Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Paving The Way

Snap and Pop

Snap: and it was set: his hand on the sign, “Entering Elkwood”, and behind his glasses: eyes burning wild with pride. This was only one of so many such pictures: Entering Trenton, Entering Cecil County, Entering Nowhere at All.

For a boy from The City, he was so excited about being nowhere, so glad that he could make the trip to this in-between, and so grateful that this instant of satisfaction would forever be caught in as few as two dimensions.

That morning he had taken pills, many pills, “toxic AIDS drugs”. There were maybe seven of them, and large. They were white and powdery, or orange and obscenely oblong. With a cupped palm he tossed them all in his mouth and without the assistance of water or juice or food, he swallowed them whole.

That instant may never be caught on camera or printed on glossy paper. That sort of preservation only serves in reckoning feelings that exist beyond the now; a vague reminder that sensations exist in both positive as well as negative realms.

That moment, the blurred motion from bottle to throat, lives indelibly in his consciousness as both fear and salvation and, at the very least, allows him to visit Elkwood and Cecil County. It is a means to his mortal prolongation, not a means to an end, or rather not the means to a desirable end.

But for now he can experience in many more than 2 dimensions. And now is the time that he suffers to know; he is surrounded by beauty and a great deal of love. And it happened on the brink of nowhere while his mind was alert, his body was active, and his life, not geography, was the best part of what lied ahead.

Daniel Solon

Paving The Way

Paving the way

Paving the way.
I’m still setting the march pace as the flag carrier. Today we march over 15 miles, gaining much support from those who will listen. I met a couple in the area where we are staying the man said that his brother was HIV Positive. I’m tired and my body aches from head to feet. But I know it is well worth it. By the way the host person Betty agreed that her three Grandkids will make the trip to the hill and speak with some of our elected officals. This city of Baltimore is finally giving us a lot of support and said that they will be in DC with us. Hope to see everyone in DC


C2EA Nor'easter Caravan


hi c2ea on the started in albany ny went to syracuse ny binghampton ny
on our way to state college pa in syracuse at living room dinner was fine
and hospitality was great warm atmosphere the people welcome us
with open arm broom county health department did a press conference top of the
morning with love to you all

frederick cooper
new york city ny

C2EA Nor'easter Caravan

hey folks

Well I have two days of catching up to do. Well Monday we went to the needle exchange program, we went and hung out with Peter, Cory and T they were really cool folks. Then we went to a ASO in Northampton Ma. Yesterday we were in Syracuse NY.
Were we went to the college it was exciting. Then we went to the Living Room which was a house for HivER and we ate supper,they were really friendly and they told us to give them HELL in WASHINGTON DC. This morning we were in Binghamton NY.HEALTH Department were the media was there and I did a live interview with them. Now were on our way to State College and I'm really excited we also picked up 4 person to join our caravan. Love you all

France Noreaster caravan
Manchester, NH

Paving The Way

Day 19

Day 19
On the road with the crew

Today my ankles feeling much better. But they needed someone to stay at (what we call) “The House” so Paul Hatchett and myself decided to stay back. Last night the host committee had a good old fashion church dinner for us. I think everyone wanted to take back the pans with the leftovers in them using the excuse that they should carry some for the ones that had to stay back, even I tried that one. But all in all every things going according to schedule so I’m told. I keep trying to give you subtle hints about how exciting this walk is, even if you don’t enjoy walking, you get caught up in the vigorous spirit that everyone has about this campaign. Valerie has even joked about a fly that has been with us from the beginning. The best part of this to me is talking with the other people. Just listening to the various things they have done and the things that they would like to see change has been a learning experience in itself. As I said before sometimes it’s just a matter of holding all this new information in so when the time comes that I have to use it I’ll have it. Time is winding down, not to many more days left in this part of the caravan it is an ongoing process such as life is. It is still not too late to help us take it on in to Wash. D.C.

Sheila Peeples
Bronx Cobra

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

American Heritage caravan update # 12

By Vaughn Frick
American heritage caravan rider

November 1, 2005
Columbus, Ohio to Louisville, Kentucky.

