We Are Greater Than AIDS
Our LA guy Kengi on what a difference three years can make. From homelessness to putting on an art show.
It’s Friday, June 22, 2012 at approximately 4:43pm. It’s been a beautifully warm sunny day with a slight breeze. A week from today on June 29, 2012 I will celebrate 3 years to the end of my 29 months of homelessness. This time 3 years ago I was praying that my appointment with the Los Angeles Housing Authority would go well. I recall June 22, 2009 as being a sunny warm day and I remember wanting the week to pass rather quickly, so I would know what would be next for me. Would I still be homeless? Or would I have housing?
Today my concerns are totally different. I’ve just finished answering some questions about a picture on my Flickr photo stream so that it can be licensed and sold. Last year I was invited to be a Getty Images Contributor and from time to time my pictures are considered for licensing. On the table in front of me are donated items for the outreach for next week along with a large bag of gently used clothes donated by my two best friends. Yesterday I spoke with a supporter who wanted to arrange a time to drop by donations and another supporter has asked for my address so she could mail some items.
I’ve published two books, have been in 3 art shows, working on my third, making a film about living with HIV, writing for PositiveLite.com magazine and just one day after my 3 year anniversary I’m raising money for Being Alive Los Angeles through an art, music and spoken word event called E.N.U.F. (Empowering New Understanding Forever) I’m not just a part of this show, this show was my idea, my brainstorm, my desire to take what I do to the next level. Or as my friend KoKo once said to me “elevate the conversation”
For about seven months, I’ve made it my mission to educate my friends Tabitha Nieto and Carlos Nieto III about HIV and AIDS, by sharing my story and the putting them in touch with people who wanted to share their stories, as well as inviting them to HIV forums where they can listen and learn about HIV and AIDS. Together we’ve worked hard to plan this art show paying attention to even the smallest detail. Making certain that we are each sensitive and educated about the very serious and urgent matter facing our two cultures. Taking every step possible to include and welcome artists who are HIV positive that have never shown their amazing talents and doing our best to embrace their beauty and individuality without guilt, shame or stigma.
For me, someone who lives with HIV, I am not at all surprised at the level of love or humanity my friends have shown. I am not surprised by the amount of compassion and personal stories shared by fellow artists about how HIV and AIDS has touched their own lives in some ways. I was not surprised that finding quality artists to be part of the show was so easy. However I was discouraged, saddened, but not surprised that nearly every HIV service organization we asked replied with a “NO” about being part of the show. We were, however, able to find an organization to provide FREE HIV testing.
Lion is provided by Nicole Pelletiert (www.pelletierart.com)
After 7 months of planning we’ve managed to gather over 40 artists (positive and negative) with 3 DJ’s, LA food trucks, amazing spoken word artists, live bands, body painters, jewelry makers, makeup professionals and FREE HIV testing all standing UNITED to celebrate the lives of people LIVING with HIV or AIDS through art, music and spoken word. As well as educate, empower and raise awareness for HIV and AIDS in respectful environment directly in the neighborhood where it is needed the most. Raising money for an outstanding organization that is unmatched in its quality of life services it provides to people LIVING with HIV, day in and day out without fail.
A lot has changed in my life in the past three years, but my desire to educate people about HIV and AIDS, to raise awareness, empower and advocate for issues facing homeless people and those LIVING with HIV or AIDS remains the same. I will continue to fight the good fight, I will continue to raise my voice in protest and I will continue to be a voice for those who are seen, but not heard. I will continue to stand for what is right for HUMANITY because it is the right thing to do and LOVE will always transcend any community.
Heart is provided by Alexandra Kube (www.alexandrakube.com)
I speak for everyone involved with the E.N.U.F. Art Show when I say “WE STAND UNITED. We are greater than middle passage, greater than illegal immigration, greater than ignorance, greater than any statistic. We are greater than anything in our past and anything in our future. We are the descendants of Kings and Queens. We are the strategy. We are the solution. WE ARE GREATER THAN AIDS”.
FREE HIV Testing van courtesy www.aidshealth.org.