World Aids Day Luncheon Dec. 1

By: Sharah Denton

On December 1st South Health District, the Valdosta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Valdosta State University Student Health Center is hosting a World Aids Day Community Forum and Free Luncheon. The luncheon will be held at the Patterson located at 101 N. Patterson Street from 11:30 am to 1 pm. The keynote speaker for the luncheon is Kim Moon. Kim is an HIV Activist / Advocate and Motivational Speaker whose main focus are women and young adults. Her goal is to not only equip and empower others but to advocate and serve as an activist who has traveled the world sharing her story and speaking about HIV and other STI’s (sexually transmitted infections). She is the founder of, Positively Beautiful and her passion is teaching women to love themselves, make wise decisions and stop the spread of HIV.

Dr. Lakesha Williams, DNP, NP-C, ANP-BC who Co-chaired the "Know Your Status" initiative along with South Health District and VSU’s Student Health Center says, “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV, and 1 in 7 of them don’t know it.” This event is to promote the importance of “knowing your status” and to demolish the stigma and myths related to HIV. Given the increasing statistics related to this disease, it is no longer just a recommendation, but it is imperative that change is made to stop this epidemic. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc Valdosta Alumnae Chapter is proud to be a supporting vehicle to make this happen.

According to HIV Coordinator of Infectious Disease from the Georgia Department of Public Health, John Rogers, there are many misconceptions about HIV/AIDS with the main one being the denial many individuals have in believing they are not at risk. “People in the south think that HIV is a disease that happens in other areas (West Coast, Northeast, large urban areas, etc.) or that living in rural areas puts all of us at low or no risk which is not true, says John.

In fact, 50% or more of all HIV infections (new and living with HIV) happen in the South and not just in urban areas. Other misconceptions according to John are that only IV drug users, young people, gay people, etc. are at risk and that as long as they are “careful” who they are with then they have no risk. This is all not true.

What has become more alarming according to John is that the increasing number of 13-24 year olds being newly infected with HIV. John says that the luncheon is important for the community to attend and that Kim Moon who is HIV Positive will address the misconceptions about HIV from the perspective of an African American woman who has lived with HIV in Georgia. The title of her talk is Bruised but not broken; How to live a Positive life and feel like it will give those living with HIV, those with an HIV positive family/friend and those working with HIV positive people gain a positive outlook on the disease.

The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. For those with specific risk factors, CDC recommends getting tested once a year (those with new sexual partners, IV drug users, etc.). Globally 36.7 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2016. Of these, 2.1 million were children. 1.8 million Individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2016 – about 5,000 new infections per day.

In the US there are 1.1 million people living with HIV as of 2015 and about 38,000 people are newly infected every year. As of 2015- 54,754 people were living with HIV in GA making Georgia the 5th highest in the nation for those living with HIV. There were 2,741 new HIV diagnoses during 2015 in Georgia making the state the 5th highest for new infections in the US.

In the United States, HIV diagnoses are not evenly distributed across states and regions. Southern states accounted for half (50%) of new HIV diagnoses in 2015, while making up 38% of the national population. In all regions of the United States, the majority of people who receive an HIV diagnosis live in urban areas. But in the South, 23% of new HIV diagnoses are in suburban and rural areas. The South’s larger and more geographically dispersed persons living with HIV creates unique challenges for prevention, treatment, and care.

In the South Health 8-1 District as of 2014 there are 1070 people living with HIV with about 50-60 new HIV infections a year.

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State of the AIDS Epidemic

“It was a sunny afternoon in 1981,” writes Nicholas Benton, the storied 73-year-old publisher of the Falls Church News Press. “I was in my office in Houston at the time. A young woman came in waving a newspaper exclaiming that a ‘gay cancer’ had been identified, according to a report in the New York Times.”

And so it began. The onset of an epidemic that would strive to crush the spirit of the gay community as it ravaged and decimated its populace, before giving way to mobilization, rebellion, and a strength that would super-power a social revolution — one that, in the decades to come, would see tremendous, social-changing impact for LGBTQ people, in terms of same-sex marriage, military service, and discrimination in the workplace. Much of that blazing fire for social justice was set by our community’s fast, forceful, determined reaction to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

But HIV/AIDS was never just about gays. It is — always has been — about everyone. If you are human, it impacts your life in some capacity or another. It may no longer be the death sentence it was when it first emerged, but HIV/AIDS is not going away anytime soon. It still carries an enormous stigma. Certain communities — and parts of the world — are underserved by education and access to its lifesaving drugs. The virus isn’t as omnipresent as it was in the 1980s and 1990s, but it still requires our attention, our vigilance, our voices.

For this year’s World AIDS Day issue, we opened the conversational floodgates to present a community forum. A broad range of people — positive and negative, young and not-so-young, CEOs of AIDS organization and everyday people — responded to our questions and their edited responses are presented on the pages that follow. (A longer version of this dialogue can be found on our website, metroweekly.com.)

It’s true that things have changed for the better, and will hopefully get better still. The advent of preventative measures like PrEP, the eye-opening revelations about what “undetectable” status means for people who are positive and their negative partners, the organizations working on the front lines to ensure the public is educated and informed, and the legions of scientists dedicated to eradicating the virus all point toward a future where we finally end the AIDS epidemic. — Randy Shulman, Editor-in-Chief @randyshulman

When did you first become aware of HIV/AIDS?

CHRISTOPHER HUCKS-ORTIZ, Chair of the HPTN Black Caucus, 52: I first learned about HIV/AIDS as an adolescent at the beginning of the epidemic. Back then, we didn’t know a lot about HIV or how to prevent or treat it. I recall hearing the stories almost daily about people losing their homes, jobs, families, and even their lives, without having a community of people to support them. It was during and because of this that I have made it my life’s work to try to address ending the epidemic. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go to end AIDS.

GREGORY T. ANGELO, President of Log Cabin Republicans: Growing up in the 1980s as the AIDS crisis was emerging, my first awareness of the AIDS epidemic — and how far it reached — was via the made-for-TV movie Go Toward the Light. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City years later that I met gay men from an older generation — survivors, who lost dozens of friends in that decade of death and who lived to impart their lessons to people like me.

ROBERT YORK, Director of Development, National Minority AIDS Council, 49: I first learned of AIDS in the late 1980s when films Longtime Companion and An Early Frost were brought to the mainstream and made available in Oklahoma. Then you started seeing numerous obituaries in the LGBTQ press with very little coverage in the mainstream press about members of their community passing away.

RON SIMMONS, Former Executive Director of Us Helping Us, 67: My gay friends in New York City started dying from pneumonia. I was living in D.C. and read in the gay press about this deadly illness affecting gay men. At the time, I thought of something Dick Gregory had said in a speech the summer of 1980. He advised all of his gay friends “to go deep, deep back into the closet because they have something in store for you that you will not believe.”

NICK BENTON, Owner/Editor, Falls Church News Press, 73: It was a sunny afternoon in 1981. I was in my office in Houston at the time. A young woman came in waving a newspaper exclaiming that a “gay cancer” had been identified, according to a report in the New York Times. I was mortified. It was like an electric shock went through my entire body. It was not because it was a surprise. I knew instantaneously what this meant because I had seen it coming. Almost immediately the worst consequences of this crossed my mind, and my perception turned out to be not that far off. Who knew that right then, the next 15 years of our community’s life was foreordained and there would be no relief from the horrible death sentence the emergence of any symptoms meant.

ACE ROBINSON, Commissioner, L.A. County HIV Commission, 39: When I was 6 or 7 years old, I had an older gay cousin who was out of the closet. At a family gathering, one of my relatives would not shake his hand. When I asked why, I was told: “You don’t know if you can catch AIDS from touching someone like him.” I did not know what AIDS was, but I assumed this relative was wrong and was just being mean. The gay cousin quickly became one of my favorite family members.

JIM SLATTERY, President, Brother, Help Thyself, 48: I knew of HIV/AIDS as a closeted high school teenager in the ’80s. While not sexually active, accurate information on the epidemic and how it was spread was not something easily accessible in those days, and the hysteria surrounding the many deaths terrified me. In addition, I recall pretty vividly seeking out everything I could in writing about the death of Rock Hudson, worrying if I had any chance of a healthy adulthood. Knowing my attraction to men, reading what limited information was available, and knowing how homophobia (and the possibility of being shunned by family) was almost as frightening as HIV/AIDS.

TIFFANY MARRERO, 26: I was born positive, so for me the significance of HIV was not important until puberty and I started wanting sex.

PETER CRUZ, Associate Director of the HIV and Health Equity Program, Human Rights Campaign: I took my first HIV test in 1998 — before rapid HIV tests, PrEP or viral suppression. I was frozen with fear and anxiety during the one-week window I had to wait to receive my result. I worried that I would bring shame to my family if the test came back positive, and wondered how I could continue living if I had to live with such grief. I now know that shame I felt was unnecessary, and built on the stigmas I had grown up with surrounding HIV and AIDS. Still, that experience lit a fire within me to be of service to individuals affected by HIV and AIDS.

CRAIG SHNIDERMAN, Executive Director, Food & Friends: I first became aware of AIDS in 1987. At that time, I was the Executive Director of an organization that provided home health services and hospice care. Several of our patients were young men with late stage AIDS. Experiencing their terrible illnesses and deaths was a profound experience for me.

ALEXA RODRIGUEZ, DMV Chapter Director, TransLatin@ Coalition, 41: When I took the HIV test in 1998 and it came back positive.

TERRANCE LANEY, 33: I remember the hysteria of the late 1980s and early 1990s, like the community in West Virginia that shut down its public pool because an HIV positive man swam in it. But HIV/AIDS didn’t become real to me until two of my close relatives, both black gay men, died in the early 2000s. I am from the Atlanta area, and when people who I know test positive, many of them have already advanced to end stage HIV or AIDS and die shortly thereafter. Black gay men in the South are still in a deadly battle.

BRIAN SOLEM, Senior Director of Communications, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, 33: My earliest memories about HIV/AIDS are from watching Pedro [Zamora] on The Real World and learning that not only was he gay, but he was HIV-positive, too. As an adolescent in the ’90s, my fear of being gay and my fear of getting HIV were intertwined: If one, then the other. By the time I came out to my parents, my fear of both had lessened, and I owned my vulnerability to HIV in the same way I owned my gay identity.

RICH TAFEL, 55: In the early ’80s I kept reading about this mysterious disease. Then, in 1984 I volunteered to be an AIDS Buddy in Boston. In this program we visited a person with AIDS each week. This was a huge education for me. My buddy had faced many types of discrimination. He was given three months to live, but lived a full year longer than expected. The average time we had buddies was only two months before they died.

REV. DYAN AKOUSA McCRAY-PETERS, Founding Pastor of Unity Fellowship Church, 67: In the fall of 1982 I witnessed many of my male friends suffering from what appeared to be the flu. Congested, coughing, no appetite and extreme weight loss. I heard that the Center for Disease Control was working overtime to identify the cause of the symptoms which later was identified and called “GRID” — Gay Related Immune Deficiency. Within 18 months I had lost over eight men who were like brothers to me. Their families, friends, partners and I were all devastated.

