Nine years ago, when we had a conversation where we both realized we knew people who were affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we could not have predicted what would come from it. One of Karyn’s friends had just let her know that he was diagnosed with HIV. Luvvie had met someone who became a friend, and told her that she had 20 cousins who were living with their grandmother because their parents had died of AIDS-related complications. We realized that women feel the overwhelming brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic: we are the silently infected, we are the moms, the sisters, the daughters of those also diagnosed. And it seemed like nobody was talking about it.
We simply wanted to get people to spend one day talking about HIV/AIDS when we came up with the idea for the first ever Rock the Red Pump® campaign in March 2009. When 135 bloggers joined us to bring attention to the epidemic that we thought wasn’t getting enough, we realized there was something here. National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 10 annually) became an anchor for us.
Our organization, The Red Pump Project (aka Red Pump), was created in order to help inspire much needed dialogue around the impact of HIV on women and girls in the United States, where every 47 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with HIV. This conversation, we hoped, would also lead to empower and action to challenge the stigma associated with the epidemic.
Since our initial call to #RocktheRedPump, thousands of women across the world have shared their stories, engaged in girl talk at the over 40 Cupcakes & Condoms® programs we’ve held and attended one of our signature fundraisers.
We may have started The Red Pump Project, but each of you helped breathe life into the movement with each action that you led. You’ve helped spread our message of education – all while wearing some incredible red shoes.
This is why it is bittersweet to share this news with you. As of July 1, The Red Pump Project ceased its operations as an organization. We made this announcement at our last Rock the RED Fashion show in Chicago in March 2018, because that event was one of our most important ones every year. It was where we got together to celebrate the organization, highlight incredible women who’ve been doing great work AND it allowed us to sustain the organization.
From the beginning of our journey, we have always been proud of our ability to be a bold and consistent voice for women and HIV. It has been an honor to do this work for almost a decade, and to do 10 Rock the Red Pump campaigns.
While Red Pump will no longer exist, the fight against HIV stigma and the fight for the health of women of color will – and absolutely – must go on. To support our sisters, we will be donating our assets to five organizations across the country that are tireless advocates for women impacted by HIV.
- The Afiya Center (Dallas, TX)
- Chicago Women’s AIDS Project (Chicago, IL)
- South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council (Columbia, SC)
- RAIN, Inc. (Charlotte, NC)
- The Women’s Collective (Washington, DC)
Please support these organizations that are doing tireless work to fight HIV and empower women impacted by this condition.
Over the next month, our online assets, social accounts and website will transform into an archive of what we have accomplished since 2009, along with a resource library for all who may still visit our pages.
The work that we have accomplished would never have been possible without the love and support from all of our volunteers, ambassadors, and staff over the years.
An incredible thank you goes out to Skyy Banks, Brittani Menina, Jameka Whitten and Kenya Wafford – our dynamic, selfless, and passionate staff who have been there since the beginning. We decided to honor them with the last Ultimate Red Pump Rocker awards at our 9th annual Rock the RED show in Chicago in March 2018. We love them so much and we thank them for bringing their full selves and their talents to this work.
Thank you to our incredible Board of Directors for guiding us through this season with grace and tenacity. We appreciate your service.
Thank you to anyone who has donated money, time and energy to the little organization that could. You have our utmost gratitude.
What we have been able to accomplish with Red Pump has been beyond what we could have ever imagined. Over the last 9 years, we’ve been blessed to receive many accolades. We’ve been featured in ESSENCE Magazine for our work. We’ve received a Congressional Record from the U.S. House of Representatives. The Mayor of DC proclaimed an official “Red Pump Day” for 3 years.
All of that is wonderful, but the people that we’ve touched is what has made this work so important. It’s the messages and stories that we’ve received from those who said we’ve given them the courage to tell their stories and thrive as they live with HIV. Those are the things that will forever be in our hearts.
We’ve grown up while stomping around in our red shoes. And it is such a part of us. It’s something we cherish. It has been a true honor to lead Red Pump and to have served alongside so many incredible women in our journey.
We have always been a vessel of knowledge but each of you holds the true keys to help move our mission and this greater cause forward. Thank YOU to everyone who has supported us over the years. We could not have done this without you.
While we are closing the chapter on Red Pump, we will never say goodbye to the cause that birthed this organization. If HIV affects one of us, it affects all of us. We look forward to using our gifts and talents to advocate for this important issue in many other ways.
What we want to happen is that the spirit of what we do continues:
- Know the facts about HIV and how it impacts women and girls of color
- Act on this information by telling a friend, advocating for the health of yourself and other women.
- Get tested regularly and often. And, lastly,
- Rock out unapologetically. Be proud to care. Be proud to fight.
Thank you always for your support.
Love and light,
Luvvie Ajayi & Karyn Brianne Lee
Founders/Executive Director and Vice President
The Red Pump Project