Strange Fruit

It’s a busy weekend in Louisville. The Louisville AIDS Walk takes place Sunday on the Belvedere, and one of this year’s special guests is fashion designer Mondo Guerra. Mondo came out as HIV positive when he was on season 8 of “Project Runway” (he came in second, but would later win the first “Project Runway All-Star” season). He’s now part of Project I Design—a national campaign geared toward improving communication between HIV patients and their doctors.

We speak with Mondo this week, who says that despite increased awareness, there’s still stigma surrounding HIV. When he came out on TV, he’d been HIV positive for 10 years but hadn’t told his family yet, waiting until just before the episode aired to have that conversation. “I was very self-shaming, and I was very embarrassed, and I didn’t feel like I could talk to my parents about this,” he says.

“Stigma has always played a role in this experience, this journey that I’ve had with HIV. But at the point that I’m at right now, living with HIV for 13 years and what I’ve been through, I really try to not use the word ‘stigma’ in my own personal vocabulary, because I feel like there’s so much negativity attached to it.”

Elsewhere in town this weekend, the National Jug Band Jubilee is celebrating its 10th anniversary on Saturday at Waterfront Park. Author Michael L. Jones is on the event’s board, and hopes to broaden the appeal of jug bands to the descendants of those who pioneered it: African Americans. 

“When you think of the African slaves, when they came here, they didn’t have instruments. They had to make their own instruments,” he explains. “And so they turned household objects into musical instruments.”

Jones stopped by our studio this week to introduce us to some jug band greats who made music history right here in Louisville. His new book, “Louisville Jug Music: From Earl McDonald to the National Jubilee,” contains photos and detailed stories about how Louisville played such a big role in the evolution of jug band music—and how record companies tried to erase the black players who contributed to its rise.

“This is something that originated in African origins, that African Americans are totally divorced from, because they think plantations, and banjos and stuff,” Jones says. “[In] jug music, you see the first combination of European tunes and African rhythms,” he says.

“I tell people it’s the secret history of rock ‘n’ roll.”

 

Louisville’s own Sara Martin, billed as “The Famous Moanin’ Mama,” sings the “Jug Band Blues” in 1924. 

Strange Fruit can now be heard on 89.3 WFPL in Louisville (and live streaming at wfpl.org) on Saturday nights at 10 p.m.

Laura oversees WFPL's podcast strategy and produces Curious Louisville, where listeners submit questions and our reporters find out the answers.