CEDRIC GUM, Peer Navigator, The POWER Project of Chase Brexton Health Care, 28: I’ve always heard of “the bug” growing up, but figured that was beyond me. Once being diagnosed with HIV in 2012, I started to learn about the intricacies of HIV/AIDS. The direct, firsthand stigma was painful yet eye-opening, which prompted action on my behalf. By educating myself, I could educate others with the same perceptions I had. I realized that it should not take being personally impacted to learn or care about an issue.

ADAM TENNER, 50: I was in high school when HIV/AIDS came on the scene. I was not out then but subconsciously it delayed my coming out by many years. In college, one of our professors died of AIDS and it helped to mobilize students to ensure that we had access to condoms and information on campus.

JOHN HASSELL, National Director of Advocacy, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, 59: I learned about AIDS in 1981 when I was on a beach vacation at Sandbridge, Va. reading about a new “cancer” that reportedly was affecting gay men.

EARL FOWLKES, Center for Black Equity, Inc. President/CEO: I became aware of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s while living in Atlanta then moving NYC, when some of my friends and co-workers became ill and quickly died. The symptoms were rapid weight loss, blotchy skin, and an ungodly high fever. At first, only my white friends were becoming ill, but shortly thereafter my black and Latino gay male friends started to become ill. It was though some strange gay cancer had swept the land.

LAWANDA WILKERSON, 38: I have always been aware of HIV/AIDS, but really was more aware and educated on it when I was diagnosed with it in April of 2015.

RAYCEEN PENDARVIS, Host, The Ask Rayceen Show: The first time is when I heard about the “Gay Disease” or “Gay Plague.” It hit home when I lost my best friend, Darryl Lewis, in 1986.

MURRAY PENNER, Executive Director, NASTAD, 56: In the early 1980s my friends began dying. It was a frightening time. There were no treatments and the only advice doctors could give to people who were testing HIV-positive was to prepare to die.

CORNELIUS BAKER, 56: At the beginning of summer break from college in 1981, my boyfriend and I were talking to the owner of the Le Paris Bookstore in Syracuse, which sold a certain type of merchandise. He told us to be careful because there was a new cancer killing gay men. We were 19 and didn’t quite understand but it was an important moment. He was one of the early heroes who spread the word to the community.

SCOTT SCHOETTES, HIV Project Director, Lambda Legal, 50: Hard to remember exactly. I am sure I heard reports on the news when it was still being described as a “gay cancer.” It was definitely part of my awareness long before I was sexually active. Born in 1967, I was probably part of the first group for whom HIV/AIDS was a fixture in the world before we were even sexually active. In other words, I never had a sex life without concerns about HIV.

Do Americans still care about HIV/AIDS as an issue?

HUCKS-ORTIZ: Americans still care about HIV/AIDS, but too many of our citizenry may think that HIV is no longer something that needs so much intervention. I beg to differ. The face of the current HIV epidemic has become more likely to be African American or Latino, younger, a man who has sex with other men, and/or be someone who lives in places with disparate access to medical care. These are all things that we as Americans are still concerned with, but it is up to us as advocates to ensure that these conversations are tied back to addressing HIV/AIDS.

ANGELO: Several years ago an episode of South Park jibed that AIDS, as a cause célèbre, had been eclipsed in popular culture by the movement to eradicate cancer. There is some truth to that, largely rooted in a public awareness that HIV has largely become a chronic — rather than a lethal — disease. But it does persist, which is why a lack of urgency around the issue threatens to freeze the progress we have made on eradicating AIDS in our lifetimes.

SIMMONS: They don’t care, and it’s understandable, because now HIV can be treated with a pill a day. Unless HIV personally affects them or someone they know, they are too busy struggling to survive in today’s economy. Rent, mortgages, food, clothing, employment — that’s what the Americans I know are dealing with. HIV/AIDS is on the counter because there’s too much on the stove.

BENTON: Not nearly as much as they should. As part of what could be called a “post-traumatic stress syndrome” reaction to the epidemic, there has developed an almost nostalgic kind of unreality about the terrible consequences of the epidemic, and there has been no serious appetite in our popular gay culture to address it. Safe sex has been replaced with the false panacea of PrEP, the dangerous illusion that as long as the HIV virus is stemmed, there need be no concern for the explosion in the spread of other dangerous STDs, without realizing that it was just the environment of easy STD transmissions that the HIV virus was able to mutate into its deadly form, and it, or something like it, could again.

ROBINSON: In some places. We have to do a better job at supporting people impacted by HIV. We are finally seeing less infections nationwide, even though it is still increasing for some populations — gay Black men and transgender people of color. However, you can hide your infection now with the excellent treatment that is available. Since HIV stigma that was born in the ’80s is still rampant, many people are still encouraged to hide their infection. HIV stigma is the main reason why so many people still die from the disease. No one wants to be one of those people.

SLATTERY: The question seems a bit harsh, but I’ll answer it by saying I don’t believe the majority of Americans still think that HIV/AIDS is an issue worthy of their concern. This is because they no longer see it as the epidemic it was in the 1980s and 1990s. While great advances in medicine and treatment have been made, it is my observation that prevention efforts continue, but are declining, as folks believe PrEP to be a silver bullet of sorts. This viewpoint is held by those who weren’t coming up in the early days of the disease and thus do not have the advantage of the history and utter devastation HIV/AIDS — and the inhumane inaction our national political leaders, especially Ronald Reagan — wreaked on our community.

DEBORAH DIMON, Alexandria Health Department, 62: I think there are people who still care, know others living with HIV, have a memory of what it was in the early days of the epidemic. I think there are some enlightened young people but for the most part, I drive home most days and look at all the houses and apartments in Alexandria and say to myself, “I really wonder how many people out there actually have thought about HIV today?” I do know people have more information and take action to prevent themselves from becoming infected, while there are others who just don’t have it on their radar for many reasons.

DON BLANCHON, CEO, Whitman-Walker Health, 53: Yes, but with much less urgency than we did in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. The 1980s and 1990s were marked by much suffering, many deaths, and rampant stigma, discrimination and bias. People’s lives were at stake every day. There was an overwhelming emotional intensity to do anything, something to comfort your partner, your family member, your friend, or your colleague in the face of death.

Now we have significantly advanced testing, treatment, policy, and funding. Such progress was unimaginable 30 years ago. The progress, however, has also affected community perspectives about the urgency — or lack thereof — around the fight against HIV. Simply put, HIV is not viewed as the #1 Public Health Issue in our society. That distinction now belongs to opioid addiction.

SHNIDERMAN: Yes, many Americans still care about this issue, but there is a marked decrease in the sense of urgency and concern about the epidemic. There is a greater recognition of this public health menace among medical professionals than with the general public. As the number of deaths has declined, so too has the public’s awareness.

PAUL KAWATA, NMAC: I think Americans do still care about HIV/AIDS but it’s no longer one of their top concerns. For them, the “crisis” around HIV appears to be over. But, when you give them the full story of what’s happening, particularly in communities of color, their concern rises. We still deal with issues of stigma and discrimination that continue to fuel the epidemic among men who have sex with men, communities of color, and the transgender community. We need to ensure that we are doing all we can to bring the latest advances in health care and prevention to these communities.

LANEY: I believe that Americans still care, but many people aren’t concerned about HIV as a real threat to themselves. Far too many people still view the disease as something that happens to gay men, drug users, and promiscuous/undesirable people. The truth is that, in 2017, despite all the advances that we have made socially towards sexual liberation, most folks don’t have the education or self-esteem/efficacy to manage their sexual health. Under those circumstances, HIV continues to be a topic that is easily brushed off due to ignorance and shame about our sexuality.

SOLEM: I’m regularly asked variations on this question in casual conversations. “Is HIV still a ‘thing’?” “But people don’t die from AIDS anymore, do they?” This tells me that we have replaced stigma with silence. The antiretroviral revolution, which has saved countless people’s lives and helped them reach their full potential, allowed us to neatly tuck the HIV epidemic away, give ourselves a pat on the back, and consider the mission accomplished through pharmaceutical intervention. You only care about HIV if you have to — if you’re forced to think about a friend, brother, aunt who’s either living with the virus or is vulnerable to it.

McCRAY-PETERS: I think there is a genuine posture of care in America, however there is so much more that should be done to curtail the spread of the virus. At a young age education should begin at home, where parents should openly talk to their children about HIV/AIDS. Likewise there should be a curriculum implemented in school on age appropriate levels.

HASSELL: Most Americans think AIDS is over. Too many organizations have made false claims of victory, pumping out happy talk that it’s not life-threatening. Over one million people die each year from HIV-related diseases because they can’t get access to obscenely priced medications. Over 20 million people living with HIV have no access to treatment. With over 1.8 million newly infected each year, the epidemic is out of control.

DAVID HARVEY, National Coalition of STD Directors, 55: Yes and no. For younger Americans who haven’t seen the direct impact of HIV/AIDS or experienced loved ones dying, HIV/AIDS does not have the same impact — perhaps leading to lower sense of the need for activism. Conversely, some Americans are celebrating the advances in HIV treatment, PrEP and PEP and know that course must be maintained in order to end HIV.

BA’NAKA DEVEREAUX (32): It seems to me that there is a frivolous attitude toward HIV/AIDS, and it’s that attitude that seems foolish and dangerous to me.

FOWLKES: I think Americans are indifferent to HIV/AIDS these days. The news that appears about HIV/AIDS seem to be about new prevention medicines, or how people who are infected are living normal lives. HIV/AIDS has fallen into the category of a chronic controllable disease such as diabetes or hypertension in the minds of most people. You hardly hear about the deaths anymore, although people are still dying from AIDS-related illness. You don’t hear about how the pandemic has not slowed down in certain parts of the South or among Black Gay men and Transgender women. You hardly hear actors and entertainers talking about HIV/AIDS when they are accepting their awards or wearing red ribbons. “No news” translates into “good news” in the minds of the public.

JENNIE SMITH-CAMEJO, Communications Director, Positive Women’s Network, 38: I think most Americans have a very outdated understanding of what HIV is, how you get it (and don’t get it), and who it affects. Even though the scientific and medical community understand HIV very well now, and have found groundbreaking antiretroviral treatments that keep it at bay and prevent transmission (we know now that undetectable = untransmittable!), most of my friends and acquaintances outside the HIV community don’t seem to realize that you can have a normal life span with HIV, that you can have condomless sex without risk of transmission if you’re on successful long-term treatment, that you can live a normal life. There seems to be this idea that it’s still, if not a death sentence, at least a lifelong curse that’s almost as easy to get as a cold or the flu. Stigma is still alive and well. I think people still also commonly believe that it’s a “gay man’s disease.” While the rates are still highest in the LGBTQ community, anyone can acquire HIV, and areas facing poverty, inadequate access to healthcare, mass incarceration and other huge challenges are most at risk.

BAKER: Traveling around the country, I am always amazed how much Americans do care about HIV. It is not something that most think of on a day-to-day basis, but they have a deep commitment to seeing it come to end and serving those in need. Just this Thanksgiving weekend, my Uber driver taking me to visit my grandmother in Winter Garden asked what did I do in Washington. When I responded about my work addressing HIV domestically and globally, it led to a very rich conversation about what more needs to be done. He also shared his experience growing up in a deeply religious community that prevented him from having friendships with gay people that would have made his life better. These conversations in places all across our country also reflect the continued generosity of the American people in helping people living with HIV in the U.S. and around the world.

