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Life & Work with Shawna Lathan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shawna Lathan.

Hi Shawna, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Regarding Culture Clash, I was finishing my Psychology degree while struggling to grasp the concept that I’d just found out that my spouse had contracted HIV… It hurt me so bad, not only because I had to go through the process of testing, and the manipulation, but every emotion that was attached to it. My faith wavered, my ignorance was magnified. During this time, I was working on the brainstorming part for my final project. I’m so thankful for my Instructor who picked up that something was wrong with me, she contacted me and bluntly asked me what was wrong. I blurted out, “my husband is HIV positive and I don’t know what to do!” She challenged me to do my research project about the core of what was bothering me. I didn’t know what was bothering me at the time. Long story short, after much research, I wrote a paper that caused her to respond and asked me what am I going to do with my findings and my present situation. Before I could think, the words, “I’m going to fight it in a creative way in my community with hopes that it will be contagious and spread.

After much thought and prayer, I came up with “Cultural Clash LLC .” See, before I researched, I thought HIV/AIDS only came because you were homosexual. To my ignorance, even though I spent years in Nursing, the education wasn’t emphasized that it could be passed to contaminated needle transfer via drug paraphernalia, heterosexual careless sexual behavior, mother to baby transfer, and more. I repented and decided to educate by creativity and music, put on Fashion Shows to Teach our folks in our communities how to ask the right questions. Teach them how to protect themselves and how to also lower the threshold of suicide rates after finding out the devastating results. I recall going to get tested and a gentleman (age 17), just found out he was positive; he looked at me and said, “how do I tell my Grandmother?” I was broken for this young man as I had no answer. I was relieved after finding out I was NEGATIVE, Thank You Jesus, but I can’t imagine how my mental health would’ve been thinking about my Son, my ministry, my family, my integrity, my honor and even though it was not my fault, it could have been my scarlet letter. So, Culture Clash was Birth with a strong passion to Educate with creative artistry that will draw folks to want to learn and pay attention, especially the younger generation who are coming up.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has NOT been smooth! One would think in an effort to educate, the Community, One would think that public resources would be made easy and accessible, but it’s been the most difficult. The first Fashion Show was a success, in spite of the apprehension. We were able to contribute $1000.00 to the Sampson County Task Force, and help a gentleman with full-blown AIDS (anonymously) to pay his water/electric Bill. It felt good!

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I’m more than just an Activist, I consider myself a Disciple of the Word of God. My love for God compelled me to do good to all mankind.

What were you like growing up?
My Aunt who was a New York City Circuit Court Reporter sponsored My family and I to the United States in 1980. Prior to us moving to the states, we attended secondary school and church (as my Parents were Pastors). When we moved here, we experienced bullying, racism, religious fanaticism, pride and prejudice that scared us into learning that being “brown” skinned is not necessarily a good thing (depending on where in Ferguson you lived). I am the eldest of four siblings, and our parents instilled in us that regardless of what we faced, our education was important. Dad was strict. I became a nerd as they called me, because if I brought home anything less than an “A,” I was writing a 500 word essay on why. So, to avoid the extra work, I focused on the A’ s.


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