AIDS Activist Reprimanded for Tweets

Yesterday Rae Lewis-Thornton posted a blog post about having her honorary membership with her sorority rescinded because of tweets she posted about a year ago. Now just in case you don’t know who Rae  Lewis-Thorton is…

Rae was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1986 when she was 23 years old. Nine years later, Rae had full blown AIDS. (She is now approaching her 50th birthday by the way!) Throughout the past 15 years Rae has been traveling the world to educate young and old audiences alike about HIV/AIDS. She speaks to dismantle the myths about living with and contracting HIV/AIDS. In 1994, Rae was featured on the cover of Essence magazine and has even been the focus of feature stories in Ebony Magazine, Glamour and The Oprah Magazine for her work with HIV/AIDS. Rae also is an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. or perhaps I should say was. 

Last night, Rae revealed on her blog that Tuesday (May 1) she received a phone call informing her that her honorary membership with her sorority had been rescinded due to comments she made on Twitter about another sorority member in December 2010. Rae said the member had been disrespectful in the manner in which she asked Rae to remove sorority pictures from her website, and in return Rae relayed the conversation on Twitter and chastised the member to her Twitter followers. At one point Rae also tweeted that the member was addressing her “like a bitch off the street”.

Ironically, that was the same day Rae was coming to speak at my now alma mater, Johnson C. Smith University. That’s probably the reason I remember those tweets like it was yesterday. That night Rae even opened up her lecture talking about the incident, but I’m going to have to be honest with you guys. I really admired Rae that day. I loved her ‘take no nonsense’ attitude, and I can’t even begin to tell you how impressed I was by the way she went about her work of educating, informing, and breaking myths about HIV/AIDS.

The interesting thing about Rae and her relationship with social media is that she isn’t just an activist who uses social media to spread her message. She’s known for it. She’s been a recipient of both the British Academy Golden Tweet Award in Public Service for 2010 and the 2011 CBS Chicago Most Valuable Blogger in Medical, Health and Fitness. Rae even held the first HIV/AIDS Tweet-Up in the US in July 2010 and organized a Twitter Book Club. Despite these accomplishments in the social media world, Rae is still being reprimanded for her tweets on Twitter.

Whether or not I agree with the organization’s decision to rescind Rae’s honorary membership is completely irrelevant to this posting. However, there is a moral to this story. There are negative consequences that come along with certain behavior that’s exhibited on social networking sites no matter who you are. You simply just can’t tweet what you want without any consequences, which brings me to our familiar lesson of day: Watch what you tweet.

Below check out the video blog Rae posted discussing the situation: