She was 20 years old when she took the stage at a SpitDat open mike night in Washington, D.C., ready to reveal a secret her family had kept since she was a child: Mary Bowman is HIV-positive and has been since she was born to a poz drug addict who died when Bowman was still a toddler.
You could have heard a pin drop when she spoke, but after hearing Bowman ourselves, we can surely say that deafening silence was probably sheer amazement. Her words and her delivery of her spoken-word performances today are riveting reminders of the universality of experience, but that day it helped Bowman first realize she was not alone. She’s brought tears to the eyes of people at performances nationwide and has become the voice of a poz generation. But it’s her policy and advocacy work at the Women’s Collective in D.C., often helping save women like her mother, that brings it all together.
“She is amazing,” says Carrie E. Foote, an HIV activist and a sociology professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.