Tuesday, November 08, 2005

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

American Heritage update # 17

By Vaughn Frick
American Heritage Caravan rider

November 6, 2005
Washington, D.C.,Last day of action

Arriving here has become such a different story than any of us had expected. The American Heritage Caravan's cohesion has mostly evaporated. A core group of us still are camped out on the floor of a gymnasium. Across from me is a rider from the Seattle caravan suffering on the floor with a herniated disk.
My friend Ricky also from Portland started to get sick last night, running a fever from the forced condition of sleeping upon a hard, cold floor. The price of a hotel room in this capitol city of business is well beyond many of our means. Caravan organizer Lonny who boarded in Salt Lake City after flying out to join us from Ohio has scheduled a hospitalization upon his return, as he is struggling to keep it together just to survive this last day.
I had been curios as to why there was not the thousands that we were told to expect at the opening rally, why it was just us caravaners and a few people from the local community. Washington, D.C. has a large Gay/Lesbian/Bi/trans community, including one of the larger populations of those living with HIV/AIDS.
Yesterday I transversed the local GLBT neighborhoods looking for visible signs about these four days of action for what we were told was to be a major national action once we all converged here in Washington, D.C. from our many corners of America. There were no posters posted, no billboards, no flyers tacked on community billboards or taped in the windows of GLBT based businesses and establishments. I scoured from page to page the latest issue of the Washington Blade, one of the oldest and best established GLBT newspapers in the country for any mention about these four days of action.
No mention, not even in the calendar of events for this upcoming week. This is most queer,as the Washington Blade is one of the best for covering news related to HIV/AIDS, a goodly chunk of it's advertising base is for the very HIV/AIDS medications that we traveled across this nation to advocate for accessibility for all who need them to survive.
So I started asking questions of the C2EA event co-coordinators and the Washington, D.C. organizing committee. When my questions were answered with a lot of hostility, I knew we were in worse trouble than I had begun to fear.
I was told that the Gay community does not care any more about HIV/AIDS; The Gay community is apathetic; that there is some sort of nebulous conspiracy to silence our actions here; The Washington Blade was bought out by conservatives who are boy coting C2EA; The Washington Blade did publish C2EA related articles, that I needed to look better. All protests here in D.C. are only attended by those who come here from outside, that the locals are mostly "activist weary"; The local C2Ea organizers were to busy and overworked, that it was up to all of us to get the word out.
I heard many variations of these excuses, and just got more and more befuddled.
I walked in the Blade offices, had a friendly talk with one of the editors, was told that in the past the Blade had published C2EA elated events, but for these four days of actions no C2EA organizers had bothered to contact them with the information to publish. I was given the contact information on who to email future information to.
On Sunday night there was a youth march and rally to Lafayette park across from the White House. This event began at Malcolm X/Meridian Park with a spirited drumming and rapper session to inspire the several hundred attendees. This odd, terraced park originally plotted by Freemasons using their monumental architectural embellishments is a regular night time hang out for groups of incense-wafting drumming youth of this area. The illuminated spike of the Washington monument stabbed the sky lined up in the distance.
The messages spoken were about using condoms and clean needles, how odd that 25 years into this global pandemic that this simple message that is pr oven to save lives still has to be fought for. Forming an ordered line the marchers chanted through a tony neighborhood chanting and waving "End AIDS NOW!" signs". The chants, well practiced, also were about a supposed HIV cure that the Government has been suppressing, the same information that has buzzed this pandemic from the start. There is much good and provoking information to back up these claims available a google away on the Internet.
As the marchers led by a the flash and sirens of a police escort worked their way down the street, clouds of small birds would erupt out of the trees flying panicked into the dark. Diners in trendy sidewalk eateries would momentarily put down their fork fulls of steak.
The rally in Lafayette park was attended by about a hundred observers. The message was "not to keep youth in the dark" about how not to catch the HIV virus, and this government's complicity in the spread of the HIV virus.
Today there were two planned civil disobedience actions. The first was at the Family research council where four trained activists chained themselves to a display in the lobby featuring the traditional wedding attire of suit and dress. As of tonight those arrested are still jailed awaiting a sentence before a judge.
The second action was a march and die-in to the White House. This action had close to 300 marchers led by the obligatory giant paper mache' Bush puppet. The chant rants were such as "ACT-UP! Fight Back! We Must End AIDS NOW!"
At 1600 Pennsylvania avenue in view of the back of the White House ( as was written in the Bible when God chose to appear before Moses, only the backside was visible) 29 protesters lay ed down on the sidewalk holding cardboard tombstones bearing the messages of death and grim statistics. The practiced park police like black armored spiders lined off the protesters with yellow police tape, and one by one the protesters were dragged, cuffed, photographed, and fed into two paddy wagons as their supporters cordoned off a street away cheered their support. 29 people were arrested at this one, all released by evening with the equivalent of a parking violation.
The last to be arrested was Charlie from the Seattle caravan, wheelchair bound and veteran of the war the HIV virus wrought against his body, he was dragged and placed in a waiting medical van.
Tonight Charlie is sleeping here on a cold, gymnasium floor.


