Friday, December 9, 2016
My World AIDS Day, December 1, 2016, Pride!
World AIDS Day was last Thursday, December 1. This post is to remind us all that we are all living in a world that is affected by HIV/AIDS and to share with you what my World AIDS Day was like. I've written here previously that I volunteer (not paid) with a local AIDS service organization. This group serves as a resource to persons (both genders and all races, faiths and sexual orientations), and as an advocacy service between the AIDS community and the municipal government.
I intentionally designed my academic schedule this year to allow me to volunteer every Tuesday and in the evenings when needed. This enables me to not only help with the community but also gives me flexibility in assisting persons who depend on this organization for services in their daily lives.
This year, the organization hosted a World AIDS Day Candlelight Vigil during the early evening of December 1. This was the first such event sponsored by this group in several years. Because of the stigma surrounding such activities (too depressing, etc.) and because of the perception of all World AIDS Day services as being memorials, they had stopped holding any type of activity for this date.
About the middle of November, I asked the agency director what was planned for World AIDS Day. She responded that nothing was scheduled and cited the above reasons. She also added that she was very disappointed that there was no interest in hosting one. I volunteered to organize one if she would endorse it. She enthusiastically and immediately agreed.
The very same day of our conversation, I set out to encourage support for this endeavor. I enlisted the assistance of the staff (both professional as well as volunteers like myself) and encouraged the group that I facilitate on Tuesdays to share information on the upcoming event and to help make the red ribbon awareness pins to distribute during the vigil.
I decided to keep the program simple and brief, due to the shortage of time between the middle of November and the actual date. There was no need to expend the energy in trying to compile an elaborate presentation in such a short space of just two weeks.
World AIDS Day, December 1, 2016, arrived with remarkable speed. On the day of the program, I had no idea as to the number of people to expect but everyone invited to be a part of the observance contacted me that day to confirm their participation. The weather cooperated with warmer-than-average temperatures and no chance of precipitation at dusk. At this point, all that was left for me to do was sit back, relax and wait for the sun to begin to set.
The event was scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m. It was being held outside in the hopes that once the candles were lit, any passers-by would join us to find out what was happening. By 5:45 p.m., I and a handful of others were in place and ready. The dozen or so of us there stood around and waited.
With minutes to spare, people materialized from the four directions! I was amazed to see them walk on-site as if choreographed. It was a very encouraging sight to behold. I really began to feel good about my efforts to organize this vigil, although it was all very last-minute.
One of the organization's clients was our guest speaker and she delivered a powerful message of hope that concluded with a poem that she had written specifically for this occasion. After she completed her portion, her 15-year-old son, who just "came-out" to her this past summer, sang, a capella, Elton John's classic, "Candles In The Wind." At the conclusion, everyone lit their candles and joined in the spiritual, "We Shall Overcome." A local clergy-person concluded the program with a prayer for the healing of HIV/AIDS.
Despite having organized the event, I was surprised at how humbled and, at the same time, empowered I felt at the ending. It was followed by a feeling of pride of "a job well-done."
Peace! Get naked. Enjoy!
Bare With Pride