SCHOETTES: In a generic sense, I think Americans still “care” about HIV, but they view it as something that doesn’t really affect them much — and believe that it only affects people in other communities and other countries. Americans don’t realize the impact that HIV and AIDS continue to have in this country in various marginalized populations — including Black and Latino communities, the LGBT community, people living in poverty, those living in the rural South, sex workers, and injection drug users. There are some people that would not care even if they knew about the devastating impacts on people in these communities, but for the most part, I think Americans would care — if they were aware.

What does HIV/AIDS mean to you in 2017?

HUCKS-ORTIZ: In 2017, addressing HIV/AIDS to me means looking at our lives in a holistic way, and considering both community-level and structural approaches to addressing health and wellness which includes safe and stable housing, preventative healthcare, quality schools, job development, and addressing the prison industrial complex, and addressing stigma. All of these are part of a comprehensive approach to ending HIV as we know it.

LOREN JONES, Board Member, Positive Women’s Network, 65: It means that we are on our way to either preventing transmissions completely, sustaining the life and lifestyles of those aware of their HIV status, or curing the newly infected.

BENTON: It means that the popular urban LGBTQ community culture still lacks the maturity to take this and other looming dangers facing it seriously, and the emphasis on new forms of encountering people for casual impersonal sex are only inviting a very unhappy future. LGBTQ people need to step away from the hedonistic excesses that the urban gay culture provided in the 1970s and are persisting even now. There is so much more to life in terms of romance, love, and caring. Too many have suffered emotional damage from so much impersonal sex that they aren’t even aware of what they’re missing, or why they don’t seem to be able to cultivate meaningful interpersonal relations.

SLATTERY: In 2017, AIDS to me means continued compassion to not just those who have lived with the disease for decades, but to those who have been newly diagnosed. I have also been alarmed by recent reports of folks living with HIV dying from full blown AIDS-related illnesses in greater numbers than we’ve seen in a very long time. Making sure folks remain on their regimen is key to ensuring we don’t see these numbers continue to rise.

BLANCHON: The fight against HIV in 2017 is all about our community’s willingness to address stigma, discrimination, and bias within our society. Why? Because these societal ills are the root causes of barriers to HIV prevention services, testing, and treatment. Too many persons in our community — especially those for whom society is less affirming because of one’s race, identity, orientation, immigration status, and/or economic standing — do not seek or stay engaged in care.

On a macro level, we may very well have the science and treatment modalities to find a functional cure for HIV in our lifetimes. Personally, I do not believe we can achieve such a cure without greater awareness, understanding and empathy towards all in our community. That is why attacking stigma, discrimination, and bias among us is so important in the fight against HIV.

CRUZ: HIV/AIDS in 2017 disproportionately affects communities that are most marginalized and with the least resources. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black and Latinx men who have sex with men, and transgender women have the highest HIV incidence rates in the United States. HIV providers, policy makers and community members must work collectively to address the problems that are preventing individuals from accessing and adhering to HIV programs and services. HIV services must continue to take a holistic and client-centered approach to break the historical trauma and distrust within these communities. Every person living with or affected by HIV must have access to the support, resources and services they need to achieve optimal health and wellness.

SHNIDERMAN: HIV/AIDS remains a primary focus for my work and the work of Food & Friends. We continue to provide home-delivered medically-tailored nutrition to over 600 persons living with HIV/AIDS along with roughly 200 of their family members, approximately the same number as ten years ago. While cancer referrals represent the fastest growing portion of our services, we have an abiding commitment to caring for persons impacted by HIV/AIDS.

LINDA NABHA, HIV Primary Care Physician with Price Medical, 37: In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, those who were diagnosed with HIV had possibly a few months to live. We are now living in a time period where more people living with HIV than ever before have access to life-saving medications, and live long, healthy lives. We are seeing a decline in the number of infections overall, but there is a ton of work to still do: the rates of HIV continue to rise amongst gay and bisexual men. We must continue to focus on access to medications, health care and preventative medications, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). To me, HIV in 2017 is a manageable, chronic illness which has excellent and effective therapy (similar to diabetes or hypertension).

KAWATA: AIDS in 2017 is largely a success story, with some caveats. We now have at our disposal tools that could set us on a path to finally end the HIV pandemic. And, where those tools have been implemented, we are seeing dramatic reductions in new diagnoses. However, many communities, particularly those of color, are not seeing widespread use of methods like PrEP. AIDS in 2017 means working to make sure that everyone affected by HIV can benefit from these advances.

We also need to help long-term HIV survivors, particularly those over the age of 50. Many of them are reporting dealing with depression, isolation, and PTSD. We need to make sure that these men and women who survived the greatest public health crisis of the latter 20th Century have the resources they need to live long, healthy, engaged, and happy lives.

SOLEM: In some ways, 2017 has seen a reawakening of HIV awareness in the U.S. PrEP’s influence is creeping more and more into the mainstream; cities and states across the U.S. are undertaking bold “Getting to Zero” plans; threats to the Affordable Care Act raise awareness of those whose chronic illnesses like HIV rely on stable access to health care. AIDS in 2017 reminds us that everything we’ve worked to accomplish with ending the epidemic could go up in flames if we lose momentum under President Trump.

McCRAY-PETERS: In Third World countries the spread of HIV/AIDS is not addressed in a way that changes the spread of the virus. I recently was in West Africa and noticed no public advertisement of treatment on billboards.

STEFFEN: It is honestly a distant thought due to the fact that I am and have been Undetectable for six years. It makes me happy to be able to live my life and not worry about HIV.

TENNER: The last HIV funeral I went to was just about 10 years ago. Monica was a 21-year-old woman who worked at Metro TeenAIDS. Although she was a great peer educator and testified numerous times before the city council and school board with her famous line, “I had 10 minutes of HIV education in 10th grade and it wasn’t enough,” Monica was not out about her HIV then. In fact she did not disclose her status until she got sick. She refused to go on medication because at 21, she said, she was “too tired to fight.” Monica lived a heroic life, surmounting challenges that would crush many adults. While HIV is no longer the cruel reaper that it once was, the lessons are critical as we look to eradicate HIV and stay vigilant for other diseases that thrive where there is poverty, lack of education, stigma and discrimination.

HARVEY: The advances in HIV/AIDS treatment and biomedical prevention are nothing short of a miracle and are to be celebrated. We must maintain our investment in research, care and prevention programs to end HIV. But the rise of other STDs in gay men should give all of us pause — the clinical intersections between STDs and HIV are being under-estimated. And STDs are NOT the “cost of doing business” to end HIV since STDs cross between communities, with potentially deadly consequences from undiagnosed syphilis and complications from STDs in women, which can cause cervical cancer, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and infertility.

DOUGLAS YEUELL, Executive Director, Atlas Performing Arts Center, 57: In 2017, HIV/AIDS brings an aching and sad memory back to my life. Thank God the scourge has lessened, but the loss of human life especially those near and dear to me leaves a tearful wound that will never heal.

SMITH-CAMEJO: In 2017, HIV is an example of a condition that should be preventable, since we have the tools we need to prevent it, and yet we see that, while overall rates of new cases of HIV continue to decline, in certain communities, there is no decline but an increase. Poverty, structural racism, inadequate access to health care, underfunded education, marginalization, mass incarceration — these are all root causes that dramatically increase the likelihood that one will acquire HIV in one’s lifetime. HIV is just one more manifestation of the gap between the haves and have-nots in our country, as well as a testament to who our government (and, by extension, society) values. Some cities like New York and San Francisco, with large and politically powerful gay communities, have all but ended new acquisitions of HIV by expanding access to testing and care, creating aggressive marketing campaigns to impacted communities and making prevention tools like PrEP and treatment available where they are most needed. But in the deep South, where inequities are deeply entrenched and the epidemic is concentrated in the Black community and exacerbated by mass incarceration, where Republican elected officials often feed into racism and homophobia and have resisted expanding Medicaid or other efforts to make healthcare more accessible to lower-income folks, we see the epidemic gaining steam. This is intolerable in 2017. It really shows priorities.

BAKER: HIV in 2017 is a complex mix of emotions and thoughts for me. Most importantly, I think of the past 36 years and so many dead friends. They are with me every single day. Their lives give me inspiration to look ahead to bringing an end to the continued needless infections and deaths.

SCHOETTES: For me, personally, it means a health condition that I will probably live with the rest of my life. It means taking my medication every day and doing other things to remain as healthy as possible. It also means a lot of moments of disclosure and explaining and a more limited pool of potential partners, including potential sexual partners. But that is changing as well, with the availability of PrEP and as more people realize that a person living with HIV who has an undetectable viral load has no chance of transmitting HIV to a partner. In fact, it is probably safer to have sex with a person with an undetectable viral load than it is to have sex with someone who thinks they are HIV negative but has been sexually active since their last HIV test.

Are you worried about the future of U.S. HIV/AIDS funding under Trump?

HUCKS-ORTIZ: It concerns me that under this administration the Office of National HIV/AIDS Policy (ONAP) has literally disappeared, and what that may mean for our coordinated efforts to address HIV. The National HIV/AIDS Strategy talked about making the United States a place where “new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.” I have yet to see the current Administration move in any way to support this strategic vision.

ANGELO: President Trump has stated he is “determined to build upon these improvements and continue supporting domestic and global health programs that prioritize testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS,” which would mark a continuation of the policies first elevated under President George W. Bush to end HIV and AIDS as we know it around the world. President Trump’s reauthorization of the President’s Council on HIV & AIDS (PACHA) is further demonstration of this commitment.

SIMMONS: AIDS activists will have to plan for the long term to deal with Trump’s madness. We must demonstrate and ensure health care becomes a human right. There has to be funding for treatment and prevention, here and abroad. At the same time, since funding may be cut for the next few years, we have to develop behavioral interventions that build resilience in young black gay men, particularly, so they can overcome the pitfalls of social and structural determinants of HIV infection.

ROBINSON: Yes. The loss of the Office of National AIDS Policy should not have occurred. I have not heard the current President speak about the epidemic, which is especially troubling since he is from New York City.

SLATTERY: Last year on World AIDS Day, President Obama released a thorough progress report on national HIV/AIDS strategy implementation. The report highlighted the work of his Administration and set targets for 2020. And while some cite the lack of cuts in President Trump’s FY18 budget submission as meaning he does not intend to defund research, along with declarations that programs such as Ryan White are priorities, the President, as we all know, is prone to lying and tweeting out of both sides of his mouth.

DIMON: I am concerned about people having affordable medical insurance, access to social support that promotes a person’s opportunity for success thereby reducing social factors that impact risk reduction, concerned that people who don’t have insurance may not have access to affordable care and the medications that are imperative to live undetectable.

MARRERO: I worry about criminalization laws and my reproductive rights as a sex and HIV-positive black woman.

CRUZ: The Trump-Pence administration’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act would significantly reduce access to HIV medical treatment and biomedical interventions in communities that are disproportionately affected. Furthermore, the administration’s failure to name a Director to the Office of National AIDS Policy sends a signal they are not focused on bringing an end to the epidemic.

LGBTQ advocates from around the world have expressed concerns to us about the fact that the Trump-Pence administration has pushed for massive cuts to funding for the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which could severely harm our nation’s ability to help LGBTQ communities and people living with HIV and AIDS abroad. The administration’s proposed budget would slash funding for programs that provide vaccinations, treatments and education to nursing moms, children and people fighting diseases, including HIV. New restrictions on the use of federal funding will undermine family planning programs around the world. This will put life-saving medications and treatments out of reach for some of our world’s most vulnerable people, especially those living with HIV.

