Sunday, October 30, 2005

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

American Heritage caravan update # 10

By Vaughn Frick
American Heritage caravan rider

October 30, 2005
Chicago, Illinois to Indianapolis, Indiana

Last night at the Institute for Cultural affairs we met up with the Seattle caravan also on their way to Washington, D.C.
Tired, hungry, grumpy, stinky, and road-weary,it was utterly wonderful to meet up with another arm of the body of this movement.
Today our separate caravans will set off in different directions, next to meet in the belly of the beast of the United States of America.
Today also we met the 9 people from Chicago who will join our caravan on this journey to save our lives and breath life, hope, and the will to end the AIDS pandemic. Many of us on this caravan have no health care or medical insurance, and as was with those who suffered and died after Hurricane Katrina, we tenuously live our lives but a few days away from disaster and death.
I think of Lonny on this caravan who will loose the medications that keep him alive come the new year. If we fail, the new year will bring him death. His laughter that I hear today on this bus will be silenced.
This is the reality of America today as many of us daily slip beneath the surface of utter destitution down into our graves, often alone in the cold night, invisible.
I've met so many kind, generous, truly inspiring people on this long road of adversity lit by that eternal spark of hope, that this nation can be the America that was the dream we were told in our youth. The shadow-side of this dream today for many is nightmare; a bloody legacy of war, genocide, racism, and greed.
This hope burns bright in the hearts of those who have joined us today in Chicago. The American Heritage caravan is 23 people strong now. To look around the table this morning when we met, where everyone had a seat at the table, there was no doubt that what we have been able to accomplish so far is historic.
What started out as a caravan of mostly Gay white men has been doubled where the majority is now African American. We are represented now in this caravan by Latinos, by Native Americans, and by the strength of women. Many women had wanted to join this caravan, but the realities of their lives are that often they are the caregivers of their children and families, and it was difficult if not impossible to leave their families for the duration of this action.
Yet today they are here with us, along with those with wheelchairs and oxygen tanks.
This is what we must do to keep alive.
Tonight there burns a flame of hope in America.
To learn more of this campaign and caravan, and how you can help, please log onto:


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At 8:52 PM, Blogger Rosa Benito said...

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At 8:53 PM, Blogger bloggrez said...

Disasters in the Internet Age
On Sept. 15, through a private Web site called, Ruby pleaded for help.
Just like so many Americans my friend loves the clubs and pop r & b lyrics so he went ahead and built an awesome website about pop r & b lyrics. When he's in high spirit he goes to the site and start reciting all his favorite pop r & b lyrics. Says it's good for the heart. Guess what? I gave it a shot and it works great!

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Pickett said...

Hey guys ---

It was so wonderful to host you all in Chicago this past weekend. Sending you much love and all that as you wind your way to DC. We are so proud to know you and excited about the great work you are doing. Also, a big HELLO DOLLINGS to the nine Chicagoans who joined the Caravan on Sunday. We know you will ROCK.... Please check AIDS Foundation of Chicago's website for all kinds of great info that can help you with your advocacy efforts - Here is a link to our local C2EA stuff ---
And here is another link for some great Ryan White CARE Act info --- our CARE Act Action Center.
Safe travels....

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Pickett said...

Washington Post --- HIV-AIDS Message Fills Hearts, Highways

Lowen - you rock!!!!

HIV-AIDS Message Fills Hearts, Highways
D.C.-Bound Effort Aims To Invigorate Response

By Susan Levine
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 31, 2005; B01

They are traveling cross-country by buses and minivans and even by foot, small bands of Americans whose lives have been hurt by HIV or AIDS and who believe that coming to Washington by the most grass-roots means possible will refocus attention on the toll the disease continues to take.

When their caravans converge here late this week, the destination will not be the Mall, where so many causes are celebrated and their import often is measured by the size of the crowd. Instead, the Campaign to End AIDS and its "4 Days of Action" will be in a park in Anacostia, a testament to the virus's increasing devastation in the black community.

Nowhere in the United States is that more pronounced than in Washington, which suffers a far higher incidence of AIDS -- 170.6 cases per 100,000 people, according to federal statistics -- than New York, San Francisco or Philadelphia. Nearly 85 percent of new diagnoses in the District in 2003 were made in African Americans, with women a growing subset.

"This is to show that people care about the epidemic, that it's not over, that they have a voice," said Marsha Martin, head of the D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration, who supports the unusual mobilization.

Organizers say the campaign was borne of frustration over the country's "stalled response" to AIDS and a widespread public assumption that, because of recent drugs that increase longevity, the virus is no longer a critical public health issue. The caravans were to have been on the move in September, but Hurricane Katrina forced delays that led to scaled-back plans and, probably, to lost support and attention.

