This week on Entertainment Tonight, model Kathy Ireland revealed that actress Elizabeth Taylor ran what was essentially an underground drug ring and safe house to help HIV-positive people. At the time, health care for AIDS patients was abysmal, and lifesaving drugs had to be smuggled into the country illegally.

Jaison told us about a great panel discussion featuring Norman Lear, the pioneering TV producer behind socially progressive shows such as "All in the Family," "Good Times," "The Jeffersons" and more. Lear told the panel that TV is still a place where social norms can be challenged and stereotypes can be upended. New shows like "Black-ish" have picked up where the groundbreaking shows of Lear's heyday left off.

But it's not just the content of TV shows that influence culture, for better or worse. The advertisements that come between show segments don't always just push products — they can also present certain mindsets about gender, race, sexuality and other values.

"You virtually never see men in any kind of commercial cleaning up their home, or even their office space," Kaila says. "This is how advertising basically facilitates ideas of misogyny and patriarchy."

But it's not just women who are maligned by this approach — the same companies generally portray men as clueless and helpless in the domestic sphere, when in reality, Kaila says, "a grown man knows how to do his laundry."

Our feature interview this week also explores the social and economical forces that may hold men down, and how cities around the U.S. are trying to mitigate those forces. This week, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement released its first-ever Black Male Achievement City Index.

The index measures factors such as whether a city has philanthropic groups and leadership initiatives focused on helping black men and boys succeed. Louisville scored 51 out of a possible 100 points, putting us around the middle of the top 50 cities.

Daryle Unseld, senior community manager for Metro United Way, joined us to talk about the local results. He says the Louisville numbers reflect national trends, and he's happy with the results.

“I think it’s a great start,” Unseld said. “I think we have the urgency and the opportunity to do more. While we can celebrate some successes, I think we also need to be cognizant that we have a lot of work to do.”

He laid out some of the initiatives that are happening around Louisville to foster improvement.

To understand the wider national context of the study, we spoke to Rashid Shabazz, a program officer with CBMA. He says while black men do face disparities in employment, education and policing throughout the U.S., this particular report focuses on the ways cities are trying to help.

“We want to spotlight these initiatives and efforts that are moving forward in the midst of the peril and the challenge that folks are facing,” he says. “These are glimmers of hope.”

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.