SHNIDERMAN: I am worried about the future of almost everything in the current circumstances. Most of those living with HIV/AIDS are members of marginalized groups and as such are often the first adversely impacted by funding reductions. Homophobic thinking and behavior increase the likelihood of adverse public policy and decreased funding.

LANEY: I am not only concerned about HIV/AIDS under this administration, but I am concerned about the lack of respect for science and sound public policy based on evidence. It should alarm us all that the wife of the Sec. of Health and Human Services, who is also a state representative in Georgia, thought that suggesting that HIV positive people be quarantined was a reasonable question in 2017.

KAWATA: Very. This year, the administration proposed massive cuts to federal HIV programs, including the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program, research, prevention, and care services. Those cuts would have devastated the HIV community and probably led to a resurgence in new HIV cases. Fortunately, Congress has so far restored the funding for those programs. But that may not always be the case. This is a fight we will have every single year. And there’s always a chance that, one year, it won’t go our way and we’ll lose this vital funding. It’s going to take constant vigilance and constant pressure on our elected officials to keep that from happening.

TAFEL: I’m always worried about AIDS funding. Most AIDS organizations never really developed access to the Republicans and that’s a concern now that the GOP controls all parts of the government. That’s where Log Cabin Republicans will need to take a leadership role and make sure we don’t lose ground.

KARI STEFFEN, 38: I am worried that I will lose my insurance and not be able to go to the doctor, which in my mind means that I will get sick again and DIE!!! I want to live.

TENNER: The future of HIV/AIDS funding has been at risk for many years. Even under President Obama, Michael Kharfen, the current head of the HIV/AIDS unit of the Department of Health, used to say that of the few good things about a stuck Congress was the fact that they had not yet agreed to slash HIV/AIDS funding.

HASSELL: Yes, but the problem is more than who is in the White House. Congress makes final funding decisions, not the president. Sure, what POTUS proposes matters a lot. But do we have the political interest, attention and will to demand that Congress fully fund lifesaving HIV programs? Do we have the will to demand that drug companies stop charging obscene prices for HIV medications? Do we have the will to stop stigmatizing people living with HIV? Those problems worry me more.

FOWLKES: I believe there is legitimate concern that the current administration will make deep cuts in HIV/AIDS that will have a negative impact on the level of services and prevention that will be available to at-risk populations. The current administration has proven to be hostile to communities of color and LGBTQ people, all of whom are impacted by HIV/AIDS at some level.

YEUELL: Yes, as long as Trump is in power I am concerned about the care of humanity. I do not believe Trump understands the concepts of right and wrong.

SMITH-CAMEJO: I’m extremely worried about funding specifically for HIV, but also more generally for health care. We have seen attempt after attempt by the Republican-led Congress and shepherded by Trump to gut the ACA, slash Medicaid, and even cut the very popular Medicare. Dismantling the essential health benefits guaranteed under the ACA mean that people living with HIV could once again be “uninsurable,” or have to pay exorbitant costs for their care. This means more people will die from AIDS, and that we will see rises in the rates of new HIV cases.

PENNER: I think almost everyone working in healthcare is worried about the future, but especially those of us working on HIV. We have the tools to end the HIV epidemic, so now what we need is the political will to do so. We need the resources and resolve from our lawmakers and the Administration to get there.

SCHOETTES: I am not as worried about funding as I am about the ways in which that funding is directed and channeled. I have confidence we will continue to convince Congress that funding for HIV/AIDS programs is essential to sustaining the gains we have made in certain areas in recent years. I worry about how this Administration will direct those funds, given that they are putting people in place who support very discredited “abstinence-only” sex education, have called for cuts to certain programs addressing the needs of minorities, and are hell-bent on eliminating the Affordable Care Act, even though it has been a wonderful thing for people living with and at higher risk for HIV. And I would be even more worried were Pence ever to become President.

Do you think we’ll ever see a vaccine?

HUCKS-ORTIZ: I am hopeful that we will see the development of an effective vaccine against HIV. There is a lot of really amazing work that is being done within the NIH-funded HIV research networks, and I believe that we will see an effective vaccine during my lifetime.

ANGELO: If the trends we have seen in HIV treatment and prevention continue, finding a cure or vaccine for HIV is not a matter of if, but when.

SIMMONS: Yes. Because AIDS research will do it. I remember when my friends were dying around me. Now we take one pill and strive. I have no doubt that a vaccine will be developed. I just don’t know if I will live long enough to see it.

ROBINSON: We have only been aware of HIV for less than forty years. It took centuries to get other vaccines, and we are well on our way.

SLATTERY: My hopeful answer is yes. There have been so many advances in treatment along with great and vital work in reducing the stigma of those living with HIV. My honest and cynical answer is no. In my opinion, big pharma simply won’t allow a vaccine. I truly want to be wrong, but we all saw what is possible when Martin Shkreli and Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of Daraprim from $13 per pill to $750, and increased the price of lifesaving EpiPens by 500 percent. It’s really hard for the cynic in me to be dissuaded, but I desperately want to be proven wrong.

MARRERO: Yes! But there are so many positive humans who don’t know they carry HIV, the big concern would be making sure everyone has a chance at the cure.

CRUZ: Advances in HIV research have led to the development of biomedical interventions and affirmed the efficacy of treatment as an effective HIV prevention strategy. Despite the tireless efforts of HIV researchers throughout the world, discovering a HIV vaccine has been elusive. While there is still hope that a vaccine will be developed, we must utilize the research data and resources available today that state that we can eliminate new HIV infections in our lifetime even without the discovery of a vaccine. The key is to increase access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and antiretroviral therapy.

NABHA: A preventative vaccine would not only make a major dent in the incidence rates for HIV but would also greatly reduce the burden of the cost of this illness and the progression to AIDS. Currently, HIV vaccine research is buzzing with activity. We have made great strides but also face big challenges. The virus is smarter than other viruses and it is genetically diverse making it difficult to create a preventative vaccine. However, the majority of HIV research is focused on finding a safe and effective vaccine with major studies underway at the National Institute of Health. I am cautiously optimistic that we will find that preventative vaccine. In our practice, we have seen a rapid uptake of PrEP, which may help people stay HIV negative until a vaccine is available.

LANEY: Yes, I am very hopeful for a vaccine and a cure in my lifetime. In the near future, I hope we also have injectable treatment for HIV positive people so that those who have barriers to taking medication on a daily basis can become undetectable and medically adherent.

SOLEM: It’s very likely that we’ll one day see a vaccine for HIV, but I’m more interested in seeing prevention methods like microbicides and long-lasting injectables get further developed. We’ve made such great progress globally on prevention tools; let’s keep these hot coals afire.

McCRAY-PETERS: If and when monies are redirected from the dollars spent fighting wars outside of the U.S. that will never be won to finding a vaccine, then the likelihood of a vaccine to eradicate HIV/AIDS is a dream deferred.

STEFFEN: As long as our government is in charge of our health, we will never see a vaccine or a cure. They do not care because they are not affected by the disease.

HASSELL: Yes I do, but from what the experts tell us, we still need years of more basic research to reach that goal. It will happen.

FOWLKES: I do believe there will be a vaccine at some point — it’s just a matter of investment. If the United States can send a spacecraft to Mars, surely we can develop a HIV/AIDS vaccine. I believe this can be done with a private/public partnership with the government and pharmaceuticals.

YEUELL: I would certainly hope so — what a relief that would be.

SMITH-CAMEJO: It looks promising — I hear there have been some successful trials in Africa. I think it will still take a while, because it will require a lot of testing and follow-up. Even if and when a vaccine is available, we will likely still face the same problem we face now when it comes to access to care. Will the most vulnerable communities have access to the vaccine? Will they be able to get it free of charge? Will there be outreach in their communities to let them know it’s available and that they are good candidates for it? Will the same religious right community that has virulently attacked the HPV vaccine for kids go after the HIV vaccine as well, with their usual noise about how it will encourage “risky behavior”? I think we have to address a lot of the problems in our society that already stand in the way of ending the epidemic before a vaccine alone will do the trick.

BAKER: Yes, I believe we will have a vaccine. Having worked with NIH and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, I am excited about the continued advances represented by the current clinical trials in the United States and in African countries.

SCHOETTES: I think we will see a vaccine, but I am not sure we will ever see a cure.

The opinions expressed above are those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect those of Metro Weekly’s staff or freelancers. The responses were edited for clarity and consistency.

To read an expanded version, or to learn how you can participate in future Public Forums, visit metroweekly.com/forum

Kentucky Mesothelioma Victims Center Urges a Diagnosed Person in Kentucky to Call Them for Very Honest Advice about Hiring the Nation’s Most Skilled Lawyers for Better Financial Compensation Settlement Outcome

We are urging a person with mesothelioma in Kentucky to call us to ensure they are talking directly to full time mesothelioma attorneys who get the best compensation results for their clients”

— Kentucky Mesothelioma Victims Center

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, USA, November 30, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ — The Kentucky Mesothelioma Victims Center is urging a person in Kentucky who has been recently diagnosed with mesothelioma or their family to call them anytime at 800-714-0303 for very honest advice about making certain they hire one of the nation’s most skilled mesothelioma attorneys for their financial compensation claim. As the group would like to discuss, “There is a direct relationship between receiving the very best possible mesothelioma compensation settlement for a diagnosed person in Kentucky and being represented by one of the nation’s most skilled and experienced mesothelioma lawyers.” http://Kentucky.MesotheliomaVictimsCenter.Com

The Kentucky Mesothelioma Victims Center says, “The reason we are extremely passionate about making certain a person with mesothelioma in Kentucky or their family are talking to some of the nation’s most capable mesothelioma attorneys is if they hire an inexperienced, or unqualified law firm or lawyer chances are their financial settlement result will not be that great. We are talking about potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost compensation-that the diagnosed person or their family will never see. We also want to emphasize we do not want a diagnosed person with mesothelioma in Kentucky to get overcharged by their law firm.

“If a diagnosed person with mesothelioma in Kentucky hires a law firm to help with their mesothelioma compensation claim and they then want to fire the law firm, or upgrade to much better attorneys—it is next to impossible to do as we would like to explain anytime at 800-714-0303. This is just one more reason we are urging a diagnosed person with mesothelioma in Kentucky or their family to call us to ensure they are talking directly to full time mesothelioma attorneys who consistently get the best financial compensation results for their clients on a nationwide basis. Please don’t allow yourself to settle for anything less.” http://Kentucky.MesotheliomaVictimsCenter.Com

The Kentucky Mesothelioma Victims Center wants to emphasize their statewide initiative is available to any diagnosed victim in Kentucky including communities such as Lexington, Meads, Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, Owensboro, or Covington, Kentucky. http://Kentucky.MesotheliomaVictimsCenter.Com

For the best possible mesothelioma treatment options in Kentucky the Kentucky Mesothelioma Victims Center strongly recommends the following two heath care facilities with the offer to help a diagnosed victim, or their family get to the right physicians at each hospital:

* The University of Louisville Health Sciences Center: http://louisville.edu/hsc/research
* The University of Kentucky’s Markey Center in Lexington:
http://markey.uky.edu/#sthash.umuntVc5.dpuf

The average age for a diagnosed victim of mesothelioma is 72 years old. This year between 2500, and 3000 US citizens will be diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is attributable to exposure to asbestos. High risk work groups for exposure to asbestos in Kentucky include Veterans of the US Navy, power plant workers, oil refinery workers, factory workers, plumbers, electricians, miners, auto mechanics, machinists, and construction workers.