The remaining nine groups started this month from Portland, Ore., and Seattle, from a trio of cities in California, from Brownsville, Tex., and Burlington, Vt., Key West, Fla., and Times Square in Manhattan -- the latter, the walking caravan, kicking off with a march through the Lincoln Tunnel. Participants have relied on the kindnesses of churches, YMCAs, recreation centers and strangers for their food and shelter. Only rarely, they say, have they encountered hostility.

"We believe in the decency of people," Lowen Berman said Thursday outside an bank in Iowa City, where he and 13 other people had stopped for the night. Along the way from Portland, they had been greeted by the governor's wife in Boise, Idaho, were driven to Wyoming to meet student activists in Laramie and AIDS advocates in Cheyenne and had spoken at a poetry reading in Omaha. Nearly everyone in the contingent, which is adding members on its journey, has HIV or AIDS.

"The problem is a lack of understanding" for how the disease affects communities, "the lack of a face" with which others can identify, said Berman, who heads an HIV program for the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. "The goal is to bring the issue to where the folks are who ultimately have political power in the country" -- meaning, he hopes, everyday Americans of every persuasion.

The campaign, organized in part by the Silver Spring-based National Association of People With AIDS, wants them to demand full funding for treatment and support services for those living with HIV and AIDS. It also seeks greater prevention efforts, increased research funding toward a cure and a fight against stigmatizing those infected and toward protecting their civil rights.

In Southeast Washington yesterday morning, that message was taken up from the pulpit of the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church. "God's people are dying," thundered the Rev. Kendrick Curry, who devoted nearly all of his hour-plus sermon to AIDS, invoking Scripture and statistics with equal ease.

"It's something we are silent about in many of our churches," he told worshipers. "But beloved, it's close to home, and it's here right now. . . . It's time [for] the community to get up and rise up and do something. These are our brothers and sisters."

Curry's exhortation was a welcome prelude to this weekend, when the campaign's riders and walkers will gather Saturday in Anacostia Park and attend an interfaith prayer service the next day at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Northwest Washington and then rally in Meridian Hill Park -- also known as Malcolm X Park -- and Lafayette Square. Metropolitan's minister, the Rev. Ronald Braxton, echoes Curry in saying that few churches, especially African American ones, have shown enough leadership on the issue.

"We had no choice but to participate," he said of his congregation.

Before the caravaners disperse, they also will visit the halls of Congress to press their points with their respective lawmakers. But that's still more than a week -- and hundreds of miles -- away.

Exactly how many, Valerie Jimenez wasn't sure of yesterday afternoon, although the several dozen New York marchers, as young as their early twenties, as old as 71, had made it far enough south to be in Baltimore County. "Today's a short day. It's only 11 miles," she said, laughing during a bathroom break along Route 40.

Jimenez is a seasoned activist and HIV patient, having contracted the virus in the late 1980s from her first husband. She said she signed up for the campaign because she believed it was "time to wake people up." Based on the reaction she and her group have received, to fliers passed out at traffic lights, to condoms distributed at fast-food restaurants, the caravans already have succeeded.

"Wherever we went, through towns or cities along the way, it was amazing," she said.

Two days ago, a woman named Evelyn called Jimenez on her cell phone to check when the group would cross into Maryland. She wanted to have something waiting. And, sure enough, Evelyn was there yesterday on a stretch of highway, with hot chili and cornbread, a tuna casserole and a big smile.

The New Yorkers ate lunch in style.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

The Campaign to End AIDS Needs You!

Learn how you can be involved in this historic, national grassroots mobilization through local C2EA efforts in Chicago. For more info, click:

Jim Pickett
Director of Public Policy
AIDS Foundation of Chicago
411 South Wells Street Suite 300
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 334-0920 - direct
(312) 922-2916 - fax

At 6:45 PM, Blogger Jenn said...

I am so proud of each and every one of you!!
Today I feel like I postpartum depression as our caravan left yesterday with 9 of our Chicagoans on board! It was so wonderful to be able to get to know each of you over the 2 days in Chicago and I am so excited to get rowdy in DC with you all!
Stay strong and continue to share your hearts along the way!
Miss you bunches and see you soon!
Jennie Grimes

At 3:12 PM, Blogger Seanna said...

I would like to say hello to all the Salt Lake City folks on the caravan! I hope you are having fun, and I miss you all! Remember everything and tell me all about it when you get back!

Seanna @ The Utah AIDS Foundation

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