An Open Letter to Usher Raymond…I am Sorry

By Rhonda E. Frost

Usher, I am sure this is likely one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to endure. Confessions must pale in comparison. The past two weeks have had to be hell for you and your family. To have a deeply personal incident with your medical privacy violated and a previously settled lawsuit plastered all over the news, on social media, blog posts and gossip outlets, is unfathomable. My heart breaks watching it unfold.

I read one of the first stories to get the gist of it and then I saw the memes that were meant to be jokes, pour in on my social media feed. I read one or two of the comments with tears in my eyes. I simply couldn’t read them anymore.

I am ashamed that people turned this life altering situation, involving real people and a real disease into something entertaining. For that, I apologize to you. I apologize for the judgement, harsh words, the jokes and insensitivity. This story hurts my soul on many levels.

On behalf of our people, I am sorry.

I am sorry that its unfolding like this. I am sorry that someone gave herpes to you. I am sorry for the woman(or alleged women) who you exposed to it (knowing or not). I am sorry you couldn’t find the courage to tell them. I am sorry that now they want your money and that you will likely pay the hefty price for that secret. And I am sorry for the millions of people who have herpes and other STD’s that they have to live with, and who fear what you are going through.

Too many black folk in particular find this situation joke worthy. I apologize that our community finds humor in disease and in stories that hurt others. I am sorry that we have become disconnected to the point where we don’t stop to think before we pass along hurtful memes, videos or news clips that expose our people suffering. I apologize that basic humanity is no longer present in this social media, disconnected world that we live in. It’s all about the “comments”, “likes” and the “check” one can potentially get from a story.

Do the sharers of this news not realize that 1 in 6 Americans have herpes and that anyone can have it and not know because they are asymptomatic? Do they not know that statistics show almost forty percent of African Americans have this disease and that almost fifty percent of black women have it? Someone else gave it to these people too. Do they not realize that if these numbers are true(and apparently they are), that when they post these articles and jokes on their page, they are shaming and making fun not just of you, but also some of their own friends and family members who are also suffering? These millions of sufferers didn’t get a million dollar check when it was given to them, they simply had to keep it moving and figure out how to live with it. The lack of connection is mind-boggling.

And although not the same circumstance, I am reminded that just a week or two ago our people did the same with the Maia Campbell situation. Some clown(for lack of a better word) made a video recording of her at a gas station here in Atlanta, exposing her in one of her low moments. In the video, she is seen talking to the man recording and she tells him she wanted some “crack”. She looked disheveled, she was missing a tooth and was in a bra and panties(shorts?) at a gas station. It was painful to watch. The “brotha”(dubbed a “male friend” in one article),  added further insult to injury and said to Maia, “pump my gas” in pimp-like fashion, disparaging her further while continuing to record and mock her broken state. This black man thought it necessary to post this event on social media, I suppose in an effort to become relevant. The video went viral. It was shared thousands of times amongst our own. People thought it funny. According to reports, she has a crack addiction and suffers from mental illness. How the f*ck is addiction and mental illness funny? Shame on us! Shame on the man who made the video.  And shame on everyone who shared it to get a “like”. But I digress…

The callousness in our people at times is baffling. Did slavery, Jim Crow, lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of nurturing and poverty make us into insensitive human beings? Can we blame those real conditions on our current spirit? As if we don’t have enough issues and obstacles to fight, we have to deal with our own village frenemies as well. These are the same people(your fans), same magazines and news papers that applaud your music and talent, that showcase your success as an artist, your love as a father and who have honored you as a member of the black community. And poof! Just like that, you are reduced to simply a story line, and your business is all in the streets. Oh, what a fickle world we live in!

Social media can be like shark infested water, all they need is a little “chum” or for someone to fall off the boat, and the mindless feeding frenzy begins. Black folks in particular feed off of this kind of thing. We always have. We are the kings and queens of tear downs, demonstratively hateful gossip, and finding ways to shame one another or point out our brothers and sisters mistakes and missteps. I believe it gives those telling someone else’s news, a moment where they don’t have to think about their own misery, ugliness, vulnerability or pain.

Confessing an incurable disease is risky for anyone, but exposing it as a celebrity has to be the scariest thing ever. It’s another level of risk. People pay money for that kind of news story, whether you’ve infected someone or not in today’s “sell a celebrity story to TMZ for a check” climate. I am not excusing failure to disclose, I am simply pointing out the obvious. All of that aside, disclosing isn’t an option.

Living with disease, navigating dating and relationships with a diagnosis and trusting someone with that information has to be the highest level of risk out there. But to be clear, numbers don’t lie. Others are also keeping the secret for whatever reason and by doing so, are infecting other people in our community at an extremely high rate. We cannot continue like this! We have to find the courage to share the news. We have to talk about it openly and do forums that help ease the stigma and that provide a way to share the news safely. Millions of people carry this STI. You, Usher, have an opportunity, like Magic Johnson did back in the day with his HIV diagnosis, to make people aware of the disease and impact lives. The conversation has already started. It’s a wide open opportunity. You have this difficult moment to reflect and teach. Use it to be brave, to stand up and to create something meaningful. I will be happy to help you.

The good news is, herpes is not life threatening. All involved will find a way to keep going forward. You and all involved will bounce back and keep living. You must. Life surely goes on. The victims in your case will be a little more financially secure at your expense and though that doesn’t fix the life long condition, it certainly makes life a little easier for them. Again, millions upon millions of people have it, who never were given money to ease the pain or shame or give them the means to buy medications, pay bills or take a vacation to clear their head.

The statistics with STD’s and it’s impact on our community are real. We have to care enough about each other to have the honest discussion. We have to get tested. We have to set aside our own discomfort to protect others. And we have to hold those discussions in confidence on both sides. We have to care enough about our bodies to use protection especially, if we aren’t brave enough to talk about the elephant in the living room or ask for test results. We also have to do better at becoming caring human beings and not using these stories to bolster our own numbers(“likes”, “friends”), or to gain notoriety by furthering the pain.

The moral to the story is: if you have a disease and you don’t tell someone, you put them at risk, and they don’t get to decide on the act or relationship with all the facts. That is a costly decision. And this applies to every aspect of our dating lives, not just STD’s. We have to have the conversation(s) about things that aren’t pleasant as well. It’s the only way to know if what you share is real. It’s what grown people who care, do.

At the end of the day, this story will give way to the next big news story. Soon and very soon, it will become just another blurb in the social media news spectrum and the sting of the jokes and the headlines for this will fade. Let this be a wake up call about dating, relationships and our sex lives. This isn’t so much about you as a celebrity, as it is the cost of not speaking up and the reality of how hard it is for us to talk about issues to our own people.

And for the people with all the comments and jokes, let this be a reminder to return to compassion and to remember that just because something hasn’t affected us yet, doesn’t make us exempt and that we need to be mindful that even though we may not be impacted, we might have a friend, or family member who is(go back and look at the statistics then look at how many “followers” you have, it’s a given that some of them have it). Words are powerful. Use them to uplift, to improve your people, to offer guidance and advice, to make positive change, not to be the antithesis to that. We have enough mess in our community to overcome, let’s not add to it by jumping on the popular mean-spirited bandwagon.

Usher, my sincere hope is that you will rise from this moment better than you were before, to care more about the people in your life, to protect women and to be open and honest. My hope is that you and the women involved in this unfolding story will all be able to live happy and full lives and that when it’s all said and done, our people will do better.

Let this be our Magic Johnson moment of truth on this topic. Let us be brave enough to keep the conversation at the forefront in an enlightening and honest way and let us be better for it.

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59 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Usher Raymond…I am Sorry

      • Elizabeth Senhouse says:

        MsFrost,
        Re: “An Open Letter to Usher Raymond”
        I thoroughly enjoyed reading what you wrote, in Usher’s defense and to anyone who maybe infected with an STD.
        People on the whole, have become insensitive and very callous to others misfortunes. It is so easy to crush someone, when they are down, facing a crisis or defame someone’s character, for the sake of fame on the Facebook Forum.
        I am a fan of Usher and I detest what was done to him publicly. Did the person publishing the story, think what adverse effect it would have on Usher and his family? I am so ashamed, that people can take the opportunity to joke, share and cannot respect someone’s Privacy.

      • Candice says:

        I was onboard with this, but I honestly stopped reading when the author stated that the women chose to sleep with him unprotected. How does she know this? With all of the facts and statistics that she presented, she left out the very important fact that herpes can be spread even when a condom is used. That is why disclosure is so important. He took away those women’s choice on whether or not to gamble with their sexual lives. Yes, at one time Usher was a victim to whoever gave him the disease, but once he found out he had an obligation to let all future partners know. These women should not be blamed simply because the media did what the media does…find out information and share it with the public.

