John Kelly's Washington: Spreading the Word on AIDS

John Kelly
Washington Post Metro Columnist
Friday, October 16, 2009; 12:00 PM

Post Metro columnist John Kelly was online Friday, Oct. 16, at Noon ET to chat about the people and stories that don't make the front pages, plus his latest columns.

Today: Join and his guest Dwayne Lawson-Brown, a hip-hop poet and breakdancer from D.C. who spreads the word on HIV prevention -- and crochets.


Washington, D.C.: Cheers John and Dwayne,

Loved the story about Dwayne's work and creativity.

My Question: How effectively do you think non-profits and D.C.-based social campaigns in general have tapped the resources of the creative community -- artists, dancers, writers -- in generating awareness and building community? Getting His Message Out by Hook or by Crook (Post, Oct. 12)

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: that's a good question, I think that non profits are often looking for artist in the community to expose and utilize for events and causes, but maybe there is a disconnect between artist and organization. I've had a lot of opportunities to shine in the community because of non-profits, and I work under Metroteenaid's' social marketing campaign focused on the arts and HIV prevention (REALtalkdc - google us. lol)

but there is definitely opportunity that's not being taken. lets get non profits to the open mics.

I host one at the ECAC (google them too) at 733 Euclid St.. Thursdays, its certainly a crowd that seeks enlightenment and I think we have the artist with a cause that organizations are looking for.

thanks for the question


John Kelly: Greetings everyone. If I appear a little frazzled it's because I rolled into work a little late. More problems on the Red Line. I don't know what Metro can do about things like this: a crazy woman making a bomb threat. It's not as if that's Metro's fault. Unless you believe that Metro's well-publicized problems of late bring out the loonies.

Speaking of loonies: What do we think of balloon boy and his father? It was a gripping story, if only because of how oddly beautiful that silvery balloon looked floating over Colorado. Did it remind anybody else of

Jiffy Pop


Boy, the weather of late has really hit me for a loop. Blame the unseasonably nice weather we had until, well, a couple of days ago. Now it's rainy and cold and it seems like winter's here. It's perfect scarf weather, which is good for my guest today. I wrote about

Dwayne Lawson-Brown

in my column on Monday. Dwayne does a bit of everything, but what caught my eye was seeing him crochet on the Metro. I put some examples of his work

on my blog today

. I think I may need to order a scarf. But Dwayne's also into all aspects of hip-hop culture AND spreads the word about NOT spreading HIV.

Time to talk...


Washington, D.C.: This is late, I know, but I couldn't believe anyone challenged Ted Kennedy's right to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery next to his brothers. Even if he had never served a day in the military, this should have been a no-brainer.

John Kelly: This is in reference to an Answer Man column from a few weeks ago. I think there are a couple of reasons. Yes, one might be some people's deep-seated animosity toward Kennedy. (We've all seen how uncivil people can be these days.) But I think it's a legitimate question to raise. After all, the rules about burial at Arlington are pretty strict. If an exception were made for Kennedy it could upset people.

Having said that, several readers pointed out that Answer Man was gentle in his mention of where Ted Kennedy did his Army service. Supposedly his father pulled strings to get him posted to NATO HQ in Paris, not a typical first duty station for a newly-minted private.


The balloon kid: Is anyone else sick of these reality show types milking their 15 mins. of fame to death?

John Kelly: Yes, I definitely am. I hope authorities really dig into this Heene guy. I wouldn't put it past him to have conjured up the whole thing. I love (and when I say "love," I mean "hate") the way the media was treating him as a nearly legitimate researcher who was studying weather and "astronomy." A Colorado paper had a story a while back on his storm chasing. And he submitted stuff to CNN's iReport, including this ridiculous video on proof of Martian civilization. I think it's quite possible this gentleman is a few cans short of a six-pack.


John Kelly: Hey Dwayne. You do so much--what with the crochet, the breakdancing, the spoken word--what's your favorite? And why?

