I’m moved by the fact that all of this started with one shared vision. In 1971, the Gay Georgia Liberation Front organized the first march in Atlanta to commemorate Stonewall. Now, nearly 40 years later, we continue to celebrate the Stonewall Riots and our communal progress all because someone dared to say that “the time is now.” That’s powerful. It’s amazing the influence that just one person can have. It’s motivating to think that one person’s momentum has built this legacy in our city.
Working in Gay Outreach for an AIDS service organization, PRIDE can seem like retail’s “BLACK FRIDAY.” In many ways, this is our most important weekend of the year. This is an opportunity for us to reach our community in a very big way. We have an opportunity to show our commitment to the members we serve, recruit new volunteers and donors, and reignite passion in a cause that many have begun to forget. That’s a very tall order. We spend month’s planning our outreach efforts and developing our “messaging.” The theme we pick for our booth and messaging can make all of the difference. This year I chose for our theme to be “The Time Is Now.”
Too often in my work, I hear that now is just not a good time. Day in and day out we work to educate the Gay/Bisexual men of Atlanta about HIV/AIDS and their risks. Each day we are told by many that, while they recognize the importance of that message, they just don’t have the time to be involved. We host discussion groups and outreach initiatives, and when there’s a low turnout we are consoled that maybe our “timing was just off.” We work tirelessly to raise funds for the AIDS Walk, and are told that now is just not a good time.
To my community I ask, if not now, then when? The time is now. The time for us to take to the streets and show our PRIDE is now. We need not wait for the repeal of DADT or the recognition of marriage. No, the time to be proud of who and what we are is now – today. The time for us to educate our community on the true risks of HIV/AIDS is now. We cannot wait until AIDS arrives on our own doorstep, claiming the lives of our loved ones. We cannot wait until the positive test result is our own. The time for us to educate our community and our self is now.
We need citizens who are committed to taking a stand. We need individuals who are committed to seeing this through – and fighting until we have a cure. HIV/AIDS knows no season or time. This pandemic is not limited to World AIDS Day or a fundraising walk each October. HIV/AIDS attacks our community each day, and our commitment to fighting it must be just as strong. The time for that level of commitment is now. We need change. Our community needs a change of mind and a change of heart. We need a wakeup call within ourselves that will allow us to create a true level of change in our communities, both locally and globally. The time for that change is now. Today.
The time is now. We can no longer continue with our personal status quo. We as a community must demand pride, education, commitment and change. We as a community must hold each other accountable for these goals. We as a community can achieve these tasks, but only when we realize that the time is now. There will never be a better time than now. Won’t you join me in creating change? I encourage you to find me at PRIDE. I’ll be in the AID Atlanta booth all weekend, and I’d love for you to stop by and tell me what you are committed to doing now.
Steven Igarashi is the Gay Men’s Outreach Program Coordinator for AID Atlanta. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.