Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Paving The Way

November 8 2005 - Douglas Speaks!

November 8, 2005
Douglas Sanders

Can we officially say we closed a chapter in history? I can’t believe that I have taken three weeks out of my so called “normal life” and spent them with some of the greatest, most insane and most brilliant minds as far as Advocacy for AIDS goes. I’ve learned a lot throughout my journey with the Campaign to End AIDS. I’ve learned so much about the people I work with and the organization that we work so hard for. I’ve put in many late hours, but not as much as some others, even though most think I may be the only one that burned the midnight oil. I know I am not because I was awake to see them working away just like me. It’s been difficult working trying to carry around an office away from home. It’s enough to take care of Charles while we’re back home in the office. Rounding up folks for conference calls drove me to the edge of insanity but I managed. And I figured out one thing that would make my life easier. I NEED A BLACKBERRY! But now that this trip is over, I don’t know if I would need it as much.

This journey, this movement has moved me, shaken me, stirred up various emotions and feelings in me that I guess in some ways surprised me a bit and made me aware of what other folks with HIV & AIDS go through day in and day out. I am truly grateful and blessed and should never complain. Walking through Newark and Trenton, NJ, and staying in the midst of crack houses in Baltimore’s West Side really brought it home that folks are really being shit on. However a bit of it can be attributed to their vices, but hardly a measly percentage could account for that. These people have been forgotten, lost in some bureaucratic waste basket and left to die basically. You can definitely see where programs and money has been cut from communities that are in extreme desperation for services. It’s amazing what the human spirit can endure. I thought enduring 21 days on the road would be a miracle feat, but to look back on it now and to put it in perspective, it wasn’t so much. My part was small. I was merely a player in an orchestra of voices, people, infected, affected, people who gave a damn, some that didn’t know me, but still cared. They cared because they have friends, family, co-workers that live with this virus, that died because there was no cure and adequate medication had not been developed.

On another note, it was quite refreshing to meet some of these people whom I had been speaking with back and forth, over and over on the phone. It felt like family reunion. I actually anticipated some of the arrivals and listened to them as they got off the caravans, listening to their voices, to see who I could pick out of the crowd. I recall picking out Judith Dillard, Karen Bates, and Thelma Wright the minute I got close enough to hear them speak. And talk about three strong-spirited, tough gals they are. I didn’t get to spent as much time as I would have liked with members of other caravans although I got a lot of hugs and handshakes. That was cool with me.

I have to give a shout out to all Paving the Way caravan members. Through our toil, through our strife, through many disagreements and major fights, sometimes pulling stuff out of mid-air and sometimes out of our ass, we made it, and every one of you need to pat yourselves on your backs for this historical accomplishment. Also to the ones who didn’t care enough to walk for a least 1 day or 1 hour out of a day,  who think they are owed something, and I quote, “Eat Shit, nobody owes you a red-ass dime.” If you want better care, better services, better housing, better training, get off your ass, quit your bitchin’ and DO SOMETHING! This much I have learned. Just remember, I walked for me, but also I walked for you as well. Ok, enough of that.

I am going to write more when the spirit moves me to write. I think I will let the pictures I taken do more talking and I am willing to write. So be on the look-out for uploaded pics; I have tons! To be continued…

Peace, Love, & Light


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.