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: That's a really hard question because I don't really have a favorite. Each art form handles a different mood. some days when I'm blue, crochet is the only thing that makes me feel a little better. and I'm sure if anyone happens to pop their head into the Metro TeenAIDS office, you will might just catch me dancing. I just have to find a way to crochet while breakdancing and crocheting, then I'll have the perfect hobby.


Crownsville, Md.: I was surprised to see in this morning's Post that area hospital chaplains make over $100,000 per year. I've been hospitalized several times this year and, while I don't really begrudge them the money, it does shape my perception of their visits.

John Kelly: In what way? Do you think they wouldn't visit if they weren't getting paid so much? I think they probably earn it and I imagine they'd be making a similar amount if they were the head of a church, which I suppose they sort of are in a way.

I don't begrudge most high salaries. Now, CEOs of bailed-out banks and insurance companies are another story....


Washington, D.C.: John, I don't believe in corporal punishment; I've never hit a child and don't intend to. However, I'm willing to make an exception for "balloon boy." That brat shut down Denver International Airport! I hope at least that his parents have to pay through the nose for his "prank." Boy's Comments After Balloon Chase Spark Fresh Questions (Post, Oct. 16)

John Kelly: The whole thing is fishy to me. And who names their kid "Falcon"?


20005: Mr. Kelly: First, I'm a big fan. Keep it up. Second, I'm trying to get the word out that someone is trying to close the Farmers Market on 8th Street because it adds 15 minutes to his commute. Can you help spread the word? Downtown Commentary Thanks!

John Kelly: Seems to me he could leave 15 minutes earlier. Maybe someone can buy him off with free chard or heirloom potatoes?


Benning Road: hey, Dwayne --

Can you tell us a little more about Metro TeenAIDS?

-- Benning Road

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: no problem Benning road,

Metro TeenAIDS is the only non-profit in the dc area with its sole focus being on lowing the HIV transmission rate in youth between 13-24.

we have multiple programs, but i will focus on a few.

the school services department has in school education programs for middle and high school classes. Teaching the Making Proud Choices and BART curricula. they also do a program called vybe club which is a cool Teen Pregnancy prevention program for afterschool centers.

I work under the "REALtalkDC" social marketing campaign, making HIV testing cool for youth 13-24 through poetry hip-hop, blogs and all that stuff, visit us at or catch us on facebook as the REALtalk Reps.

and there is freestyle youth center, our after school drop in center for youth who want a safe and fun, yet education place to hang out afterschool. we are renovating the center, so we are currently residing at 1230 Penn Ave..

I hope i answered you question, if you would like more info visit

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: No problem Benning Road,

Metro TeenAIDS is the only non-profit in the D.C. area with its sole focus being on lowing the HIV transmission rate in youth between 13-24.

We have multiple programs, but i will focus on a few.

The school services department has in school education programs for middle and high school classes. Teaching the Making Proud Choices and BART curricula. they also do a program called Vybe Club which is a cool Teen Pregnancy prevention program for afterschool centers.

I work under the "REALtalkDC" social marketing campaign, making hiv testing cool for youth 13-24 through poetry hip-hop, blogs and all that stuff, visit us at or catch us on facebook as the REALtalk Reps.

And there is freestyle youth center, our after school drop in center for youth who want a safe and fun, yet education place to hang out afterschool. We are renovating the center, so we are currently residing at 1230 Penn Ave.

I hope I answered you question, if you would like more info visit


John Kelly: I know where I'm going after work today: the Black Rooster Pub. I don't think I'll order the Colorado MFer,though.


John Kelly: Dwayne: What's the reaction you get when people see you crocheting? It's not something many men do.

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: i definitely get some interesting reactions, just now on the way here there was a single mom and 2 of her friends, and I'm crocheting, and the mother pics up her newborn daughter and says, "That's the kinda man you want, he'll knit for you baby." Those are my favorite reactions. There are also the tough guys who say their grandmas did it and tried to show them, but they can't remember anything. We all have some sorta thing to connect us, soI really enjoy those moments of connection.


