Saturday, October 22, 2005

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

American Heritage Update 1

By Vaughn FrickAmerican Heritage caravan rider for C2EA.

This morning began with the caravan riders and their Portland support crew converging at the HIV day center for a send-off breakfast before the nine of us fit ourselves and our gear snugly into two vans to drive to our first stop in Boise Idaho. Our field coordinator Kaytee had joined us after flying to Portland from Washington, D.C. to help get us started.The caravan riders are Chris, Dan, Jack, Levi, Lowen, Paul, Ricky,and Vaughn. Through a breaking morning fog we drove east as the wooded cliffs of the gorge smoothed into rolling hillscapes, arid summer-burnt desert dotted with color-ripened trees turning towards winter. Late season rains washed the hillsides with a light green velvet before winter's snow. We arrived in Boise at 5:00 p.m. in time for the start of a rally to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS in Idaho held on the front steps of the state capitol building; a grand, white marble domed wedding cake edifice built in the old federal style. Laid in rows across the wide steps leading up to the main entrance were 1,245 pairs of empty shoes to represent each person in Idaho living with HIV and AIDS. This event called "Walk in Our Shoes" was created and hosted by Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS {A.L.P.H.A.}to address the financial crises facing those living with HIV and AIDS, of our government's obligation in assisting a vulnerable part of our community, and the day to day reality and necessities that those living with HIV and AIDS need to survive. Postcards were available for event attendees to write a message to their congressional leaders about their concerns for continued funding for HIV and AIDS support services and research to finally end the pandemic. These cards will be sent along with the caravan to present to these leaders in the House and Senate: To demand full re-authorization of the Ryan White care act; To ensure that Medicaid programs continue to meet the vital needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and all other Americans who need this safety net to live; To strengthen the worldwide fight against HIV/AIDS by fully funding the the global HIV/AIDS prevention fund; To back debt relief for nations severely gripped by the ravages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic; And to restore and enhance effective HIV/AIDS prevention worldwide based on the best science, instead of fear and regressive ideologies. After several passionate speeches by local officials and activists, each of the American Heritage caravan riders spoke of their personal experiences of living with or assisting in the care of those whose lives are challenged by HIV/AIDS. We told our stories, our hopes, and goals: all spoken from the heart. After the rally ended we all had a lot of empty shoes to collect off the state capitol steps. Around sixty five people attended this rally. We then enjoyed dinner donated by Red Robin across the street in the state capitol park, entertained by two local fire-dancing troupes: Almaen Fuego and Kitty Club Burlesque. The group Drum Central played out a background beat as these talented fire dancers spun flame and carved symbols of fire into evenings approach. Special thanks to our host Duane Quintana, Patricia Kempthorne, wife of the Governor of Idaho, and State Representative Nicole LeFavour.

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