Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Paving The Way

Paving the Way-November 1st

November 1, 2005

Dear Friends,

As wonderful as this march has been, it has not been without occasional mishaps and tensions.  Whether it was too many people in such close quarters for too long, the long competing lines for the single shower and toilet, or the “haints” coming to life, yesterday was one of those mornings when tension just seemed to hang in the air.

Generally, I have tried to defuse tensions with humor, but that morning even my best effort seemed to backfire.  Ok, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to send Diane with my megaphone, “Halls Spit”, to sing gospel music lustily on the stairs when some folk were already annoyed at her, but it seemed like a great innovation at the moment.

Fleeing the commotion to which I had contributed, I went out to move the truck that carries all of our luggage and supplies.  Our regular driver had gone back to NYC, and I was proud to have been trusted with the responsibility for driving the truck and the bus.  I could tell a great story, but the truth is, I wasn’t watching my right mirror close enough when I swung wide to make a u-turn.  Sure enough, I clipped the side-mirror off of our own van.  And there were at least a dozen marchers to bear witness.

Oh well, everyone is entitled to at least one mistake.  So an hour later, I found my driving a loaded bus of marchers back to the day’s starting point, McDonalds on Route 40 West.  I was followed by a second bus from NYC and a van load of other marchers.  All went well until I executed my brilliant spin through the McDonalds parking lot.  There, with the entire procession watching, I managed to side-swipe a ladder sticking out from the top of a painter’s truck.  This time, everyone was there to witness my humiliation with even the driver of the truck laughing at me.

Of course, two accidents in one day is completely unacceptable.  I was tempted to suspend myself from driving until I had taken a refresher safety course.  Instead, I have decided that full confession on the blog is punishment enough.

The rest of the day was fabulous.  We officially marched into Baltimore.  It was exhilarating to march through the city streets with people pouring out to see the commotion.  First it was off to the public library for what was to have been a rally and lunch.  No one showed for the rally, but our hosts fed us well.  From there we marched through John Hopkins University, to the state prison, and on to City Hall, officially claiming Baltimore for C2EA.  

We were followed much of the afternoon by a camera man from the local Fox News affiliate.  He kept trying to anticipate were we were going to be, and we tried to help him, but he kept showing up ten minutes late.  Finally, he got out of his truck and started running down the street after the march, carrying all of his equipment.  

After a half dozen block or so, we decided to show sympathy for our news man.  We stopped the march and let him set up a block ahead so he could interview me while the marchers passed.  We were all set up, and the marchers started up.  Cool – except the chant Amos had chosen goes, “Bush must be smoking crack; tired of being bush-whacked?  Bush must be smoking crack; time for us to fight back!”  

It’s a fun chant for the highway, but probably not the clearest articulation of the C2EA message.  Take two worked just fine; Fox got its footage, and we got our 30 seconds on the evening news.

Today started with a four-minute interview on Fox.  Carnell Thomas, the Maryland C2EA State Coordinator each carefully rehearsed the three sentences the most wanted to fit in.  It worked like a charm, except we demanded “research that follows science and not ideology” and “prevention that includes microbicides.” Not a bad transposition of our demands, if you ask me.

We had a delicious breakfast at Betty’s church, the Faith Deliverance Revival Center, and marched from there to a photo op at City Hall.  Again, marching through the City streets was exhilarating, but for the first time, I had to drive, not march.     NBC showed up while we were walking the picket line in front of City Hall.  With all of the gay men and straight women swooning over the very tall, dark and enormously handsome camera man, we did manage to provide great chant shots and get in all of the Maryland AIDS facts.

From City Hall, we marched right through the downtown, passed the local AIDS Services Administration, where we were met by cheers, and on to the Fist and Franklin Street Presbyterian Church, which is located on neither First nor Franklin Streets.  Thanks to lots of local effort, we were met at the Church by three more news crews.  Clearly, everyone in Baltimore who watched TV was going to hear about C2EA.  

The rally at the church was poorly attended, and the reps for the city and state elected officials were pompous and self congratulatory.  I don’t think we could have sat still if one more of those officials told us that they were with us on the march in spirit.  All of the dignitaries also managed to have another appointment requiring them to leave before anyone form the community could speak.  But the spirit of Rosa Parks still hung in the air.  