Small town, Va.: I miss D.C. soooooo much. The momentum for gay rights is hitting just about the right tone I feel. Do you kinda sense that too?

Now I live in a small town in Virginia and no one dares say he or she is gay. The irony is that it is okay to be gay for a little while if you are drunk, but otherwise forget it.

My hope is that D.C. can provide a leadership role in gay marriage, as well as showing sexual orientation is no big deal. Maybe the attitude will catch on in small towns.

John Kelly: I hope so, though it seems at times like one step forward, two steps back. I thought this Onion piece, If God Had Wanted Me To Be Accepting Of Gays, He Would Have Given Me The Warmth And Compassion To Do So, was pretty funny.

Being gay for a little while if you're drunk sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.


Washington, D.C.: Dwayne, I'm wondering what element(s) of hip-hop do you find most helpful in your work with young people? What gets them to really engage with your message and create their own responses?

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: thanks for the question,

well emceeing is the most common element that folks tend to connect with because to some its the easiest to understand. Words have power and a lot of people are able to immediatly get with what you are saying, so i probably use emceeing the most personally.

But graffiti (or street art to others) is REALLY powerful in done right. visuals make this real for some, and some people just can's see the vision without a picute. a partner organization of ours doest great work thorugh hip-hop. Check out words beats and life inc. we are working together to use hip-hop to fight hiv, so im really excited.


Arlington, Va.: John, can I ask something about this kaleidoscope thingy they're putting up on the 14th Street Bridge? It sounds like it will be a huge accident-causing distraction for drivers. Why are they doing this? Danke.

John Kelly: They're installing the kaleidoscope as a public art project, a memorable way to enliven an entrance to the city. Both the artist and DC DOT tell me they were careful to design it in a way that it not be a distraction. However, I have heard a rumor that they are going to hold off on throwing the switch until all the work on the bridge is finished. They were going to turn it on soon, before the bridge was resurfaced. But there seems to be some concern about the safety of the workers working there. I hope the kaleidoscope isn't a distraction because I think it's sort of cool. And cool ideas should be encouraged.


Bowie, Md.: John, Rob Pegoraro is late for his chat. Can you quickly tell me how to sync my Palm using bluetooth after upgrading to Windows 7?


John Kelly: Yes, drag the file marked "Irreplaceable Data" to the trash can icon. Hope that helps!


Chaplains: I didn't read the chaplain article, but there's no way most pastors/religious leaders are making 6 figures. I'm certain that both of us are making way more than our pastor. In fact, for many religious leaders, they need to have another job to make ends meet.

John Kelly: On the plus side, they get to go straight to heaven.


D.C.: A question for Dwayne --

How much does it cost for me to get tested for HIV at Metro TeenAIDS? Is it hard? Does it take long?

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: Actually, it's free. at Metro TeenAIDS we do confidential HIV testing, meaning no one know your results except you and the tester.

Also it's painless. we do the oral test, where we swab your mouth and you get your results in 20 minutes. making it quick as well.

Again we are located at 1230 Pennsylvania Ave. but if you need to know where you can get tested anywhere in D.C., text "realtalk" to 61827 and it will bounce a text back to you with testing sites around the city.

Take care thanks for the question


Bethesda, Md.: Hi John! So will I be seeing at the Washington Opera's costume sale in Takoma Park this weekend? I know you LOVE wacky costumes. :)

John Kelly: Sadly, I will be busy during the sale. But it sounds like fun, doesn't it? I don't know enough about opera to know which ones have good costumes. Do all the women wear helmets with horns? And how hard is to made a Barber of Seville costume? A white smock and a pair of scissors should do it.


Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: When I lived in Juneau, the local microbrewery made this "excellent" (to borrow from the brain-dead) oatmeal stout. I used to wander over to the Hangar (an eatery on the waterfront) and order a Halibut burger, steak fries, and one of these liquid pain killers.

Did I mention excellent?

Now where did I leave my car keys..