At 11:50 AM, Blogger State Rep. Jeannie Darneille said...

Thanks for the post. I'm worried about our folks in the Seattle caravan, and heart-sick that the four days of activism were so poorly organized and attended. Whatever is happening there, though, you've emboldened us here at home. You're our heroes. Thanks. Jeannie

At 6:58 PM, Blogger tracy bumpus said...

There was a lot of hard work put into C2EA by a very small number of people when they told you they were over worked they were it was not a lie nor an excuse those few people that begged others to step up to the plate and help organize did it themselves when no stepped up they worked litterally day and night 7 days a week putting C2EA together it may not have meet your expectations but I think it was great I really feel bad that your C2EA experince was so horrible just imagine those same few folks that struggled to put this together working at it day and night also walked for 21 days from NYC to DC and mind you they walked all those miles after months of organizing and I'd just be willing to bet that a large number of those people were PWAS. I commend everyone who took the time and effort to make a contrbution to C2EA and even though it didn't turn out to be as big as some would have liked it the message was put out there and well received even if the lister pretended to not hear the seed was planted. Congradulations to all of you who made the journey weather it be 1 day or 21 days you are all heros keep up the good work and remember if you touched only 1 life in your efforts here your job was done. In the end thats what it's all about isn't it the cause,the fight and the struggle carrying the toruch that those before us carried and got us the rights we already have. Thank all of you for caring enough to make this happen keep up the good work the no

At 12:21 AM, Blogger C2EA American Heritage Caravan said...

Speaking up for the real- life needs for the phsyisaclly sick of my caravan was not "pretending not to hear that the seed was planted."
Idealism is great, but it is important to make an effort to provide a healthy space for those in the HIV/AIDS community who are dealing with severe health consequences a place in this movement that does not further jepordize their health. Conditions that push their health limitations into dangerous zones should be addressed, and I've always said that there are better solutions.
I simply took to heart the heart that is the heart of that C3Ea logo.
And it was a good series of events, and we should do better.
I too was very overworked, yet found the time to take care of and address the needs of my people.
And as an overworked activist back home here in Portland Oregon, I've worked on big political events, including those involving AIDS/HIV, and there are creative ways to overcome these obstacles and not be left with making excuses because I'm overworked.
And being overworked, thank you to the C2Ea people who did accomplish a lot of good.

At 2:51 AM, Blogger Pamela Reamer Williams said...

Vaughn ~

Thank you for your wonderfully soulful, colorful cross-country commentaries. My body may have been stuck in Wyoming, but my heart and my love were traveling on that bus with you.

I'm sorry it wasn't all magical. I have no doubt, however, that the experience has enriched you with a lifetime of tales.

You lucky 13 who were here in Casper have indelibly touched my life and I hope that the fates see fit for our paths to cross again.

Blessings to you all!


At 3:20 PM, Blogger Dan Libert said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:46 PM, Blogger tracy bumpus said...

