Atlanta has been a whirlwind of activity in the past few weeks, and the coming months promise to offer us no let up. Here at AID Atlanta, we finished October with both PRIDE events and the 20th Annual AIDS Walk & 5K Run. These events are two of our agency’s biggest outreach initiatives, and they require the services of our entire staff.
In addition to our staff, these events would not be able to happen without our wonderful family of volunteers and members. Each year, these events leave me on a high; I come off of these events reinvigorated for the work we do, and thankful for the opportunities we have to serve Atlanta. In addition, I am always amazed at the huge turnouts for these events. PRIDE is one of the largest in the nation, and our AIDS Walk fills Piedmont Park and the streets of downtown Atlanta with the support of the community.
This week, as I watched the polling figures come in for the elections in Georgia and nationally I was reminded of the importance in finding our strength in numbers. We are living in a time of great political turmoil; citizens are being divided and persecuted for their personal beliefs and the ways in which they choose to express themselves. The past few weeks have seen the airwaves filled with stories of anti-LGBT bullying, and calls for action from the gay community. Additionally, our political candidates have polarized the population with their attacks on LGBT people, and their failure to fully advocate for our equal rights. All of this media attention made me realize how terribly important it is for us to unite as a community.
Each week, AID Atlanta offers numerous programs that seek to educate and involve our community. We offer discussions and trainings, social initiatives, outreach activities, counseling, and testing; there is an endless array of opportunities for Atlanta to be involved in the fight to end HIV/AIDS. Yet, each week we struggle to find new ways to engage our community – the doors are open, but seats remain empty. How do you advocate for a community that won’t advocate for themselves?
We as LGBT people need to recognize the need for our own voices to be heard. If we are to effect any kind of change – politically, socially, or culturally – that change must begin in our own lives. We must make our voices heard by being actively involved in the issues that affect us. Those issues involve our health, our relationships, and our goals for the future.
Tuesday’s elections ushered in a time of change. I call on the local LGBT community to make our own wave of change. We can change how we are viewed as people. We can change the rights that we have politically and socially. We can change the impact that HIV/AIDS continues to have on our community. We cannot do it alone. We must recognize our allies and support them. We must unite as a force to be reckoned with. We must be the change we wish to see.
We must be the change we wish to see in the world. – Gandhi