Thanks much. Ex-pat Alaskan

John Kelly: Thank you for sharing, Mt. Vernon. It suddenly got very Alaskan around here. More Sarah Palin influence?

I can honestly say that while I've had an oatmeal stout before, I've never had a halibut burger. I suppose if I saw one on the menu I'd order one, just for the halibut. Heh heh.


University of Alaska at Fairbanks: In addition to breakdancing, hip-hop stuff, and crocheting... do you have what used to be called a day job?

They don't have them anymore. Day jobs, that is. They went the way of news on the television channels.

So are you secretly a Congressman, K. Street lobbyist, bag man for the political mob, or out of work main stream journalist?

If the latter, John probably knows a support group where crocheting is welcome. And advised.

Thanks. Go Nanooks

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: lol. Well, technically Metro TeenAIDS is my day job.

We were founded my doctors and care providers from Childrens Hospital when they started seeing cases of kids comming in with these rare diseases and symptoms. so they started this group to educate and fight back against the spread of HIV. Earlier this year we celebrated our 20th anniverary and im proud to play a part of this history.

I am the Community Outreach Coordinator and tester. So i provide HIV testing at events, manage a team of peer educators who go into the community and provide outreach, and i facilitate some of the after school programs we have under the VYBE club brand.

So yeah, no bat cave for me, but i certainly have my Bruce Wayne-ibility.


Philadelphia, Pa.: I'm not sure the kid(s) involved in the whole balloon flap are the ones who deserve punishment -- it sounds like parenting classes are in order, at minimum. But I wouldn't blame the kid for the whole fiasco. He's not the one who thought that buiding a giant balloon, attaching a basket, and then leaving it unsupervised (and not secured) in the yard, while it was inflated and after already yelling at the kids once to stop playing with it, was a good idea.

He's six, and even if he did intentionally decide to re-enact "Up" he couldn't think through to the ramifications. His parents, presumably, can.

John Kelly: Agreed. The kid isn't to blame. I'd sure take a close look at the father, though. He seems to coat his wierd obsessions with a thin layer of "science." But on that iReport video he reminded me of someone suffering from a bipolar disorder. He was really ranting.


John Kelly: Dwayne: D.C. has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the nation. Why do you think that is? What can we do about it?

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: unfortunatly we do have the highest HIV infection rate in the country. one of the reason, i believe, are the high levels of poverty in dc. we live in a small city, and when folk are inpoverished (spelling?) people are less likely to be concerned with how they are putting themselves at risk. im not gonna be worried about HIV if im more likely to die from hunger.

its also a lot of "its not me". people want to blame everyone else. and people worry about who started hiv, where did it come from. when the real issue is that its here. not what are we gonna do about it.

good question


Kaleidoscope?: This is the first I've heard of it.

If the District wants drivers to have something to look at, why don't they just tell people to read their email?

This will not end well.

John Kelly: Let me tell you a story: In college I had a job delivering photos. I worked in a lab putting peoples' pictures into envelopes and then drove them to retail establishments around Washington. One day I was driving near the Pentagon.I love airplanes and as I was driving--can't remember where; GW Parkway? 395?--my attention was drawn to a low-flying jet. I thought for sure it was going to crash, so low was it. I watched it and then felt a tremendous boom! I had inadvertendly drifted to the left, my car (a Chevette!) hit the curb. It dented the rim on the back wheel and caused the tire to go flat. I had to get out and put on the spare.

The plane, which was on a typical approach to National, landed without incident.

My point is that there are distractions everywhere. I think some people might be distracted on the 14th Street Bridge by Washington itself. Seeing the monuments always makes my heart beat faster.

So I think it's possible for the kaliedoscope to function without causing problems.

I do draw the line at texting in cars, which seems to me another thing altogether.


John Kelly: Dwayne: I get the feeling you'd do crochet even if you weren't paid for it. But getting paid must be nice. Tell us how much the various things cost. How much is a scarf? A hat? Etc.? And do you ever set up at Eastern Market or anywhere to sell your items?

