The 25th annual Out of the Darkness World AIDS Day observance fittingly honored those lost to, as well as those surviving with AIDS/HIV, with a candlelight march and rally on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on December 1. Invaluable organizers were American Run for the End of AIDS (AREA) Founder and President Brent Nicholson Earle, Gay Men’s Health Crisis’ (GMHC) Krishna Stone, and International AIDS Prevention Initiative’s (IAPI) Jeff Bosacki and Barbara Martinez. Events took place at Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan, on West 100th Street at Amsterdam Avenue, and Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, United Methodist, on West 86th Street at West End Avenue, with a march, down Broadway, from one to the other.
Beside the aforementioned organizations, ACT UP New York and Gays Against Guns were among the other most visible co-supporters, which also numbered Aid for AIDS, AXIOS Eastern Orthodox LGBT Christians, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) Red Ribbon Initiative, Health Global Access Project (GAP), Heritage of Pride, 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, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), Treatment Action Group (TAG), the United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network, Visual AIDS, and VOCAL-NY.
At Trinity Lutheran, Brent Nicholson Earle spoke about the 25th anniversary of Out of the Darkness; Pastor Heidi Neumark noted the 10th anniversary of the founding of Trinity Place Shelter for LGBT Youth; the Pastor and Vicar Analyse Triolo read a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, augmented by pertinent updates; and activists read names of those that the community has lost, before embarking on the march.
The gathering at St. Paul and St. Andrew also began with the reading of names. The Out of Darkness ensemble, under Douglas O. Drake, sang Sweet Honey in the Rock songs “Would You Harbor Me?” and “Patchwork Quilt,” with the assembled singing along with the refrain of the latter, and baritone Tim Kroll and tenor Eric Lamp offered moving love duet “What Would I Do,” from William Finn’s “Falsettos.” Colorful fanners and flaggers remembered early HIV/AIDS activists by performing to Giorgio Moroder and Phil Oakey’s “Together in Electric Dreams” and, later, to Jimmy Ruffin’s “Hold on to My Love.”
Brent Nicholson Earle and Dr. Ronald J. Grossman shared history of Out of the Darkness, since 1992, and the AIDS Crisis, since 1981. Dr. Grossman pointed out that the life expectancy of someone with AIDS/HIV, with access to medications, now equals that of someone without AIDS/HIV, which he called “a modern medical miracle.” He called for change in attitudes that value male, heterosexual, white, and rich over female, homosexual, black, and poor, pointedly adding, “Are you listening, Trump?” CBST Director of Social Justice Programming Rabbi David Dunn Bower recalled the introduction of antiretroviral drugs in 1995 and consequent increase in the survival rate.
David Charner, Cynthia Keane, Timothy Lunceford, Jack McKeane, Anita Ross, and Krishna Stone blessed an assortment of safer sex kits. Simply Bob, who has survived 23 years since diagnosis, most of those years without medications, recited his poem about survival and survivor’s guilt. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer illustrated change in the nature and demographics of the crisis, from its early days, by pointing out that openly gay New York State Senator from Manhattan Brad Hoylman, age 51, knows no-one in his age group who has died of AIDS. Visual AIDS’ Lola Flash spoke of art and AIDS and offered a slideshow of some of the work. Gays Against Guns’ Cathy Marino-Thomas and Brian Worth introduced the veiled “Human Beings,” bearing portraits of young victims of violence; recalled those lost in the massacre at Pulse in Orlando, Florida, in June; and led a chant of “ACT UP, Fight Back, Fight AIDS,” as did Brent Nicholson Earle, who also reported on the day’s demonstration, in Washington, D.C., against House Speaker Paul Ryan and conservative U.S. Representative from Georgia Tom Price, Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services—11 activists were arrested. In closing remarks, Earle, Bosacki, Stone, and Martinez shared their reminiscences of the years of Out of the Darkness and the AIDS Crisis, and a reception followed.