      • Hi there! Thank you for reading my post and for taking the time to comment. You are correct, at the end of the day, as I stated in this blog, disclosure by Usher wasn’t optional (if in fact he didn’t). None of us know what conversation he had or what actions they or he took before any of them had sex. We weren’t there. What we do know is that this disease is an epidemic in our community which means there are millions of people keeping secrets or lots of condoms breaking. And thus, we need this conversation to continue.

        Usher is paying a hefty price in every sense of the word for keeping the secret (if that’s what he did). But there are millions of other people doing the same.

        How do we create an environment where people feel safe to disclose without being publicly shamed? That’s what I want us to think about.

      • T says:

        This is an amazing article o have every intention on sharing! I really wish that more people wrote more article like this….and I think I may start with me doing so, as a psychotherapist o know first hand the devasting impact mental health, and other health concerns have on people ams their families and it’s definitely not a joking matter. Thank you for being an inspiration.

      • Trace says:

        He is a grown man an should have realize women would trap him with a baby or a disease .. just saying..

      • Yolanda says:

        Wow!!!! Very deep and very true. In all honesty it sounds like someone was being careless and having sex spreading a disease that they knew they had. Now, i could be wrong as the media can try to make you believe anuthing. These celebreties have got to stop this foolishness and in most cases they are usually married. No its not just celebreties but because they are famous, it’s gonna go the way it is. Me getting herpes from someone broke vs me getting herpes from someone rich let’s make a little sense here. Of course if someone rich gave me herpes I am suing them especially if they knew they had it. I respect all that was written and agree with it however if it were someone else that was passing around this disease how would we react? Usher is one of my favorite celebrities and he still is. I feel for him and his wife. This too shall pass though. They are strong enough to get through this. Praying for them.

  1. AngryBlackMan says:

    You can wear 80 condoms or none and still pass Herpes … and while you’re openly apologizing to him you’re also insinuating that the allegations are true. It’s a lot to read but it’s back handed – but this comes after blacks were told we kick people when they’re down and the example of Charlie Sheen was used … this doesn’t solve any problems, and this isn’t a real apology

    • Wow! That’s interesting. You are the only one who saw it as not a “real” apology. In fact it is a genuine as it gets. If you had read the whole thing, you would not say that. I am an Usher fan. And I am most sympathetic to all of this. My heart breaks for him. Next time read it all. Speaking of being mean and judgemental. Mr. Angry.

      • So says:

        Okay… Not understanding so… Millions of dollars over a cold sore ? WOW. He could have caught it playing with a frog like kids do. He a country boy from the back roads of Tennessee. A frog gave me a wart when I was like five, out playing like kids do. When I thought it was gone it resurfaced so I must have caught it too with Usher.

        Even little kids catch cold sores… cold viruses… fever blisters… warts… all the dang time. With that said all of us got herpes and oh girl been had it . Why act so surprised cause you caught a cold and the virus that lies dormant in us all left a cold sore on your private part. Be thankful not on her face.

        Usher we love you!

  2. Ty says:

    This gave me life on so many levels. Social media has desensitized us. We have no compassion for humanity. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Thank you sis! God Bless!

    • Thank you Th. It was on my heart to write it. I feel so many emotions as it relates to him and this story. We can be so disconnected, so evil. I couldn’t idly sit by and watch without speaking up. Thank you for reading and for sharing youe thoughts. Please share it to keep the conversation going.

  3. Elizabeth Senhouse says:

    MsFrost,
    I left my comment to “An Open Letter to Usher Raymond” and thank you, I would appreciate you not publishing my Email Address.

  4. Deborah says:

    Thank you for your insight and sincere apology – your compassion for all involved coupled with the unadulterated truth about our propensity, as a society, to be drawn to condemnation rather than compassion, decorum and GRACE!

    • Hi Deborah, thank you for taking a moment to read my “Open Letter to Usher” and to provide feedback. I appreciate your comments so much. In this case, I felt compelled to address the obvious. We can be so mean and disconnected as a people. We must do better and be better. This was too much. My heart goes out to all. Please share to keep the compassion and conversation flowing.

  5. janet says:

    I really enjoyed the letter, thank you for writing it. I feel bad for Usher. It has to be a very humiliating experience to have your medical information in the public.