At daybreak this All-Saints day I awoke next to my boyfriend sleeping upon an air mattress on the Dias of the chapel in the Lamb of God Anglican Chapel down inside the basement of the Broad street Methodist church of Columbus, Ohio. A red votive candle had burned in a wall sconce above us, the old woodwork infused with the scent of frankincense incense. here in this Sanctuary far from home upon a difficult road, two Gay men fighting for their lives found peace this night when the veils of this world are the thinnest and our dead are there beside us. From this parish's mission statement: "To the Gay,Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered, we say that your love is sacred, your union is blessed."
After all the hateful words aimed against our love and devotion to each other by those who have only enough religion to hate, not enough to truly love, that simple statement of affirmation wets my eyes with tears of hope.
I found a card there, a "Prayer for the Decade of Nonviolence":
I bow to the sacred in all creation.
May my spirit fill the world with beauty and wonder.
May my mind seek truth with humility and openness.
May my heart forgive without limit.
May my love for friend, enemy, and outcast be without measure.
May my needs be few and my living simple.
May my actions bear witness to the suffering of others.
May my hands never harm a living being.
May my steps stay on the journey to justice.
May my tongue speak for those who are poor without fear of the powerful.
May my prayers rise with with patient discontent until no child is hungry.
May my life's work be a passion for peace and nonviolence.
May my soul rejoice in the present moment.
May my imagination overcome death and despair with new possibility.
And may I risk reputation, comfort, and security to bring this hope to the children."
The role of Christianity and this caravan has at times boiled over and become contentious. Some on this caravan have been severely abused by the Christian Church, the very mention of which dredges this pain and hurt up to the surface. As we travel across the heartland of this nation, what has been very effective is to speak from the heart of our personal experiences, whether it be Gay/straight/Bisexual/Transgendered/Black/White/Latino/Native American/Young/Old/ Male/Female/religious or non-religious. (Please forgive me for any unintentional omissions.
when we speak from these personal experiences, the challenge has been to differentiate between the stated political goals of this caravan and our own unique perspectives.
The American Heritage Caravan began in a church basement in Portland, Oregon, where our local HIV day center operates out of. If the Ryan White CARE Act is not fully reauthorized, the Portland HIV Day center will face closure,those of us dependent upon their services will be shut out in the streets.
Portland's main HIV/AIDS social service agency, the Cascade AIDS Project, totally ignored this caravan, and gave us zero support. How interesting that a good share of their funding comes from the Ryan White CARE Act, that we are fighting to keep the funding to pay their salaries as services for the local HIV/AIDS community get slashed and ended.
All along this road to Washington, D.C., often the only support that we have received has been from small Christian churches who have opened up their buildings for us to stay in, and have fed us. We have also witnessed major local HIV/AIDS support and prevention organizations like the Nebraska AIDS Project and the AIDS resource Center of Ohio who are there struggling hard in this climate of deprivation to meet the diverse needs of their client base.
The American Heritage caravan riders and a few local supporters held a noontime rally around the lavish state capitol building in a cold rain. No local politicians showed up to hear us, and we were totally ignored by the local media. In the rain, drowned out by traffic and construction din,We chanted "End AIDS NOW!!"
and spoke about the estimated 10,000 people who died yesterday of this disease, have died today, and will die tomorrow. Some of us with walkers and trailing oxygen tanks, our hand-held signs melting in the rain, we received a few car-horn honks of support, a few thumbs-up from passers by.
What will it take to end this? At a truck stop one lady told us AIDS was of no concern of hers, as her children were "good" kids who would never catch this disease. Welcome to the United States of Denial.
We entered back onto our bus to dry off, and drove off to our next uncertain stop in Louisville, Kentucky.

Paving The Way

In BaltimoreNorthern

In Baltimore…Northern Liberties…where we are staying in a “ballimore” row house…6 people sleeping in living room – 3 in dining room…8 in front bedroom 2nd flr – 4 in middle – 3 in back and in basement 5 or 6…and one bathroom…this is togetherness _the good, the bad, the ugly.

So this is the future – we’ve had a number of suggestions for staff housing_ so how about doing this & we can work on firehouse schedules – 10 days on – 2 weeks off.

CDers arriving tonight _ but we have 15 miles to Jessup…along the famous Rt. 1

-Marie Nahkian

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.