Hello Dan

So saddened to hear that your friendship with this person was lost but just know that for every door closed a window opens. Thank you for supporting C2EA and know that your efforts will pay off in the long run. Things didn't go as planned and they didn't go as well as expected but just think we have made leaps and bounds since advocates for justice started at least no one was hosed, beaten or jailed for expressing their feelings like in days of old. Thank God for all those who made this trip in spite of their health issues and a special blessing to all those who made the journey by foot it takes a real special person dedicated to the cause to set out and walk that far no knowing half the time where they would lay down after walking for 9-15 miles so if you had the opportunity to make the journey in a vehicel be grateful cause I know for a fact that my co-workers who walked are still recooperating from their journey.
Anyway God Bless all of you who made the effort whether you walked or drove for 1 day or all 21 God Bless you.

At 8:34 PM, Blogger Lonny said...

Todays or yesterdays Blog sadden me very much. As I wrote to the info. ser. last night I wrote from my heart and my hope for everyones future. Being one of the Caravan Coordinators it hurts me that people has so quickly forgotten all the good experiences we had along the way. It may be just the fact, that I look at this as a Grassroot Movement and I have been involved in many through out my 53 years living in this country. Yes there was problems and yes some of us suffered in our own ways. But, it seems that the need out weighted those problems.
We have a goverment bent on singling out person living with this Virus and making living as hard as it can.. Maybe, everyone believes that our elected offical give a shit wether we live or die. Wake up folks, if they truly cared there would have been no reason for us to do what we did. If we continue to allow petty issues to devide us , that only make the Powers to be even happier.
It has been over 25 years and we have only recieved help when we put it in their faces.
When you look at what some of our third world Brothers and Sisters go through just to get food and a safe place to live. When we see mothers who walk days on end just to get what few meds they can get to save there lives and their childrrens lives. I think we are very luckey and blessed to be able to do what we did by starting this movement. They haven't rounded us up and shot us, but sometimes I am not so sure many would complain if they did.
It hurts me when i think of all the folks we met along the way and the love and compassion they showed to us. How many of us would open our homes and offer to feed and give someone a safe place for a night. How many of us took on the job of finding some place to house ,feed, and keep us moving toward the goal of ending Aids.
Yes, there were problems and yes some of us pushed ourselves beyond where our comfort zone ends. But what would we have not experiences by not doing what we did. Also, I will be the first to admit we had some crackes in our plans, but anything you try to do that includes a large group starting a new adventure wouldn't have some of the same problens we had along the way.
I for one believe we did more for the end to AIDS then there has been done in all the time since this maddness started. We are still alive, maybe with a few aches and pains, but we did the best we could and that should be what we take from this.
I have already started working on pulling a group togeather in Ohio to represent those inffected and affected by HIV/AIDS. I have no intension of stepping back and letting our Goverment throw any more lives away. As for my health problem, I cause that when i chose not to worry about getting a refill on one of my meds. My lack of knowledge is what cause my problem, not anyone from the C2EA. I will continue to fight this Pandemic and I truly hope there is many more of us who has already made that decision.
I will end by telling a short experience I had in DC marching in the Youth Rally. As we were leaving the park where the rally start a young child kept following me as I ran to catch up with the group. When I stopped at an intersection along the route I realized that this same youth child was beside me, so I spoke to him and ask him what he thought about all we were doing. As he started to talk I saw tears in his eyes as they slowly ran down his face, he ask me if we really knew how to stop AIDS. So, I said yes we do and that is through education and fact based prevention. As we started across the street he said to me, can you help my Mom and Dad because they have AIDS. At first it stunned me and I tried as best as i could to explain that there is meds that will help to slow this Virus, but there is no cure yet. He said to me, but at least you are here trying to aren't you and thank you for caring about my Mom and Dad. As he walked back up the street to his house or where ever it really hit me, just how much we mean't to that young child.
So, that and many more stories like that is what will never let me step away from what we all started in C2EA.

Lonny LeFever

At 7:31 PM, Blogger C2EA American Heritage Caravan said...

Actually, Dan and I worked it out shortly after he posted this, and there was more to this, but i feel enough has been aired publicly already.
Having a short amount of time and space to post these blogs, I chose a direct style to get across the serious information that we were gathering.
I was glad to see the Blade post a story about the C2EA actions, it probably helped for me to walk in their offices and talk about it beforehand.
All the American heritage caravaners are now well, as most were ill by the time we left D.C.
we plan to keep our caravan group going, C2EA or not.
And I thank my other caravan riders, some old friends and many new ones.

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