by Chelsey Sellars | The Center For Black Health & Equity Communications Specialist
A chilly, windy weekend in Baltimore, Maryland didn’t stop thousands of people from going to the CIAA Fanfest.
Many came for CIAA (meaning) tournament to watch their favorite HBCU athletes play basketball but in between games, fans came in waves to visit vendor booths and sponsors.
This year our booth featured materials to support the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign, tobacco cessation, and the 1-800-Quit Now line, along with a PSA feature Jenifer Lawrence advocating for the Truth Check campaign.
It was a boisterous two days in the Baltimore Convention Center — step teams and cheerleaders performing, DJs blasting the current hit music, and people dancing for 360 video cameras to later share the clip on social media.
Even we had one of the trendy cameras, but reluctantly people were drawn to The Center booth for other reasons.
With so many Black small businesses and vendors in the space, people were surprised and glad to see a section dedicated to the public health of Black people.
Some people acquired the public health resources to be shared with a loved one.
One mother picked up a pamphlet to talk about quitting tobacco, asking if it would help to get her teenage son to drop his e-cigarette. “The ads always say it’s safer, but I’m not really sure,” she said.
A couple grabbed several other forms saying their adult daughter is “the only one in the family that smokes tobacco and needs to stop.”
Then one mother, hastily holding 3 children in one hand, grabbed several quitting pamphlets with the other.
“I’m grabbing these for me. I know I need to quit,” she said with a shy smile, “I just need some extra help.”
Some people grabbed HIV testing information quietly, others expressed their frustration with HIV stigma while doing so.
The Center’s presence at CIAA was to spread awareness and share information but it was a small hub for gratitude.
“I’m so glad y’all are doing this,” said an elderly woman at the table; “my husband died of lung cancer years ago. Now I don’t have a nice booth like you do, but when I see young people buying cigarettes at the gas station I stop them to talk about my husband.”
Overall, CIAA Fanfest was an overall success. It’s clear that many people enjoyed their time there and are looking forward to next year’s event in the Charm City.