Saturday, October 29, 2005

Paving The Way

Soul of the South: Day 13 and before

Day 13

Wow!  This trip as amazing.  From New Orleans we went to Biloxi.  We met up with 3 more riders at the Southern Mississippi AIDS Task Force!  One of them was a 2 year old boy.  His father died of AIDS, his mother, Jessica, is infected, and he is negative.  Stories like that just make me shiver.  The mom didn’t find out she was positive, until after the dad died.  Gabriel is such a cute little boy.  Jessica is so vibrant and full of life.  She’s been positive for 10 years, and she will live to see her baby grow up into a strong man.  Everyone I met since I left Houston has inspired me so much.  The other rider, Kathy is really nice.  Her husband also died of AIDS.  She lost a lot of friends and family when she started to disclose.  It makes me sick to my stomach to think of all the people that are so hateful, just because of a little virus.  I couldn’t even imagine if my mom had disowned me when I disclosed.  I think I would have lost all hope in life.  These people are so strong to me.  I feel honored to be in this van with these wonderful people.

In Biloxi, we also saw Shannan Reaze from the Youth Action Institute.  It was so great to see her.  She’s crazy, happy, energetic, and fun.  That’s why we get along so well J  They showed us a couple of videos.  One was about the TITANS from the Youth Action Institute.  I recognized a bunch of people in the video.  It was nice to see familiar faces.  Then we went to the beach and looked at all the damage caused by Katrina.  It was very different from the damage back home.  Both places, lots of things will need to be destroyed.  In New Orleans, the houses will need to be demolished because the water went above the roofs and destroyed everything in it/the structure of the building.  The building were still standing though.  In Biloxi, the buildings were just big piles of rubble.  Sometimes they weren’t even there.  Many of the buildings on the coast were missing the 1st 2 floors, and the rest of the building was still there.  It was so sad to see.  I didn’t see many numbers on the buildings, because there were no buildings.  The cops came and told us we couldn’t be there, so we went back to the agency.

Then we headed to Mobile, AL.  We got there around 6.  They had a big reception for us at a local church, but most of the people left because we didn’t know people were waiting for us.  There were still lots of people there though.  They cooked us an awesome dinner of Spaghetti, salad, and brownies.  I met Lester, from the Mobile AIDS Support Services, who runs a bunch of prevention programs including Mpowerment.  GO Mpowerment…  OK, I had to plug favorite intervention.  I’m such a nerd.  I met Brian who also works in prevention there.  Scott, who is on the board of directors.  Asia, Scott, Lester, and I were cutting up all during dinner.  It’s amazing how friendly people are to us.  Everyone set up camp in different rooms upstairs.  We were going to go see Mobile clubs, but Asia lost her ID, so we went to Lesters and hung out and watched TV instead.  The next morning we met a bunch more people.  I learned that there is a 300 people waiting list for ADAP drugs in Mobile.  Larry (not Bryant), recently re-located to Mobile, and he can’t get his meds until someone either dies or moves away.  We must come together and tell our officials that THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.  People are DYING because of funding cuts.  I couldn’t believe this poor man’s story.  We talked all morning long, and got some more front burner forms signed to bring to DC.  We headed over to MASS to meet the rest of the staff.  It was a nice building.  Then we headed to Mobile Office of Public Health.  We met with a man there and told him about C2EA.  By this time, it was 5 on Friday.  We decided to go back to the church.  Asia, Lester, and I decided to go to the fair last night, but they told us we wouldn’t be able to get back into the church so we stayed at Lester’s house.  We went over there to rest up before the fair.  I was just about to fall asleep when the Washington Post called and interviewed me.  I wasn’t expecting that and I was half asleep.  She said she got my number from Tim.  Thanks Tim!  I guess I’m gonna be in the Washington Post.  Then Asia and I watched the Laramie Project and cried for awhile, then we went to the fair.  The fair was cute.  We rode a bunch of rides, and got really dizzy.  I almost fell out of one of the rides, because I’m too skinny.  It was kinda scary, but he all had fun.  I convinced Lester to meet us in DC on Nov. 4th.  Now we are headed to Phoenix City.

DC is gonna be so awesome.  It’s going to be like one HUGE family reunion.  I’m so excited.  I get to see all of my friends from the Youth Action Institute and all of my new friends from across the country!  I’m very excited.



Chris Rothermel

Host Committee Organizer: Soul of the South, Houston
Campaign to End AIDS



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