Wednesday, November 26, 2008

World AIDS Day 2008 / In it for the Long Haul

As World AIDS Day rolls around once again this Monday December 1st, I'm pleased to announce that the organization that I founded in 1988, Midwest AIDS Prevention Project (MAPP), will be merging with the Michigan AIDS Fund in the very near future. MAF and MAPP together will become an organization with a combined 39 years experience in HIV/AIDS work, will have a total of 16 full and part-time staff, and a combined budget of $1.4 million. Together, we can cut costs and provide increased programming, and make sure the organization is proactive and sustainable for the long haul.

When I first began to work in AIDS education and advocacy in 1984, I never ever would have believed that I would make it my life career, and spend at least the next 25 years in the field.
But after five years of GLBT community organizing (with Stonewall in Ohio and then MOHR in Michigan), the AIDS epidemic was killing my friends and had eclipsed for many of us our priorities. I was offered the opportunity to work full time creatively in HIV prevention through support from the state health department. In 1988 we formed MAPP.

But like families and businesses all across America, non-profits have to be nimble and innovative in the face of escalating costs, and shrinking resources. In order to remain viable and effective in our mission, MAPP began to discuss ways to stay strong amidst worsening economic conditions. The time to ponder budget shortfalls is BEFORE they occur. We approached the Michigan AIDS Fund in December 2007 to explore increased collaboration.

Michigan AIDS Fund was formed nearly 20 years ago to provide advocacy and funding for state -wide efforts fighting the AIDS epidemic in this state. They have an excellent history of energetic and creative support that is second to none in Michigan. Together, the two organizations will be able to cut costs, reduce administrative overhead, and can redouble our efforts at reducing HIV infection risk through a variety of innovative and comprehensive programs.

The two organizations will form the new Michigan AIDs Coalition. No current staff members of either group will be laid off. We will seek out a new home for the group, and will be strong and solid and ready to roll up our sleeves for as long as it takes. We are in this for the long haul. We are in this until the epidemic is over, done,
and gone.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

O Happy Days.....Free at Last !

Like tens of millions of Americans, and indeed millions more across the world, election night results and events brought upon me a huge and wide array of very intense feelings and emotions. Relief, pride, delight, awe, and hope are just a few of the words that can describe the way I experienced last night and today.

In my 51 years of life, I think today is the proudest I have ever been of America, a place and community that I have always loved. Certainly since September 11th, 2001, it seems that hope and optimism are back. It feels like GOOD change is coming, and coming now.

I have never understood prejudice and hatred of those who are different, and have spent all of my life advocating and organizing for diversity and understanding and tolerance. My little bit of work has added to the efforts of millions, and today, America is shining like the beacon it has always strived to be.

Last night was magical, but it was just the culmination of two years of hard work.

With this victory by the tall lanky young man from Chicago comes energy, hope, and yearning for a better nation. Now the really hard work begins.

But now we can face the serious and scary challenges facing America with a sense of community, unity, and purpose. Lets join together, red and blue, black and white, brown and red, and gay and straight....younger and older. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.

O Happy Days !