The states indicated with the highest incidence of mesothelioma include Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Louisiana, Washington, and Oregon. However, based on the calls the Mesothelioma Victims Center receives a diagnosed victim of mesothelioma could live in any state including Kentucky.

The Kentucky Mesothelioma Victims Center says, “If you call us at 800-714-0303, we will see to it that you have instant access to the nation’s most skilled mesothelioma attorneys, who consistently get the best possible financial compensation results for their clients in Kentucky. http://Kentucky.MesotheliomaVictimsCenter.Com

For more information about mesothelioma please refer to the National Institutes of Health’s web site related to this rare form of cancer: https://www.cancer.gov/types/mesothelioma

Michael Thomas
Kentucky Mesothelioma Victims Center
800-714-0303
email us here

Fighting for Freedom From Surveillance: Redefining “Sanctuary” for Trans, Queer and Immigrant Communities

Protesters drape themselves in the LGBTQ+ pride flag and Trans pride flag at a dance protest celebrating trans youth in Washington, DC, February 24, 2017. (Photo: Ted Eytan)Protesters drape themselves in the LGBTQ+ pride flag and Trans pride flag at a dance protest celebrating trans youth in Washington, DC, February 24, 2017. (Photo: Ted Eytan)

One of the leading strategic movements after the installation of Donald Trump’s administration has been the sanctuary movement. Yet, as many critics have asked, what’s a sanctuary with jails? Though cities have been quick to claim the mantle of sanctuary, a surveillance apparatus that disproportionately targets poor communities of color runs contrary to that claim. The matrix of broken windows policing, anti-immigrant policies and online tracking lead to presumptions of criminality that, in many cases, keep no one safe. In my own home of New York City, you can be deported for something as simple as jumping a turnstile. How do we reconcile claims of sanctuary with a crisis of over-policing that leaves us all more vulnerable — particularly those rendered invisible under the state, like transwomen and undocumented immigrants? I’m joined by Jennicet Gutiérrez of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement (Familia: TQLM), and Hamid Khan of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. You can watch this conversation — and many more like this — on the Laura Flanders Show, or subscribe to the free podcast: @lfshow

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Laura Flanders: Sanctuary and surveillance this week on The Laura Flanders Show. Can any city really be safe? We talk with Hamid Khan, campaign coordinator of Stop LAPD Spying about the data-mining programs that are proliferating under the Trump administration, and hear from Jennicet Gutiérrez about what the trans queer migrant’s movement can teach people about how to protect those most vulnerable. Jennicet, Hamid, welcome to the program. Glad to have you. Let’s start with you, Jennicet. We don’t hear much about what is happening in the trans community. Sometimes we hear the numbers, statistics — like when I heard recently that the average life expectancy for an African American trans woman was 35 years old. Is that possible?

Jennicet Gutiérrez: Correct. Yeah, that’s very sad and unfortunate that we have to deal with those horrible statistics, right? The life expectancy of a Black trans woman, 35? How can we allow that to be right, as a society, as a community, as a movement? The violence that transgender women of color specifically face — it’s alarming. In the US alone, last year we lost 26 trans women. Most of the victims were Black trans women.

And trans men?

Gutiérrez: I believe there’s been one or two that have been reported that we know about, but the majority continue to be Black trans women….

Is it possible that the trans men are just not getting reported?

Gutiérrez: I’m not really sure why that’s the case, but it’s alarming to me that perhaps they’re not being reported as much as the trans women of color…. I think … the fact that trans women challenge the [gender] binary, the norms … plays a role in why trans women of color especially get murdered at a higher rate.

And what does Familia TQLM do?

Gutiérrez: Familia Trans Queer Liberation Movement, we are a local, a national-based organization. We are building still. We’re only three years old, and specifically working with the Latinx community. We are working in issues of immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ rights and racial justice, because we understand that here there are issues impacting the trans community, including undocumented trans women, but also there are connections with other communities, that we need to feel solidarity.

So, you represent one of those other communities, Hamid. Last time we spoke to you, you were talking about the work of your organization, Stop LAPD Spying. It’s been about a year. How have things changed or not changed since the last time we were in Los Angeles, Hamid?

Hamid Khan: Well, while the playbook remains the same, I think enforcement of the operationalization of that playbook is definitely changing. Particularly, I think post-Trump’s election, how all these practices are getting much more enhanced, much more severe, and I think speaking about particularly in the immigrant community, while there’s a lot of focus on ICE — the Immigration Customs and Enforcement — what’s really missing is the much bigger ISE, the Information Sharing Environment, which has been established … for over a decade now, post-9/11, and how data collection has really become the major tool for enforcement, for investigation, for tracing and tracking and monitoring people.

Now, you use the phrase Information Sharing Environment. Other people talk about surveillance. Is it the same thing?

Khan: Well, it’s bringing together surveillance and data collection from various parts. This came on the heels of [the] 9/11 Commission Report. Congress passed a law, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, and in that — in 2004 — they mandated the executive branch to create a massive environment where … various agencies and private contractors and corporations, [and] local, regional, international, national [organizations] would be sharing information about people where it would be uploaded into various databases and then the outflow of information would happen.

And how is that intersecting with the immigration agenda of the Trump administration especially? Not that there wasn’t a problem beforehand.

Khan: Well, let’s look at some of the people that are working with Trump…. Peter Thiel owns Palantir. Palantir is a data-mining firm, which is valued over $25 billion, and Palantir got a contract with Immigration Customs Enforcement for about $45 million. But when you look at Palantir itself … it was developed by a CIA venture capital arm, In-Q-Tel, and Palantir has become the primary data analytics … engine … to gather information and develop that into predictive algorithms. So, Palantir is being used by ICE, Palantir is being used by LAPD in their Suspicious Activity Reporting program, Palantir is being used in predictive policing — so Palantir … kind of becomes this common thread where information is being shared, information is being collected.

“We cannot allow a city to call itself sanctuary, yet have direct collaborations with ICE.” —Jennicet Gutiérrez

So, in essence, when they talk about sanctuaries, when … cities are speaking out and political leadership is speaking out against the partnership between police and immigration, I think what’s really missing is that there’s a lot of misinformation and misleading information, because immigration doesn’t have to wait for a police phone call. They’re not waiting for LAPD or the LA Sheriff’s Department to pick up the phone and say, “Hey, we have somebody here.” They can go into the Information Sharing Environment and identify anybody and everybody and go after them.

So, how is this a trans issue? Why are you here sitting next to Hamid here?

Gutiérrez: Oh, obviously there is a clear connection with law enforcements and immigrant detention centers throughout the nation. Familia has been involved directly in the campaign to end trans detention here in Santa Ana, California…. Some of the women who are detained get contact with the police for not having a license, for some type of minor violations, and they get turned over to an immigration detention facility. So, that’s been … critical for us to uplift the community, the issues, the struggles that … we are facing, and how for many of us, the first contact is through law enforcement, and now that the new administration has made it clear that they’re going to invest more money in law enforcement … it’s critical for us to be able to say, with the pressure that [they] are putting, we’re forcing ICE to get out of Santa Ana.

Santa Ana was in the news not long ago around this question. How come?

Gutiérrez: Santa Ana was perhaps the first city to call itself “sanctuary,” but immigration has been holding business in that specific facility for the last 10 years. It’s important for us to challenge the notion of sanctuary, because again, we cannot allow a city to call itself sanctuary, yet have direct collaborations with ICE. We have a number of our LGBTQ undocumented people inside this facility, including undocumented women. Immigration wanted to expand the contract, because the contract expires in 2020, so they wanted to renew it for an additional 10 years, let’s say. But by having two direct actions, we have forced them to get out. That is the direction that we need to go. If we’re really gonna embrace fully the term “sanctuary,” we need to … cut all ties with ICE and put pressure to go further and shut it down completely.

Do you see a model in the struggle around the Santa Ana facility that could be expanded?

Khan: Absolutely…. I think there’s so many different ways, and it’s a work in progress because it’s not only about ICE and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, because the way our data is moving … it’s a vast, vast apparatus — the Information Sharing Environment, as I mentioned earlier — but I think this is definitely a first step towards really dismantling this whole apparatus.

So, that whole discussion around whatever they called it — Safe Communities Law — the collaboration between immigration officials and policing — what I’m hearing [is] it affects trans people disproportionately because you have more run-ins with the police.

Gutiérrez: Yeah…. We’re a small population, yet our numbers are highly represented in the criminal justice system … exposing us to further violence … so that should be completely unacceptable and the … LGBT community needs to really center and uplift the leadership for trans women of color specifically.

Are you a documented immigrant?

Gutiérrez: I’m undocumented at the moment.

And what would be your path to quote unquote “legalization?”

Gutiérrez: It’s a very complex, lengthy, pricey process … if, in the process, you missed any minor information, your application can be pushed back.

And is it different for trans people?

Gutiérrez: It’s more complex for trans people because no government … at the federal level recognizes our trans identity that I’m aware of. Right? So, we have to provide our birth-given information that we really don’t connect or identify with. That makes it more difficult for us to get through the process without being humiliated, harassed or dehumanized in doing so….

So, if the process wasn’t difficult enough for most people, it’s even more difficult for you?

Gutiérrez: I would say so, that is the case, and that’s why, to me, it’s extremely important to let people know that we are being impacted at a higher rate — more than the regular population — and in order for us to truly be free in this society, again, we have to center our trans woman leadership.

“Where there’s a lot of oppression, there’s a long history of resistance as well.” —Hamid Khan

And how is that changing the work that you’re doing, Hamid, this new coalition kind of, this new expansion of the communities you’re working with?

Khan: … When you triangulate the tactic and programs that they have — because now increasingly what we are also seeing is this expansion in real-time facial recognition technology, real-time biometrics technology, as well with the use of body cameras. So, body cameras, while people have been speaking about them as like, “Well, they will result in more officer misconduct,” well more than that, it’s gonna expand the surveillance state, because body cameras are going to be picking up the information. It’s almost a 24/7 surveillance tool.

We had a conversation not so long ago with Eric Adams, the [borough] president of Brooklyn, and he was talking about cameras as possibly a way to document positive interactions with the community. You’re saying even in those positive interactions, data’s being captured?

Khan: Absolutely, and all the … footage becomes evidence. Then when you look at … how the “[If You] See Something, Say Something” programs have worked out, now we have evidence based on LAPD’s own inspector general audit that over 80 percent of the suspicious activity reports have come through See Something, Say Something, which comes from private individuals. So, they’re basically providing a license to profile people, so when you look at transphobia and how deep transphobia runs, who is a suspect person? What is a suspect body? Why would they be called in? Then when you bring in predictive algorithms and you start looking at how those algorithms would be used against trans sex workers, for example, and who’s a suspect in there? So, I think it’s not only necessary, we are obligated because these are the level of vulnerabilities that we need to expose.

So, what kind of activities are you up to? What are you all doing together?