The pastor of the local Unity Fellowship Church was passionate, countering some of the official rhetoric by noting that more than half of his congregation was persons living with AIDS and HIV, most of who are going without life-saving treatment or services that they desperately need.  We were presented with a framed thank you card, made by a local organization that serves children affected by HIV.  The card was covered with footprints of the children, signifying our steps on their behalf.

The rally ended with a ten-minute chant and song medley that rocked the church.  From there, we got back in the street and marched my favorite route so far, right through the heart of the ghetto, right to our house between two crack houses.  After a fifteen minute demo in front of our house, Cameron and Laverne took our left over food and distributed it door to door on our block.  It wasn’t a completely charitable gesture.  Housing Works’ Transgender Transitional Housing Program had come down on a rescue mission with enough goodies to keep us from starving for days.  

This evening, it was back to Faith Deliverance Revival Center for a dinner.  The spread was more than impressive:  ribs, meatloaf, chicken, green beans with smoked turkey, collards, cabbage and bacon, collard greens with ham, roasted sweet potatoes, potato salad, baked macaroni, and coconut, chocolate and pineapple upside down cakes.  

I close with two observations from the road: the most welcoming churches and the ones with the best food have all been pastured by women.  Though we are marching as many as fifteen miles a day, we are all gaining weight.




At 9:35 PM, Blogger tracy bumpus said...

Yes the transgender transitional program was in the house with the food we and I think I can speak for everyone we enjoyed being there and watching everyone enjoy their meals we were gald that we could make a contribution. It was great to see the excitment in the weary eyes of the walkers. We were all saddened by the condition of the people in that town on the ride home we were figuring out stratigies to make a city we know nothing about better. Well anyway C2EA going through will have a big impact on change for PWA's there.

At 12:13 AM, Blogger SustivaDreams said...

Ive never read/or posted on a blog before in my life and Im a technosexual gay healthcare professional!I figured it out finally and I hope you get this posting...I spoke to a HIV Nurse from Cecil County yesterday at a AIDS ADMIN meeting and she told me about how inspiring you guys were coming across the susquehana bridge into cecil county for her and her PLWHAs. She told me that there was a blog where daily postings could be had as i had shared I felt lost on what was going on by going to the web site..Anyhow I typed in tonight C2EA and this blog came up... Thank you for your great descriptive emails...Im so sorry that B'more hasnt been such a great experience for you..Thank you to your group please for carrying the flag to SE DC for us.
I'm an HIV Clinical Nurse Specialist transplanted from Toronto 15 yrs ago. I worked in HIV starting back when it was GRID and fought for fair treatment,stigma,research dollars ect when there was none and we dressed in spacesuits and isolated folks in 1983.In 93 I marched in the million man march in DC on the mall.It was an incredible experience... Through a beleived unfortunate occupational injury in 2000 Im now a PLWHAs.The last 5 yrs have been so incredible.Im sorry that Im not on your route of travel through MD. I live in Annapolis the Capital City of MD. However,I remain an advocate in many ways including a consulting work I do via audits to tech Assistance for HIV Grantees to teaching grant writing to Natives to very active involvement in the local PC,State ADAPT Board,attending PACHA meetings,AIDSWalk,lobbying on the hill ect and speaking up for PLWHAs
I want you to pass onto the group in B'more some of us couldnt make it to the church rally planned on Nov 1, 2005 at 12n as we hadnt recd any notice of it until 1100hrs that day ( The communication hasnt been all that great on what is/was going on/planned in MD) while we were in a State AIDS ADMIN meeting and then we had to travel to another afternoon/eve PC meeting across the state!.finally getting home totally exhausted....
I read many of the postings on here tonight from the various caravans in particular this one going back 5 days....I wish I was on the walk with yall.We are in a state of City council declared AIDS emergency in the B'more EMA.
I cant thank all of you enough for everything your doing.Your descriptive humourous postings ad a little humor to what must be some trying times....
Enough of my speal ..please tell the group that my heart is with you all and thank you for carrying the flag for me ...You all are blessed to have the spirit of Rosa Parks in you for helping us all out.
Thanks for taking the time out to share on this blog what is going on for yall...DC is just a short distance now....
Peace and Health


PS: after typing up all of this lets hope that when I push post you get it !


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