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: ok, pricing question, i got this one.

hats start at $10

scarves start at $15

It all depends on the yarn, some specialty yarns are more expensive making the piece more expensive. but i still try to make stuff affordable because i live in a realworld. and i know how the money tends to vanish.

i havent set up at eastern market yet, but im looking for those connections. if mainly meet with people who email me about scarves hats and such, and i sell scarves and hats at the open mic i host. i also have pieces on me right now and im at the dunkin donuts at eastern market on my lunch break. hehe

You can see some of my work at Facebook: Dwayne B!

You dont have to have a facebook account to see it.

Let me know hwat you think.


Gaithersburg, Ma.: John, I want to see you breakdance. Oh, and both the balloon kid AND his father needs to provide several thousand hours of community service.

John Kelly: How about teaching them how to make balloon animals and then sentencing them to perform at kids' birthday parties for the next five years?


Alexandria, Va.: Hey -- You think that balloon dad is a little nuts? Seeks a little fame? Did you hear that the whole family was on Wife Swap TWICE!! They are a camera-loving family . . .

John Kelly: How can you be on "Wife Swap" twice? Did the first swap not take, like a kidney that rejects its new host?

I suppose, in a sense, we have no one to blame but ourselves. If we stopped watching ridiculous shows like "Wife Swap" maybe they'd stop making them.


Arlington, Va.: Mr. Lawson-Brown --

I really enjoyed John's profile of you! Since it was published, have more people approached you on your commute? Has it helped sales?

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: thank you! it hasnt really drummed up a lot of activity from people on the train, but a lot of my onld classmates have found me on facebook and made comments. and my church family was really excited.

im just blessed to have be in the right place around the right person.

sales wise, i have gotten a few new orders. but if you know anybody in the scarf market, you can certainly send them my way.


Alexandria, Va.: It's rainy outside, yet I am on my porch smoking a cigar. Plus, I can spit. Life is good.

John Kelly: Chewing tobacco AND smoking a pipe? Are you affixing multiple nicotine patches and chewing on Nicorette too?

(I'm just bitter because I don't have a porch.)


Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: Those prices for items that Dwayne just quoted seem awfully low. Go online, dude -- you can kick up the prices and raise more money. Just post a Web site link.

I just bought camp booties from 40 Below online -- to keep my feet warm in the house at night. $80 or so. Your items should command a higher price than you've quoted: not even counting the value to the community and to general AIDS/HIV awareness.

The Web. Never leave home without it. -- Karl Malden.

Thanks much. HLB.

John Kelly: I thought the same thing. I want to order a scarf quickly before Dwayne raises his prices. But I'd hate for people to think that he sold out right after my column came out.


NE, D.C.: What is Metro TeenAIDS doing to get condoms in the hands (and elsewhere) of sexually active youth?

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: We at MetroTeenAIDS were pretty involved with working with school nurses to see that the policy changed around condom distribution in schools. now students are able to go to the school nurse and recieve condoms free of charge.

But it's no use getting a condom if you don't know how to use it. So we have been in partnership with city year Washington, D.C., for what I believe has been 5 years, to help reach every student so that by 10th grade, they have recieved a comprehensive reproductive health education, including the importance of abstinence, how to put on a condom and sexual activity negotiation skills, STI education, and teen pregnancy prevention.

We are trying to make sure all our students are able to make health and proud choices.


then leaving it unsupervised (and not secured) in the yard, while it was inflated : I believe you can be prosecuted for "maintaining an attractive nuisance" on your property; looks like this fits the bill.

And what kind of balloonist leaves an inflated balloon without securing it in a way that a six-year-old can't undo?

John Kelly: Right, it's like having a swimming pool in your backyard without a cover on it and leaving the gate unlatched.

It's so odd that he built a balloon in his back yard. The images I saw of the neighborhood on TV made it look like just a regular suburban house.


Crazy ladies: Recently we had a crazy lady screaming her lungs off at 2 a.m. on a Thursday night. Obscene words entered the ears of a few children that live in my apartment complex but several 911 calls resulted in what you might expect: nothing. Sorry you had to experience a different crazy person.

