Saturday, October 15, 2005

Paving The Way

Dear Friends

Dear Friends,
Today was indeed an awesome and historic day for the Campaign to End AIDS.  I don't know about thousands, but there were at least a thousand people marching with us as we kicked off the Paving the Way Caravan with a march through the Lincoln Tunnel.  The rally at Times Square was short and sweet -- only 15minutes!  The chants were loud and strong as we marched west on 42nd Street and down to the mouth of the tunnel.  We stopped at the entrance of the tunnel for a brief pray for safe travel, and then Carol and Alex sent us on our way with a moving duet performance of the AIDS version of "We Shall Overcome." Marching throught the tunnel was an amazing experience.  But the most amazing part was that we were actually underway.
Over the last couple of months, I've heard and felt all of the anxiety and self doubt that come with trying to pull of something that is totally beyond oneself.  But today we are finally underway.  Major compliments to terri smith-caronia, Valerie Jimenez, Derrick Chandler, Jose Cruz and so many volunteers at Housing Works, Harlem United, the New York City AIDS Housing Network, the New York AIDS Coalition, and so many other places, who made this happen.  We had tremendous press presence, thanks to Tim Murphy and David Thrope.  And once across the Hudson, we were met by the Mayor of Hoboken, who gave us a proclamation calling for an end to the AIDS epidemic.
Marching through the streets of Hoboken, we chanted "No more stigma, no more shame.  AIDS is not a game of blame."  We then shifted to a sing-song, "Get Up!  Get Down! There's an End AIDS Movement in this town!"  We thought of a few juicier ones, but decided they weren't ripe for prime time.  My personal favorite of these was "Use condoms; don't get AIDS.  Sex is fun; go get laid."  By the time we got to the train station in Hoboken, our crowd had shrunk to about two hundred.  The Hoboken police handed us over to the Jersey City police, who escorted us with lots of roaring motercycles, making us look ever so imposing and fierce as we marched to City Hall.  There we had lunch, relaxed and danced.  Yes, we danced!  We even did the Electric Slide! while the local news was filming. 
We then had another brief but spirited rally with New Jersey C2EA participants, before going to the Boys and Girls Club for a delicious dinner of home-made arroz con pollo and our first night of "urban camping".  (We don't have any showers, but we are promised that we will have showers by Thursday at the latest.)  After dinner, we met to organize ourselves.  We then sat for two ours and shared our thoughts and feelings from the day.  I know that last sentence sounds touchy-feely, but it has been months if not years since I laughed so hard.  To sum up, I am tired, my sides ache from laughing too much, and my heart is filled with gratitude.
Special thanks to the wonderful people at the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, including the mad, mad, and irrepressible Matt Franck, and Patrick Bocco, to Carmen Rivera of PACO who cooked for us, Linda Green of the Jersey City DHHS, and Gary Greenberg of the Boys and Girls Club.
Tomorrow, after washing in four sinks, we are being treated to breakfast by Carmen.  Then we are off to attend the Sunday morning services at Grace Van Vorst Episcopal Church, where we will be speaking and participating in a special service of prayer for and end to AIDS.  After that, we have a short march to Newark.  Paving the Way is on its way, hoping that all of our caravans have as wonderful and rich an experience as we enjoyed today.
Charles King


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