Ludacris urges AIDS awareness

Jake Spring

For a rap star who packs arenas by the thousands, drawing only enough students to fill half of McCormick Auditorium seems ludicrous.

Chris “Ludacris” Bridges spoke on campus Wednesday as part of the national YouthAIDS “Kick Me!” campaign to promote awareness and raise money for AIDS. The invitation only event was co-sponsored by the Center for Student Involvement and the HIV/AIDS Literacy Organization.

Although CSI invited more than 300 students, only 145 attended the event, said Jude Cooper, assistant director of CSI. Students in AIDS-related classes and student group leaders were invited to attend the speech. Television crews were barred.

The speech, which was scheduled to last an hour and a half, was cut down to only 30 minutes, due to constraints of Bridges’ schedule, said Cristina Broker, cause-related marketing coordinator for YouthAIDS.

“We had a meeting with Barack Obama afterwards,” said Broker. “We didn’t want reporters in the room because … we wanted (students) to feel comfortable. So we gave (reporters) a little bit of separate time.”

The event was the second part of a four-city tour with speeches at Columbia University, George Washington University and the University of California, Los Angeles. The campaign included meetings with officials in some cities and appearances at ALDO shoe stores, which sponsors a major AIDS awareness program.

After a brief introduction, most of the event was dedicated to discussion. Broker, who was introduced as a HIV/AIDS specialist, responded to most of the questions. Bridges’ occasional comments drew laughs from the audience.

“It’s time to stack up on those flavored condoms people,” Bridges said. “Let’s keep it real in the room.”

Broker and Ludacris focused on the options available to prevent AIDS-abstinence, faithfulness and condoms-and urged all in the audience to get tested for HIV.

“Half the people that do have HIV or AIDS, they don’t even know that they have it,” Bridges said. “If we just sit here and talk about it, to me, that’s the first step in finding the solution.”

Many audience members expressed complaints about the speech.

“It was pretty short and I thought … they were going to explore the issue more,” said Yemi Adetibi, a McCormick freshman.

Representatives Chip Newcom and Nadia Rawls of Dance Marathon, which benefited pediatric AIDS in 2006, said they were disappointed with the speech.

“I was unimpressed,” said Newcom, a McCormick senior. “Talking about abstinence is great, but all the stuff I’ve read has said prevention of AIDS isn’t through preaching abstinence, but through talking openly about safe sex.”

More emphasis should have been put on condom use, Rawls said.

“They didn’t know their audience,” she said. “The audience they need to talk to is much younger.”

Jen Daniels, a Rainbow Alliance member, said she had no idea what to expect because the event had such limited publicity. She was unsure of the value of the speech to Northwestern students because they are already well educated on the subject.

“It was a little strange that the gay community wasn’t in that presentation at all,” said Daniels, a Weinberg senior.