John Kelly: Perhaps if Beyonce recorded a single called "Crazy Ladies"....

Not to make light of mental illness, but it sure seems like we need a way to get these people help -- for their sake, obviously, but also for ours.


Dwayne Lawson-Brown: You know what's funny,Inotice that depending on where I go, people either say its too low or too high.Iwent with the most common medium because most of my market consists of college students and artist who don't really have the disposable income that some folk have.

So when most people say I charge to little, Imention that i do accept donations. And Ihave a following that knows and understands why I charge so little, and they pay extra for every piece because the respect the time I put into it.

I don't know, maybeIshould reevaluate the pricing or potentially have a student discount of some sort.


It's rainy outside, yet ...: I am on my porch knitting a scarf in a beautiful variegated aqua-green. Plus, I can post to Kelly. Life is good.

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: Ooooh. good color choice, im currently working on a black and white bowtie.


Twice swapped: Apparently, they were voted among the fan favorites (because the father was/is a total screaming whack job) and brought back for another show. (I SWEAR I have never seen the show, except for worst-of clips on "The Soup." I read this yesterday on And yet I still feel so, so dirty.)

John Kelly: Sometimes I think we're returning to the days of freak shows and bear-baiting. Or maybe we never left them. Bread and circuses, people!


NE, D.C.: When you're working with youth at Metro TeenAIDS, what's the hardest part about getting through to them about why it's so important they use a condom every time?

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: The hardest part about working with some of the youth at MetroTeenAIDS is working with the standard that has been set for them. a lot of social conditioning makes the young men feel like they have to be hard. and so when you are talking about something as intimate as placing a condom over the penis, the crowd tends to become a bit uncomfortable.

in my personal opinion, sex is one of humanities few moments of release, and often we try to make it as pure as posible, but it can also cost you a lot of pain. so we try to build a sense of self worth over the pleasure of that one moment, and the youth tend to grab on to that.


Balloon Boy: I think he deserves some sympathy -- after all, he's the one who will have to grow up 24-7 in a household that doesn't allow jammies (in case you need to leap out of bed to chase a storm in the middle of the night), and a dad who by all evidence seems to precariously balance on that line between quirky and dangerously manic.

Good call on the bipolar.

John Kelly: Someone just told me the boy threw up on national television this morning. Poor kid. The stress seems to be getting to him. Now's when the father should say, "No more TV for us." And the media should follow suit.


John Kelly: Dwayne: Tell me a little bit about your poetry. What is it like? Where do you perform?

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: ahh. i am my own worst critic when it comes to my poetry, but i write alot about life, relationships, and the neighborhood i grew up in.

i also have a tendency (spelling?) to see people on the train or bus and become really inspired to write something. creating lives for the people most neglect.

I really like haiku/senryu. i write alot of them, i may do a book of them if i can find the right publisher.

You can see some of my work on

Or you can catch me at busboys and poets in shirlington.


D.C. in PG: Dwayne, where are you all reaching young people and when are you there? I have some teens that need to hear what you all are saying!

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: We reach youth wherever they are. if you want us to come out to your school or organization, or block, give us a call at 202-543-0094. ask for me or nicole styles.

We try our best to make this information accessible to all people. thats our job.

Thanks for the question.


John Kelly: Thanks for stopping by everybody. And thanks for joining us, Dwayne. I hope that people will feel free to introduce themselves to you if they spot you crocheting around town. If people are interested in Dwayne's creations, they can go to The Crochet Kingpin. Or shoot me an I'll forward it to Dwayne.

And for more on the work Dwayne does to prevent HIV, visit

Metro TeenAIDS


Stay warm and dry this weekend.

Dwayne Lawson-Brown: Thank you very much for this opportunity John.

It's not everyday that a random crocheting guy gets noticed. No matter how uncommon the sight may be. Thanks for the questions and feel to hit me up at any time at


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