Gutiérrez: We really are mobilizing, building coalition with other communities, especially the ones that the new administration has openly and heavily attacked — the Black community, the Muslim community, the LGBT community — but also in the LGBT community, we need to let them know, “Hey, there are undocumented LGBTQ people that are also being impacted….” That has to be one of the strategic ways for us to move forward, and how do we engage in difficult, uncomfortable conversations … for instance, there’s been moments when I’m told I’m undocumented but I’m not part of the LGBT community, I don’t see the connection, so you shouldn’t even be part of the conversation, much less decision making, so we have to really go hard after our own communities and say, “Hey, we can no longer be silenced. We can no longer be thrown under the bus. You need to trust the leadership of trans women of color.”

Khan: The one thing if I can add is that I think the other piece that we are doing is … really challenging the movement itself, because I think what is happening is that as people of color, we who are not Black, all of a sudden there’s this mobilization that happens as if the assault started yesterday. I’m originally from Pakistan, but I also challenge the movements in South Asian communities as well, because of the failure to draw parallels and to be there when the Black body is being assaulted on the street…. I think one of our goals is really to continually challenge that we need to ground ourselves in Black liberation and really just to challenge our own anti-Blackness.

Are we going down a helpful track here with this talk of sanctuary?

Gutiérrez: I do welcome the idea of sanctuary cities and municipalities, and colleges and universities and spaces for protection, but I do believe that it is important to redefine what does sanctuary mean, what does sanctuary look like? We cannot just heavily concentrate on one community while other communities have been heavily attacked, for instance, like the Black community, the Muslim community, the transgender community, so we need to really be more broader in our definitions, so when we talk about protection, we mean all people, including those immigrants with criminal records.

Khan: And I think just on the flip side to that, I think this whole conversation can become a slippery slope as well, because sanctuary, as we are reminded by particularly elders in the Black community, is also a containment zone where you are sort of confined within a certain zone, and if you step out of that zone, you or your body’s in danger … what is happening is that there’s not really solid information being shared about … how information gets shared, how it’s not just a matter of seeking sanctuary in a place of worship or in your house — that unless we really are able to move freely around, so I think we have to really just frame this in the bigger conversation of liberation.

Gutiérrez: So, how can you really call yourself sanctuary when you have this facility here that is collaborating with ICE and holding people in cages and putting them through so many human rights violations…? Here we have an opportunity to not only shut down the immigrant detention part of it, but also the entire city jail, and I think instead of having that space to put our people through so much harm and pain, how do we use that space to be able to allow people to be themselves and thrive and be productive people to society and be respected in a very dignified way?

So, I think that is the way we need to move, and yes, it is extremely difficult and complex, because sometimes there will be very hard disagreements with the community, but in the end, the long-term is to abolish all detention centers and prisons and find alternatives. How do we handle these type of conditions that are happening that to me are inhumane and are not working for communities of color?

Last word from you, Hamid.

Khan: Well, I think ultimately, where there’s a lot of oppression, there’s a long history of resistance as well … how do we strengthen this culture of resistance, how do we share knowledge with our communities, how do we learn from the elders who have been fighting this system of oppression for so many years? I think at the end of the day, it just comes down to that, however we look at sanctuary, liberation and freedom really comes along as communities are building power together. It’s about food, it’s about shelter, it’s about safe streets, it’s about access to health care. It’s not only about immigration rates.

HEROD: NPCA’s absurd stance on secret legal costs

Keeping track of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority soap opera can be exhausting.

Mind you, there are episodes that elicit mirth in a smirking, roll-your-eyes kind of way.

Take, for instance, the manner in which NPCA has tried to turn a high-profile loss in court into a redemptive victory.

By the time it finished twisting the judgment into its favour, the authority had turned itself into the world’s largest pretzel.

But I’m not here to revisit the decision and the scolding remarks made by Judge James Ramsay in relation to the defamation case NPCA brought against local activist Ed Smith.

Feel free to check out the written ruling on The Standard’s website and come to your own conclusion about whether the powers-that-be at NPCA acted abysmally.

However, I do want to bring attention to one facet of the conservation authority’s response to the decision.

There was considerable public criticism levied against NPCA for suing Smith in the first place. It was overkill and a misuse of public funds, critics charged. Indeed, in his ruling, Ramsay also suggested the authority was taking a sledgehammer to a fly.

In light of all this, it seemed more than reasonable to ask the authority how much it spent on this failed legal battle.

When such an inquiry was made, NPCA spokesperson Krystie Caputo said the agency’s “court costs are protected by attorney-client privilege and Freedom of Information safeguards. I cannot be more specific than that as this is the framework of our justice system.”

I don’t know the inner workings of NPCA, but it’s probably safe to say Caputo didn’t come up with this view on her own. Rather, deep thinkers at the authority got together to strategize about how to handle the negative fallout from the decision and provided Caputo with that gem to deliver.

Solicitor-client privilege? Huh?

Seriously, what exactly is at risk here?

What full, free and frank communication between the two parties exchanged under the cloak of confidentiality — the point of the privilege — would be exposed by revealing the final legal bill?

Answer: none.

Presumably, the only thing at risk is NPCA’s self-declared reputation for spending dollars wisely.

Not surprisingly, doubt is being expressed about the authority’s stance on secrecy.

Coun. Joe Kushner asked at St. Catharines city council Monday night what his city’s position would be under similar circumstances.

City solicitor Heather Salter responded thusly:

“The case law and the IPC (information privacy commissioner) orders have indicated that the details of legal invoices, the accounts, the dates, the work that was done — that sort of thing — are entitled to be refused as being solicitor/client privileged.

“However, the total amount paid, without that sort of information attached to it, is not privileged. So, generally, it has been ordered to be released.”

A slightly more expansive explanation than the one given by the NPCA spokesperson, huh?

In charitable moments, I can fathom why the conservation authority feels besieged these days. Whatever good work it does on a day-to-day basis has been overshadowed the past few years by a steady stream of condemnations over its actions and policies. NPCA’s leaders and directors believe, rightly or wrongly, that a lot of the heat it’s taking is politically motivated.

But these leaders and directors are hardly innocents in the creation of the current toxic atmosphere. Some of its actions and staffing decisions have been controversial. And, if I may steal a phrase from puffed-up board member Tony Quirk, they have been Trump-like in their aggressive reaction to criticism and are themselves proud practitioners of the political black arts.

Still, any smidgen of grudgingly given sympathy for the authority’s plight quickly disappears and widespread scorn returns when, in tone-deaf fashion, it stonewalls attempts to find out how much it spent on a losing legal battle.

Since Ramsay’s ruling was released, NPCA has been weirdly defiant, almost cocky, in its continued assertions that it did the right thing in trying to legally extract $100,000 in damages from a local activist who, in its view, was too loose with some of his allegations.

I’m not sure the authority’s assertions have a lot of support. Certainly, the presiding judge thought otherwise.

But if the NPCA board really believes it was fighting the good fight, why the reluctance to reveal the cost of its legal battle? It would have been money well spent, right?

Answer: it knows it screwed up.

dherod.niagara@gmail.com 

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Can Our Revolution Build a Blue Texas?

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That’s no easy endeavor. There are still plenty of Democrats who aren’t ready to change, at least not as much as they need to. But in an era when everything seems up for grabs, when frustration with Donald Trump’s fill-the-swamp presidency is rising, and when the Democratic Party is looking for the pitch-perfect response that might undo not just Trump but the politics that produced his presidency, there’s an openness to new approaches. This means that models can be tested and proved—especially in a state as big, politically vital, and rapidly diversifying as Texas.

Texas progressives say there’s no time to waste. As the results from this fall’s elections indicate—not just in Virginia and New Jersey, but in states like Georgia and Oklahoma as well—the 2018 off-year election cycle could be the best since 2006 for red-state Democrats. They say it’s time to rethink dismissals of the Lone Star State as uncompetitive, noting that Hillary Clinton ran as well in Texas last year as she did in Ohio. They point out that Republicans hold three congressional districts that were won by Clinton. They note that one of the state’s most dynamic Democrats, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, is mounting an audacious “no PAC money” challenge to Republican Senator Ted Cruz. They point to a memo from Dave Carney, a political adviser to GOP Governor Greg Abbott, in which Carney explained after the 2017 midterms, “It would be easy for us to say Texas is not Virginia. It would be easy for us to say the Democrats in Texas aren’t that well organized. That would be a huge mistake…. The enthusiasm gap that we face is real.” Informed of the Carney memo, Texas Democratic Party official Manny Garcia told the Houston Chronicle: “We agree.”

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There’s hope for Texas Democrats. But there has been hope before—as recently as 2014, when Wendy Davis’s gubernatorial run started strong but ended in a 59–39 defeat. Progressive populists now say hope must be coupled with persistent grassroots organizing, and they argue that the promise of a $15-an-hour minimum wage may do more to increase turnout than a $15 million TV ad campaign that repeats failed talking points. So Our Revolution Texas is moving fast, racing to create the next politics for a state, and a nation, that desperately needs it. “I think people know that if we break through in Texas, anything is possible,” says Turner, a Sanders surrogate in 2016 whose dynamic speaking style and unapologetic advocacy for emboldening the Democratic Party have made her a hero among millennial activists. “We have to do the work here if we are going to renew the Democratic Party.”

Designated by Our Revolution’s national board as the organization’s first state affiliate, the Lone Star group has hired staff; used Sanders-campaign lists to connect with grassroots activists; and begun organizing chapters at the local, county, and regional levels. It has spelled out a progressive agenda—a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, worker rights, support for immigrants, policies to address climate change, and a commitment to get big money out of politics—and it is encouraging political newcomers who came of age in the Sanders campaign, as well as the worker-rights, immigrant-rights, and Black Lives Matter movements, to start running in Democratic primaries and nonpartisan local elections.

Some of these newcomers have already won. Activist La’Shadion Shemwell, 30, was elected in June to the McKinney City Council in conservative Collin County, north of Dallas. “If I can do it,” Shemwell says, “having been arrested, being a minority, having tattoos and dreadlocks, being a poor person with all the odds against me—if I can do it, then anybody can do it.” In San Antonio, history teacher John Courage surprised nearly everyone by winning his uphill run for a City Council seat. “We can’t overstate how huge an upset this is,” said Our Revolution, which backed him. “Education activist John Courage has won his race in San Antonio’s most conservative district!”

The group plans to endorse candidates in 2018 for posts like state commissioner of agriculture—where Kim Olson, a retired Air Force colonel and rancher who has become a dynamic advocate for sustainable food production, seeks the Democratic nod—as well as in hundreds of down-ballot contests that have often been neglected in recent years. And it’s exploring the possibility of endorsing for governor and US Senate. There will be some primary fights, but in many parts of Texas, Our Revolution activists are working with local Democrats and stepping up as candidates supported not just by Sanders backers but by 2016 Clinton backers. “They’re bringing energy and a lot of young people into the party,” says Lorraine Broll, president of the Circle-C Area Democrats club in Central Texas. She isn’t a member of Our Revolution, but she’s pleased the group is organizing in places like Hays County, an area between Austin and San Antonio where Trump narrowly won in 2016 but where Democrats hope to make dramatic progress in 2018.

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Part of the Our Revolution Texas strategy is to run in places where Democrats aren’t supposed to have a chance. To that end, it’s organizing not just frustrated Democrats but also independents and members of the largest political group in the state: nonvoters. This emphasis on expanding the voter roll and the candidate list intrigues Texans who have grown cynical after years of hearing that the demographics of this minority-majority state will soon make Democrats dominant.