  6. Anicia Robinson says:

    This is certain heart felt. Usher is human and his medical information should be kept confidential. Does any understand someone sexually transmitted this disease to him. Life throws us all unexpected journeys. We must all face realities. Love that fact someone took the time to look at this matter from his perspective. We are all human and the way our people are acting during this trying time is very inhumane.
    Keep your head up Usher. Life is full of hard times. We all fall. What matters is how we get up…

  7. Bernadette says:

    I applaud you for seeing this situation from all angles. It is very unfortunate and I agree that these conversations need to happen amongst our people. Sexual promiscuity can lead to sexually transmitted diseases and prevention is key! Instead of tearing each other down, let’s lift each other up and start caring……….

  8. Mary says:

    It is very sad. I am a fan as well. Good article. Yeah people are not honest because of the same. It hAppens and it makes me Mad when people have it and get married and not tell their partner. Crying inside. Where does it leave that person…

  9. Affected says:

    I have HSV2 … I don’t know when I contracted it or by whom although I have a strong idea. What’s happening to Usher has brought back all the feelings of self loathing that I have worked so hard at keeping at bay since I found out I had the virus. This public shaming of him is why most doctors do not test you for this virus. My doctor told me that the social stigma is worse than the actual condition. It’s a skin condition, an irritant. But I have to deal with the idea that I might never find someone that accepts me and I have to go through the anxiety and pain each time I grow close to someone to disclose that I have this only to wait to see judgement, pity or disgust in their eyes. And to watch the mockery of it play out on social media….I can’t tell you the dark places it takes me to.

    • Dear Affected, I am sorry to hear that you have also been affected. The reason I write is to connect. This situation was put on my heart to take it public. I needed the world to know we have to stop being hateful and mean and stop tearing him down. It doesn’t serve anyone to do those things. There is life after herpes. Please don’t hide in shame. I hope to keep this conversation alive and I hope that we will do better in our treatment of people when they share the news. Millions of people have it. It’s time we stop acting like its not real. Keep sharing this blog and let’s keep people talking. I am here whenever you want to talk. Life will go on and things will get better. There’s someone for everyone out there. Everyone!

  10. ChrisW says:

    Herpes, STI’s, and HIV. We as a community must take responsibility to have uncomfortable conversations about sex. Being accountable to ourselves and our bodies. Unfortunately, if this was HIV…i think the conversation would be much different from our community.

  11. Nicole says:

    I am sorry for this judgrmental line in your letter ” I am sorry that those women wanted to be in your bed and space so bad that they decided to sleep with you unprotected”.

    • MsFrostToYou says:

      Hi there Nicole. Presumptive on my part? Perhaps. But I know too many real people who have done this with celebrities and for that matter, non-celebrities as well. In fact if we are honest, all of us have had unprotected sex with someone we didn’t verify. So yeah it happens. As it relates to Usher, only he and they know whether protection was used but what’s real is, unprotected sex is happening all around us, hence the statistics with STDs in our community. That’s not debateable.

  12. Kristle Shanell says:

    GREAT STORY!!!!! I LOVE THE COMPASSION BEHIND THE STORY!!!!! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!!!!! I AM A ADVOCATE FOR STD’S!!!!! WE HAVE TO EDUCATE OURSELVES AND STOP JUDGING!!!!! WE HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY UNTIL IT HITS HOME!!!!! THANK YOU & GOD BLESS!!!!! LOVE KRISTLE SHANELL 🙂

  13. Angelica says:

    Black people have learned to joke through pain as a coping mechanism. I admit I’ve had a few STD’s and if you threw a joke at me while I was going thru that my heart would have been broken but the fact that I know it’s a real situation, I know better now and use protection and make my partners get tested, I can joke about it. We have to realize that the jokes keep you from crying. I love our people, I’m learning it’s some of use that are great people & others who are not. Our youth in particular think life is a joke.

  14. Jamaican Nurse says:

    This was very well put, we all have a responsibility when we choose to be intimate. Yes he needed to disclose, yes women also need to stop sleeping with celebrities just because they are famous. Lot of lessons learnt.

    However I 100% agree that social media has desensitize us. Today’s environment is all about “likes” no matter who gets hurt. Today’s scandal is all about shaming Bobby V.

    What may seem like “the tea” is really hurting someone else..

  15. Candy says:

    I have read your letter of apology to Usher in its entirety. I wholeheartedly agree with you on several levels. I felt horrified for Usher immediately as I read the article concerning the situation. I believe that it is detrimental that we as human beings regain compassion, one for another! There but for the grace of God go us all in one way or another. My heart goes out to Usher and all who are both directly and indirectly affected by this occurrence. Thank you for your letter! Thank you for following your heart and remembering your love for your neighbors!

