On December 1, many New York activists took part in the Out of the Darkness World AIDS Day observance on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Supporting the events were ACT UP New York, Advent Lutheran Church, Aid for AIDS, American Run for the End of AIDS (AREA), AXIOS Eastern Orthodox LGBT Christians, Broadway United Church of Christ (BUCC), Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), International AIDS Prevention Initiative (IAPI), Keith Haring Foundation, Latinos/as Unidos de New York, Lifebeat: Music Fights HIV, New York City Faith in Action for HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care and Education Coalition (NYCFIA), Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), Trinity Lutheran Church, Trinity Place for homeless LGBTQ youth, United Church of Christ HIV & AIDS Network (UCAN), Visual AIDS, and VOCAL-NY.
The observance began at Trinity Lutheran with AREA Founder and President Brent Nicholson Earle, backed by a vintage ACT UP Silence=Death, Ignorance=Fear poster, designed by Keith Haring, and a Safe Sex or No Sex poster, speaking about the origins of World AIDS Day, more than two dozen years ago, followed by an address by Trinity Pastor Reverend Heidi Neumark, including a reading, with Marcos, of an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem. The reading and calling out of names of some of those lost to AIDS followed.
Led by the Out of the Darkness banner, a candlelight march, from Trinity to BUCC, took place, despite the constant drizzle, and included marchers singing “We Shall Overcome,” “Amazing Grace,” “Over the Rainbow,” and “This Little Light of Mine.”
At BUCC, a further reading of names of those we’ve lost was already in progress. With Pat Dash signing the proceedings for the hearing impaired, the ceremony opened with BUCC Choir, led by Director of Music Douglas O. Drake, singing a moving a cappella “Would You Harbor Me,” the Sweet Honey in the Rock song. Fanners and flaggers Felix Rivera-Perez, Fernando Delas Carnevali, Joe La Mattina, Chris Offner, and Cherry Grove Fire Department Chaplain Kurt Gahan performed a Fan and Flag Dance, in memory of early HIV and AIDS activists, waving colorful fabric to the music of “Free” by Stevie Wonder.
After welcoming remarks by BUCC Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. James Campbell, there were speeches, on the theme “How We Build Community in the Epidemic,” by Brooke Cerda of the Translatina Network, on seeking safe spaces to transition, working not to be marginalized, and fostering self-esteem and adherence to treatment regimens; GMHC’s Christopher Quarries, on being an HIV+ person of color, working on behalf of HIV prevention; James Albaugh, on surviving HIV since 1987; and New York State Health Department award winner Kimberleigh Smith, of Harlem United, about her late friend Cliff Goodman, who first brought her to AIDS awareness 20 years ago, and on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP), with Truvada.
Brent paid tribute to the 20th anniversary of the Rainbow Roll for the End of AIDS, a rollerblading event, given in memory of Haring and Dr. Tom Waddell, founder of what were then called the Gay Olympics, and we were invited to sign a Rainbow Roll quilt. During projected images of events, including Brent’s 1994 speech in San Francisco, provided by AREA, IAPI, and Fundación MAROZO, compiled by Alexander Charner, of ERC Consultants, Inc., BUCC Choir soprano Ann Wazelle, assisted by Douglas O. Drake at the piano, sang Henry Krieger and Bill Russell’s uplifting Gay Games anthem “Take the Flame.” Next came the Blessing of the Safer Sex Kits, by BUCC’s Rev. James and Associate Pastor Emily Brown, Trinity Lutheran Pastor Heidi, AREA’s Jack McKeane, IAPI’s Jeff Bosacki, and GMHC’s Krishna Stone. Acknowledgments by Krishna, a final song, “Patchwork Quilt,” by Michelle Lanchester, sung a cappella by the BUCC Choir; and a reception completed the observance.