It’s true that Texas is rapidly diversifying, with substantial Latino, African-American, and Asian-American communities. But voter suppression and gerrymandering by the GOP—and lethargy on the part of establishment Democrats—still give Republicans the upper hand. Activists argue that the TV ads and tepid talking points favored by too many Democratic strategists won’t undo the GOP’s advantage anytime soon. Pushing instead for intense organizing and messaging, Our Revolution leaders and organizers have taken to the old-fashioned populist circuit, driving county highways before dawn and after dark to get to towns that haven’t experienced much political excitement in recent years. The meetings fuse activist energy with practical politics, pulling in labor, civil-rights, and immigrant-rights groups, as well as young people who have never identified as Democrats. “There are people who haven’t trusted the Democratic Party, but they trust Our Revolution,” says Julie Ann Nitsch, who won a seat on the Austin Community College district board of trustees last December with strong support from the group. There are also plenty of Democrats who have stuck with the party through thick and thin but have grown tired of waiting for something new.

“This really is exciting,” said Ed Moore, as the “Revolutionize Texas” rally concluded on a Sunday night almost a year after Trump swept East Texas and obliterated Hillary Clinton in Tyler’s Smith County by a 70–26 percent margin. “The Democrats,” Moore confided, “have been bypassing East Texas for so long that I wondered if they knew we were still here.” It wasn’t just that Hightower, Turner, and the Our Revolution crew showed up. It was what they preached: the sort of red-hot populist, strong-for-workers, tough-on-billionaires gospel that Democrats used to embrace in these parts. “Hightower talks about yellow-dog Democrats,” Moore said of the old-time loyalists who backed the party’s ticket no matter who was nominated. “That got me wondering if, maybe, some of the yellow rubbed off on the Democrats.”

That’s “yellow” as in “scared of their own shadow.” In conversations with Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents from towns across Texas this fall, I was struck by just how profoundly frustrated the base is with a national party that couldn’t beat Trump and a state party that has been on a losing streak longer than any in the country. There’s a sense that the party has, in the words of veteran Texas labor organizer Paula Littles, “lost its way” by advancing a campaign-donor-defined agenda that appeals to elites in Dallas and New York rather than an economic-populist agenda that speaks to folks on Tyler’s Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Objections that Democratic strategists, donors, and candidates have narrowed the party’s appeal with “Third Way” platforms and policies that fail to excite much of America aren’t new. Sanders carried that complaint into the 2016 presidential race with considerable success, emerging as the most popular politician in America, according to recent Harvard-Harris polls. Even Hillary Clinton now admits that her campaign “lacked the sense of urgency and passion that I remember” from her husband’s successful presidential run in 1992.

Most Texas Democrats I spoke with on my 1,000-mile trip around the state recognized that their party’s problems in Texas—and the nation—run deeper than personalities and last year’s election results. The party has become uncompetitive in much of America. In 2016, it won just 487 of the more than 3,100 counties nationwide (and just 27 of the 254 counties in Texas). The big, bold, contentious, and yet strikingly competitive party that controlled Congress for most of the 60-year period from Franklin Roosevelt’s election in 1932 to Bill Clinton’s in 1992, and that dominated statehouses for much of that time, now struggles to compete in vast stretches of the country. According to Hamline University professor David Schultz, “Democrats are in the worst shape they’ve been in since the 1920s.”

Nowhere has the decline been so dramatic as in Texas, a state once so solidly Democratic that the great political battles played out in the primaries, because Republicans weren’t competitive enough to make November contests matter. Into the early ’90s, Democrats were so dominant that the state’s political stars—people like Hightower, once the Texas agriculture commissioner, and then-Governor Ann Richards—became leading progressive voices on the national stage. Hightower was defeated in 1990, the victim of a slimy campaign engineered by Karl Rove. Richards lost four years later to Rove’s gubernatorial candidate, George W. Bush. The party lost the Texas Senate in 1996 and the Texas House in 2002, and as the years passed, it lost courthouse posts at such a steady rate that in recent years, contests for local, county, legislative, and even statewide offices have often been conceded to the Republicans without much of a fight.

The change has occurred in the lifetime of many of the Texans who have joined Our Revolution. Before the “Revolutionize Texas” rally in Tyler, Hightower and I drove around the surrounding region. “I used to win this county, Smith County,” Hightower recalled. He finished his 1982 race for agriculture commissioner with more than 60 percent of the vote statewide, running on a Democratic ticket that swept every state office, and he finished equally strong in 1986. In those days, says Littles, the union organizer who grew up south of Tyler in Groveton and now directs the Texas efforts of National Nurses United, “I loved working elections in East Texas. Everyone understood what it was about. You had steelworkers, rubber workers, oil and chemical workers, all these unions, all these union families. We elected a lot of populists and progressives. We had a saying: ‘We elect people and then we collect from them.’ Everyone knew what that meant—it meant that elected officials didn’t just respond to the big money and the bosses; they listened to us, they responded to the needs of working people.”

Then things started to fall apart. First came the layoffs, then the factory closings. The sprawling Goodyear plant that once employed more than 1,000 tire workers on Tyler’s west side closed a decade ago; a Carrier Corporation plant closure cost another 400 jobs four years ago—long before Trump made a show of trying to save the company’s facility in Indiana. Union locals dwindled and disappeared—not just in Tyler but in much of East Texas. Democrats started looking elsewhere for support: to wealthy donors and campaign consultants who argued that the best way to win elections was by pouring money into TV ads rather than local parties and grassroots organizing. “The party turned into a club,” says Littles. “People didn’t feel so connected to it. They stopped showing up for meetings, stopped answering calls to knock on doors.”

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Now they’re showing up. On a Monday night in early October, I drove out of Austin to a candidates’ forum sponsored by the Circle-C Area Democrats club, which works part of the sprawling, and absurdly gerrymandered, district of retiring Republican Congressman Lamar Smith. When I arrived, I couldn’t find a parking spot. The club has moved its meetings to larger and larger halls as the crowds have grown in recent months. Trump’s election shook a lot of folks into action. They’re not all Our Revolution members, but many are, including club vice president Hatem Natsheh, who says Our Revolution Texas has “reactivated” the party in many parts of the state. That certainly seemed to be the case as the congressional candidates spoke; as Natsheh notes, “A lot of them were sounding the Bernie Sanders themes: Medicare for All, $15 an hour.”

One of the leading contenders at the Circle-C forum, former congressional aide Derrick Crowe, told the crowd that Texas Democrats must spell out an agenda that excites not just the party faithful but also the great mass of nonvoters who must become engaged in order to tip Texas. Crowe wasn’t just talking the talk. A few days before the forum, when the group organized a rally for universal health care, Crowe showed up, held his “Medicare for All” sign aloft, and tweeted that he was “Proud to stand with @OurRevolutionTX & @OurRevolution for #Medicare4all in San Antonio!”

Donald Trump, Garrison Keillor, Jay-Z: Your Thursday Briefing

On Wednesday, within hours of firing the “Today” co-host Matt Lauer for inappropriate sexual behavior, NBC received at least two more complaints related to him. Our TV critics discussed the revelations.

The Times has started a new newsletter, The #MeToo Moment, in which our gender editor, Jessica Bennett, will offer updates and analysis on the wave of revelations about sexual misconduct. Sign up here.

Video

Lauer, O’Reilly and Rose: The Fall of Male Media Stars

Is this the long-awaited reckoning that the corporate news media needs? Our media columnist, Jim Rutenberg, explains.

By BARBARA MARCOLINI and JIM RUTENBERG on Publish Date November 29, 2017. Photo by Karsten Moran for The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

Separately, Minnesota Public Radio said it was cutting all ties with Garrison Keillor, the creator of “A Prairie Home Companion,” after allegations of “inappropriate behavior.”

“It is wrong for the president to have done this.”

• Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain denounced President Trump on Wednesday after he shared videos from a fringe ultranationalist group purportedly showing Muslims committing acts of violence.

We examined the videos. At least one misrepresents the facts of what the viewer is seeing, while two others are provided without any context.

Britain First, the group that posted the videos, thanked Mr. Trump for publicizing its views, which include the idea that white Christian civilization is under threat from Muslims.

A lonely death.

• In postwar Japan, a single-minded focus on rapid economic growth helped erode family ties. Now, a generation is dying alone.

The extreme isolation of elderly Japanese is so common that an entire industry has emerged, specializing in cleaning out apartments where decomposing remains are found.

“The way we die is a mirror of the way we live,” one 83-year-old said.

The Daily”: Trump, taxes and Twitter.

Listen on a computer, an iOS device or an Android device.

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A Bosnian Croat former military commander, Slobodan Praljak, swallowed what he said was poison on Wednesday during a court hearing at The Hague in which judges upheld his 20-year jail sentence for war crimes during the 1992-95 Bosnian conflict. Mr. Praljak, 72, later died in a Dutch hospital. Credit ICTY, via Associated Press

Business

Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman, gave Congress an upbeat assessment of the economy on Wednesday, and said she expected growth to continue.

G.M. is set to demonstrate its growing fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolts today.

American Airlines is scrambling to fix an error that left about 15,000 scheduled holiday flights without pilots.

U.S. stocks were mixed on Wednesday. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

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Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.

Four easy steps you can take today to be happier.

Are you at high risk for a heart attack?

Recipe of the day: Try an Italian sheet-pan dinner of chicken, potatoes and cherry tomatoes.

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Do it the way the Italians do. Credit Michael Kraus for The New York Times

Noteworthy

New York City by water.

In today’s 360 video, ride along the East River from Astoria to Wall Street on the city’s new ferry service, whose ridership has exceeded early projections.

As delays plague the subway, one woman summed up the boats’ appeal to commuters: “This is the way they want to get to work.”

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See Why New York’s Ferries Are So Popular

Ride down the East River from Astoria to Wall Street, and find out why New York’s new ferry service has been filled beyond early projections.

By GUGLIELMO MATTIOLI, SAMANTHA QUICK and NATHAN GRIFFITHS on Publish Date November 30, 2017. Photo by Christian Hansen for The New York Times. Technology by Samsung.. Watch in Times Video »

A conversation with Jay-Z.

The rapper and music mogul recently visited The Times and spoke to our executive editor, Dean Baquet, about race, relationships, O.J. Simpson, the state of rap and his place in music.

“I’m the person that looked at the Mona Lisa and be like, man, that’s gonna be cool in 40 years,” Jay-Z said. “I play forever. And so my whole thing is to identify with the truth. Not to be the youngest, hottest, new, trendy thing.”

Watch the interview here.

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Jay-Z and Dean Baquet, in Conversation

The rapper and music mogul discusses therapy, marriage and politics with The New York Times’s executive editor.

By NICK BENTGEN on Publish Date November 29, 2017. Photo by Nick Bentgen. Watch in Times Video »

Nazi sympathizer loses his job.

The restaurant in Ohio that employed Tony Hovater, the subject of a recent Times profile who expressed a belief that races are better off separate, said it had received threats.

An uplifting tale from London.

After years of drifting the city’s canals, a step ahead of the law, two English students-turned-squatters found success in their 50s with a floating bookstore.

“Books have been considered on the verge of obsolete, and so have canals,” one of the owners said. “But these are things people always liked. The canals survived because of that, and so will books and bookstores.”