  16. Zoé Reed says:

    Several individuals highlighted the error, or inference you made that unprotected sex results in the spread of HSV2. This is completely incorrect, whether or not the parties involved used protection does not prevent infection. It is a virus that can spread in multiple ways. Your apology to a male pop star disregards his role in spreading the virus. It is unfortunate how the media and society react to the case, but it does not absolve Usher of his responsibility to disclose, even if someone chose to have unprotected sex.

  17. My Name Jeff says:

    So let me get this straight, he has herpes’ had unprotected sex with these women and knowing that, and I’m supposed to feel sorry for dude? Yeah, right!!

  18. Thank you for writing this. As a woman with herpes, I shared my story through this situation more than I ever have in my life. I appreciate you for this.

    • MsFrostToYou says:

      Deva, thank you for reading my post. And thank you for sharing your story. You are welcome! I wrote this because I had to. This is an epidemic in our community and we can’t ignore it. Millions of people have it and that’s what I wanted to be real about. Folks were acting like Usher was the only one. He’s not! And it’s not funny. And it’s not OK to verbally abuse people and make jokes. I hurt watching it unfold and it’s time we change. If we don’t, no-one will feel comfortable talking about it and the cycle will continue to be what it is. So many people are sharing their story with me, and that alone let’s me know, I’ve done the right thing by talking about it openly. Keep your head up. Life goes on.

  19. There is an assumption that because he paid that someone that tried to slander his name that he somehow actually has Herpes and is passing it along to women. There is quite a bit more to the story and who the original accuser is. This new accuser won’t receive a payout and will have to prove that she 1) has herpes and 2) that she didn’t receive it from other sexual partners she’s had, and 3) that she and the original accuser are not working an angle and was given the information of a payout in breach of a Non-disclosure agreement signed. Let’s think about who the original accuser is and her ties with Usher’s Ex.

    • MsFrostToYou says:

      Interesting. Thank you for sharing. I am sure there’s more to the story. I hope he is vindicated. I know how ruthless some people can be to get a check. Wishing him and all involved, the best.

  20. Angela says:

    Thank for this. I have HSV2…only way that I found out was that I asked to be tested for everything including HSV. Found out that doctors DO NOT test for everything unless you ask. The stats are high but most likely even higher. If your last STD test only included HIV, Syphillis, Chlamidia and gonorrea (excuse my spelling)…then you have not been tested for HSV 1 or 2. Most people have HSV1…ever had a cold sore…well that’s HSV1…HSV2 is more common than people think and yes the social stigma is crazy. A lot of people make fun of people with it not realizing that they may have it too. 1 in 2 african american women have it. I wish people would stop joking and GO GET TESTED!!!! I am glad that I am not a victim of HSV2…I am married with children and doing just fine.

    • MsFrostToYou says:

      Thank you for reading and sharing your story. That’s why I had to write this. Too many people are affected to act like it’s a joke. It’s not. We have to be better and do better.

  21. sadeaj08 says:

    I read the article in its entirety and I must say well done. I totally agree with every word that was written. My most sincere apology to all who are suffering from this infection. I hope Usher takes up your offer and start to educate those who are lacking the knowledge about this infection.

  22. Tammy says:

    My sister got an opportunity to meet him at the Jazz Fest in Cincy. She had backstage passes. And has a great pic with him. This was his first concert since the news was reported. I mentioned to her that he was going through a scandal right now. She said I know but he had many fans young and old lined up to meet him. I thought it was great that she wasn’t judmental and his fans weren’t either.

  23. DoubleR says:

    The one thing that gets me on board with this is if he did not know. A story that I read said that when the girl found out she had it, she called him. He called her back a few days/weeks(?) later with his doctor on the phone to confirm that he had it. That to me is an indication that he didnt know. That makes him just as much a victim in my eyes. All of that is negated if he knew before though

  24. Antwnice says:

    This article is well written.. thank you for this open letter to Usher.. I am so sorry and shocked that this community doesn’t know any better about our history and the statistics of STDs. I was having this conversation the other day with some ladies and they didn’t know anything but wanted to make fun of some stuff that they should be educated on.. it disgusts me how this story was taken and ran with.. this community has got to do better..

    • MsFrostToYou says:

      Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment. That is why I wrote it. I was mortified at the response. Ashamed of us. We have to do better. Nothing about this story is funny.

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