Flipping through radio stations on my way home from class a few years ago I heard the voice of a young girl telling her story on NPR and was captivated. The voice I heard was that of Thembi, a young South African living with AIDS who carried a tape recorder and kept an audio diary that aired on NPR in 2004-2005 around the world through Radio Diaries. Thembi passed away a couple of weeks ago from TB.
“Thembi gave me, and many of us, a lesson in courage and in embracing the craziness of life – good and bad. She was brave and open about living with AIDS at a time when most South Africans were quiet about the epidemic. She thought the virus should be scared of her, rather than the other way around. She drew pictures of her virus. She talked to it in the mirror. She gave it orders.
Thembi embodied great ambition to be heard and seen. She thought it was important to speak out against stigma and discrimination. But she was also motivated by fear: she didn’t want to be anonymous… or forgotten.
Thembi we heard you.” -Joe Richmond, Radio Diaries
More on Thembi’s story and her advocacy work can be found on her blog.