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Word on the Water, a 50-foot-long boat and bookshop, moored on Regent’s Canal in London, near the British Library. Credit Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Best of late-night TV.

Stephen Colbert returned from an extended Thanksgiving weekend, introducing himself as “one of the few men still allowed on television.”

Quotation of the day.

“When you put all these pieces together, what you’re left with is we are squandering a giant sum of money.”

Edward Kleinbard, a former chief of staff at the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation who now teaches law at the University of Southern California, on the proposed tax changes.

Back Story

Thirty-five years ago today, Michael Jackson released “Thriller,” which topped charts around the world and became the best-selling album globally.

The King of Pop’s sixth studio album, “Thriller” infused a mix of pop, disco, funk and rock. It won a record-breaking eight Grammy Awards in 1984, including Album of the Year. (Santana tied the record in 2000.)

Photo

Michael Jackson in Buffalo in 1984. Credit Associated Press

Statues of Mr. Jackson have been erected in countries from Australia and China to Italy and Brazil.

Produced by the arranger and composer Quincy Jones, “Thriller” also broke racial barriers.

The video for “Billie Jean” was one of the few from black artists to receive heavy airtime on MTV and is widely credited with helping to popularize the music network, which debuted in 1981.

After the success of “Billie Jean,” MTV readily accepted the video for “Thriller,” the album’s title track. The zombie-filled video, by the director John Landis, cost $1 million to produce.

In a review, The Times called the album a “wonderful pop record.”

“Most important of all,” our reviewer wrote, “it is another signpost on the road to Michael Jackson’s own artistic fulfillment.”

(Read more about the album and coverage of Mr. Jackson in The Times here.)

Claudio E. Cabrera contributed reporting.

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Continue reading the main story RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

African American woman scholar monument unveiled at U. of C.

University of Chicago students Asya Akca (far left) and Oluwaseyi “Shea” Omonijo (far right) applaud as the bust of Dr. Georgiana Rose Simpson, the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. from a U.S. university, is unveiled in Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., Tuesday, Nov. 28. – Marc Monaghan

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

Georgiana Rose Simpson was posthumously honored last night at the University of Chicago (U. of C.), nearly 100 years after she became one of the first African-American women in the United States to receive a doctorate from a university.

A bronze bust was unveiled in Dr. Simpson’s honor on Tuesday evening, Nov. 28, at U. of C., where Simpson earned a bachelor’s degree in 1911 and a Ph.D. in 1921.

Asya Akca and Shae Omonijo, two undergraduate students at the U. of C., led the charge in the effort to honor Simpson.

The two students, learned of Simpson’s triumphs and struggles while researching the history of housing at the university, they launched a campaign, the Monumental Woman’s Project (MWP) and raised $50,000 for the completion of the bust.

What interested Akca and Omonijo however, was the lack of images of women on the campus.

“Too often black women’s stories are neglected, untold or hidden,” Omonijo said. “We are often the footnotes in other people’s stories.”

MWP is dedicated to honoring influential women’s accomplishments.

“Dr. Georgiana Rose Simpson’s (AB 1911, AM’20 Ph.D. ’21) life and scholarship have paved the way for women, especially women of color, across all academic disciplines,” said MWP in a written statement.

Simpson was born in 1866 in Washington D.C. to David and Catherine Simpson.

University of Chicago students Asya Akca (far left) and Oluwaseyi “Shae” Omonijo (far right) pose with sculptor Preston Jackson and the bust he created of Dr. Georgiana Rose Simpson, the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. from a U.S. university, following the statue’s unveiling ceremony in Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., Tuesday, Nov. 28. – Marc Monaghan

In 1885, she became an elementary school teacher. She traveled abroad to Germany to study the language and later became an instructor in German at M Street High School; it was later known as Dunbar High School in Washington D.C.

She experienced racism upon arrival at U. of C.’s in 1907 when she began her undergraduate coursework.

“She [Simpson] was housed in Green Hall until racism reared its ugly head and several white female residents protested Simpson being allowed to live in their dorm and a number of them moved out in protest,” said Loann J. Honesty King, Central Region and Theta Omega Chapter Historian of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

At the time, the Head of Green residence Hall and the Dean of Women decided that Simpson could stay on campus in the dorms. The U. of C. president at the time, Harry Pratt Judson overruled the decision and asked Simpson to find housing off campus, which she did.

Simpson completed coursework through correspondence and summer courses she was awarded her bachelor’s degree in 1911. In 1917, she returned to U. of C. to begin her graduate work.

Her doctoral dissertation was titled, “Herder’s Conception of Das Volk” and in 1921 she was awarded a doctorate in German Philology at the age of 55.

During her time at U. of C. Simpson was initiated into the Beta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Members of the sorority were present at the presentation on Tuesday night to honor Simpson’s accomplishments.

After receiving her doctorate, Simpson returned to her hometown and continued her work as a teacher in modern languages at Dunbar High School. In 1931, she became a professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

The bust of Dr. Georgiana Rose Simpson, the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. from a U.S. university, after its unveiling in Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., Tuesday, Nov. 28. – Marc Monaghan

She retired from her position at Howard in 1939. She came to know other influential African American scholars such as W.E.B. Dubois, Frederick Douglass, Helen Pitts Douglass, and Carter G. Woodson.

Simpson died on January 27, 1944. She was 78. She never married or had children, which is another reason why Akca and Omonijo wanted to commemorate Simpson’s achievements.

The bronze bust is situated in front of Mandel Hall in the Reynolds Club, 1131 E 57th St., an area that was once reserved for male students.

Local artist Preston Jackson, professor emeritus of sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was commissioned to create the bust.

Jackson works primarily in bronze, and his work is known for its social significance and emphasis on the multicultural experience of life in Chicago and his concern for “those for whom social acceptance is difficult,” according to his website.

“I urge everyone here tonight to think not only about monuments that should be removed across our nation but [to think] also about those that still need to be put up,” Akca said.

GMCVB Celebrates 4th Annual Art of Black Miami Campaign

Multicultural tourism campaign highlights arts, culture and diversity during Miami Heritage Month in December  

MIAMI – The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) celebrates the The Art of Black Miami campaign for the 4th year alongside the highly anticipated Art Basel Miami Beach.

The campaign spotlights art and diversity of the African diaspora and will take place December 6-10, 2017.  Art of Black Miami kicks-off the GMCVB’s Miami Heritage Month, a month-long promotional program offering events and special offers through Miami and Beaches most diverse and multicultural neighborhoods.

Spearheaded by the GMCVB’s Multicultural Tourism Development Department, Art of Black Miami is a platform showcasing both aspiring and renowned artists while celebrating the abundant artistic diversity found within Miami’s mosaic neighborhoods.

Visitors and residents alike can experience and interact with new artworks and projects, visit pop-up art galleries, meet artists in one-on-one engagements and attend special events.

GMCVB Celebrates 4th Annual Art of Black Miami Campaign

“Having just announced another record-breaking year in tourism welcoming 15.9 million overnight visitors to Greater Miami, we know that visitors extend their vacation and stay longer to experience art and culture in our multicultural neighborhoods. This year’s Art of Black Miami kicks off the art season and GMCVB’s Miami Heritage Month, providing culture-seekers with special events, activities and offers in some of our most diverse neighborhoods,” said GMCVB President and CEO, William D. Talbert, III, CDME.

“The GMCVB is committed to the Art of Black campaign because it promotes the creative influences of African Americans, Caribbean Americans, Latin Americans, African and global artists who contribute to the fabric of Miami’s diverse artistic community.”

Twenty-five new local artists will be added to last year’s star portfolio of fifty artists who have received top national and international recognition.

These Miami-based artists will increase the visibility and awareness of Greater Miami’s culturally diverse neighborhoods and the destination’s flourishing Black arts community.

Art of Black Miami kicked-off with an event at the Opa-Locka Community Development Corporation and ARC (Arts & Recreation Center) on Thursday, November 16, 2017 featuring exceptional artists and live performance lineup.

Special Events during Art of Black Miami will include panel discussions with local, national and international curators, professionals, and artists.

Art of Black Miami Events (Partial Listing)

December 6 – 9, 2017

• Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution Animations Art Exhibition Presented by Black Archives History & Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc., www.BAF40.eventbrite.com

• Art Africa Miami Arts Fair 2017 – Back to Black: No On and Off Ramps Presented by Urban Collective/ Art Africa, www.artafricamiamifair.com

• #OurVoiceMatters Community Youth Art Collection Presented by Urgent, Inc. at Ward Rooming House Gallery (249 NW 9th Street, Miami)

December 6 – 10, 2017
• Now or Neverland Art Fair: Ode to Hip Hop at Little Haiti Cultural Complex, www.muce305.org

Thursday, December 7, 2017
• Caribbean Marketplace: Conversations with the Artist & Celebrities, www.spiceitupmiami.com

Saturday, December 9, 2017
• Caribbean Marketplace: Chefs of the Caribbean Celebrity Brunch at Caribbean Marketplace

For more information on the GMCVB’s Art of Black Miami and exhibits during Art Basel located throughout Greater Miami and the Beaches’ heritage neighborhoods, visit Art of Black Miami

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Black and Basel: Guide to finding Black Art During Art Basel Miami Beach

Preeminent and Global Digital Publication Puts Spotlight on Art By African, Caribbean & African American Artists

MIAMI – Art Basel / Miami Art Week is a week away and Sugarcane Magazine’s highly anticipated annual guide Black And Basel: Where To Find Black Art During Art Basel Miami Beach was released yesterday (Monday, Nov. 27th) on Sugarcane Magazine.

The rapid growth of black art within Art Basel and Miami Week is rich and key to the vibrant diversity of the cultural landscape, however not always widely known.

Cultural leader and influencer, Melissa Hunter Davis, Founder, and editor of Sugarcane Magazine is the architect of the annual guide. She is focused on ensuring that people know that black art plays a vital role in the landscape of the most significant art platforms that happens in Miami annually.

Melissa Hunter Davis, Founder, and editor of Sugarcane Magazine, where to find black art in art basel miami

Melissa Hunter Davis, Founder, and editor of Sugarcane Magazine

The Black and Basel: Where to Find Black Art During Art Basel Miami Beach includes; independent events, exhibits by local artists, art fairs and galleries within premiere art fairs like Art Basel, NADA, Red Dot, and Pulse, where African, Caribbean & African -American artists are exhibiting their artwork. Also, the guide maps out where key Black and Caribbean satellite art fairs will take place. Some of those include  Art Africa Miami Arts Fair, Yeelen Gallery, Prizm Art Fair, Miami Urban Contemporary Experience.

This year a map will be included to help people plan out their Black Basel schedule.

This guide is a  significant tool for collectors, professionals, aficionados, and influencers who look to view and purchase art by African, African American and Caribbean artists.

Sugarcane Magazine is an independent and black-owned, digital platform for visual and performing artists of Africa and the African Diaspora. The magazine has featured interviews with Hank Willis Thomas, Renee Cox, Nora Chipaumire, Carol Mallard of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Edwidge Danticat to name a few.

Sugarcane Magazine is a part of Sugarcane Global Media, a boutique videography firm that works with non-profits, small corporations, podcasters, and artists. Sugarcane Global Media is also the official firm of Art Africa Miami and Prizm Art Fair 2017.

For more information about the guide and to sign up for Sugarcane’s newsletter visit Sugarcane Magazine

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment