Browsing Category: AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps Week – Team Detroit Looks To Its Roots (Part 2)

Part two of our AmeriCorps Week piece covers three former members of Team Detroit: Melissa McDaniel, Felisia Byrd and Darthanian “Dart” Nichols.

Name of Alum: Melissa McDaniel

Year(s) Served: 2001-2002 & 2002-2003

Placement:

Team Coordinator for two years. First year: Latino Family Services (LFS) Second year: MAPP

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program: Melissa always gravitated toward community service. Prior to AmeriCorps National AIDS Fund (NAF, now AIDS United), she participated in the state program and wanted to give back and have more experience working with the community. Melissa found out about the program from a member through a HIV 101 at an adolescent homeless shelter. She mentioned that the state program didn’t feel much like a team, but the NAF Program felt like a team. She also mentioned that the Detroit team has always been very diverse in many ways.

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

While at LFS, Melissa participated in the Needle Exchange Program (while adhering to program guidelines), was a Counselor and Tester and planned all of her team’s Team Days. While at MAPP Melissa participated in sex education programs for youth, online outreach, event planning, HIV 101’s and Counseling and Testing in bars.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

The people that Mellissa met along the way were her favorite part of her service year. She also had an emotional connection with all the team members.

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

Melissa remembers painting the walls of LFS (beautiful artwork). During her first year of service she also remembers their Team Day at Head Start. Kids were at Head Start, and the time members spent connecting with the children and sorting clothes was very special.

Is your employment related to your year or service?:

Melissa continued to work in the HIV/ AIDS field. She spent some time working at Community Health Awareness Group (CHAG). She is now the Supervisor of Case Management at Health Emergency Life Line Program (HELP). She is also starting the online outreach for MSM’s and early intervention services. She has been working at HELP for 5 years.

Were you able to use the education reward?:

Melissa was able to use both of her awards for her MA program. Her program matched the awards.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

Melissa has not been involved as much as she’d like to be as of late because there is a gap between current members and alum, but when she had members at HELP she was involved.

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

“If you’re gonna be in, be all in. And be open for new experiences.”

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

Melissa realized that who she was was more than good enough. To love her truth was freeing by watching the human struggle of people and the leadership in the HIV lesbian and gay community wasn’t going to change.

Interviewed by: Rachel Spruill (Current Team Detroit Member)



Name of Alum: Felisia Byrd

Year served: 2007-2008

Placement:

AIDS Partnership of Michigan

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

Felisia has always found a strong voice in volunteering. Since 1995 Felisia has been volunteering with Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. In 2005 she joined a pro-literacy program under the AmeriCorps umbrella and further developed her passion for service.  After learning more about the risk of HIV in her community, she served with AIDS United Team Detroit 2007-08.

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

As an AmeriCorps member at AIDS Partnership of Michigan, Felisia was a certified HIV test counselor. She also answered anonymous questions for the agency’s HIV hotline and provided HIV prevention information to clients and the public through community events.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

Felisia always looked forward to team 5th days. She enjoyed the opportunities to learn about other nonprofit agencies in Detroit. In addition to making connections with local agencies, volunteering was also a chance to meet like-mined people.

One 5th Day or Service Project that you will always remember:

Felisia’s favorite service project was working with the Alternatives for Girls Christmas party. This event was put on to celebrate the commitment of the women to enter a safe community and exit sex work. Felisia remembers how rewarding it was to see each woman’s self-value reaffirmed.

Is your employment related to your year or service?

Felisia applied for her current position at CareFirst Community Health Services in 2008 after her AmeriCorps service year. But it was not until 2010 when she received a call offering her employment. During the interim, Felisia attended school at Detroit Business Institute to become a Registered Medical Assistant. She continued volunteering at the Joy-Southfield Free Health Clinic. Now as an employee of CareFirst, Felisia is an Early Intervention Specialist, a position in which she continues the HIV work that she began during her service year, including HIV testing, prevention education, and connecting people to treatment and care.

Were you able to use the education reward?

Felisia used her AmeriCorps education award to pay off education loans from Davenport University where she received her Associates and Bachelors degrees.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service?

Felisia has continued volunteering regularly since her year of service. In addition to her work with the free clinic and Children’s Hospital, she has participated in AIDS Walk Detroit and assisted with Detroit DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) event.

One thing you would tell someone who is considering joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

Felisia says that it is important for new AU members to remember to be yourself and to be true to your experiences. Also she recommends that one approach the service year with an open mind and sincerity, as there is much to learn from the clients that we serve.

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

Felisia says that her year of service helped develop her self-awareness as she faced new challenges. She credits her service as making her more compassionate and helping her realize not to take anything for granted.

Interviewed by: Anthony McClafferty (Current Team Detroit Member)


Dart (Pictured Right) with Terry Ryan (Team Detroit City Supervisor)

Name of Alum: Darthanian “Dart” Nichols

Year(s) Served: 2006-2007 & 2007-2008

Placement:

First year: Affirmations Second year: Community Health Awareness Group (CHAG)

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program: Dart was a part of a population that was at high risk for HIV, and he was a CSW at the time, he knew his risk was great. He found out about National AIDS Fund (Now AIDS United) while he was a client at Ruth Ellis and saw a flyer. A member of the AmeriCorps team that served at Ruth Ellis also told him to apply.

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

While at Affirmations, Dart helped to establish the HIV prevention program from the ground up. He also established the HIV Hotline by providing HIV testing and counseling dates times and answering all HIV related questions. He facilitated “jam sessions” for young men called, “Swallow This” and “jam sessions” for young women called, “Young Women of Change” and “Youth Against AIDS.” In addition he orchestrated several fundraisers to raise money for the AIDS Walk:  “22 Pledge, Sing for a Cause: Karaoke Night, and Sexapalusa.” While at CHAG he was a HIV Test Counselor, worked on the Needle Exchange Program (Life Points, while adhering to program guidelines) and participated in Outreach.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

At the end of his first year during end of service when they have people from each team speak he watched as a member of team DC spoke about the challenges of serving in a convalescent home, where people were in advanced stages of HIV and nearing death. It was then that he realized that, while his task of telling people that they were HIV positive was difficult, it was not as hard as caring for people in their later stages in life with HIV. It was then that he knew he had to be prepared for both the result and the end result.

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

The LTP for the first year-Dart and his team members turned the basement of Ozone House in Ann Arbor into a recreational room.  Also, the LTP for the second year of service, Dart participated in Operation Speak Out with his team members.

Is your employment related to your year or service?:

Dart is now an employee of CHAG. In addition to the programs he participated in while an AmeriCorps member, he facilitates their new program Safety Counts, which is a risk reduction IDU program.

Were you able to use the education reward?:

Dart was able to use some of his education awards toward tuition in higher education.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

Dart has participated every year with the current AmeriCorps Team for the MLK Day of Service, and had gone to all of the team LTP project events, if they had them.

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

“It is not for the faint of heart”

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

AmeriCorps has propelled him in his service as a pastor. He is now able to incorporate HIV into his position as a pastor.

Interviewed by: Rachel Spruill (Current Team Detroit Member)

Want to see what the current team is up to? https://www.facebook.com/TeamDetroit Check out our Facebook page!

AmeriCorps Week – Team Detroit Looks To Its Roots (Part 1)

Part one of our AmeriCorps Week piece covers two former members of Team Detroit: Maxwell Cameron and Bré Campbell.

Name of Alum: Maxwell Cameron

Year served: 2009-2010

Placement:

Health Emergency Lifeline Programs (HELP)

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

While a student at the College of William and Mary, Maxwell started a group to promote HIV/AIDS prevention in rural Tanzania. When he returned home to Royal Oak, Michigan, Maxwell looked for a way to involve himself in HIV work in his community. He toured Michigan AIDS Fund (MAF) and met Terry Ryan (Team Detroit City Supervisor) who later encouraged him to join MAF’s AIDS United AmeriCorps team (Then National AIDS Fund).

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

As an AmeriCorps member at HELP, Maxwell worked in case management services for clients with HIV. He put on prevention and early intervention events and support groups. He worked to introduce clients to mental health therapy. In addition, Maxwell led HELP’s early efforts creating outreach programs to link people with HIV into care.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

Maxwell’s favorite part of the service year was working on Team Detroit’s Long-term Project. The team put on a fashion show to raise money for AIDS service organizations in Detroit. “It about killed me and the rest of the team,” Maxwell remembers with a laugh, “But it was really rewarding to pull off such a large and successful event.” The fashion show brought in close to 100 people, and the team raised $1,100, which was split between The Horizons Project and Transgender Michigan.

One 5th Day or Service Project that you will always remember:

Maxwell’s favorite 5th Day Project was working with Habitat for Humanity painting houses in Wayne, MI. He says that it was a unique experience, and a fun project.

Is your current employment related to their year or service?

Maxwell is currently employed at HELP. During his service year, he began working to diversify HELP’s financial support through new fundraising events and grant writing. The organization realized that it would need to continue seeking new sources of funding, and as his service year was coming to a close, Maxwell was offered a full-time position to say on at HELP in a fundraising and event-planning role. He is currently working on organizing AIDS Walk Detroit.

Were you able to use the education reward?

After his service year, Maxwell enrolled in a Master’s program at the University of Windsor and was able to use his education award to pay for his studies. He will receive a Master’s in Political Science.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since the year of service?

Maxwell continues to work with his AU sponsoring agency, now called Michigan AIDS Coalition (MAC). He has volunteered with MAC for Detroit DIFFA and the Mix, Mingle, MAC fundraising event.

One thing you would tell someone who is considering joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

Maxwell’s advice for someone considering joining AmeriCorps is to choose a program that is right for you. “There are tons of different programs that fall under the AmeriCorps umbrella,” Maxwell explains, “It’s important to seek out a service project that matches and develops one’s own interests.” He also warns against becoming too concerned with matching the hour requirements. “Service is about going above and beyond. Don’t let the hours govern your service year. Focus on getting things done.”

Describe the impact that their year of service had on them as an individual:

Maxwell says that his year with AmeriCorps imparted on him the value of service and non-profit work. Maxwell learned about the vital role of non-profits in combating health issues in the community and was inspired by the impact this work has on the lives of others. In addition, it provided him with an opportunity to develop team-building skills by planning and executing service projects with his team.

Interviewed by: Tony McClafferty (current Team Detroit Member)


Name of Alum: Bré Campbell

Year(s) Served: 2004-2005 and 2005-2006

Placement:

Ruth Ellis (first half of 2004-2005)

Horizons (second half of 2004-2005, and all of 2005-2006)

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

At the time, Bré was working a minimum wage job that was horrible, and happened to apply for a whole bunch of jobs–5 or 6– and she got the phone call back from the receptionist at Michigan Aids Fund. She explained that they were hiring, and that she should fill out an application. When she asked her what the job description was, she told me, Dont worry about it, and that I should just come in and fill out an application. Luckily, I was working not too far from the [Michigan Aids Fund] office at that time, so I went to pick up the packet the same day, the day before the packets were due. So I did my packet in one day, returned it, and got on the AmeriCorps team.

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

At Ruth Ellis, Bré was in charge of doing any type of intakes and making sure that people who were using the center signed in, and made sure that if they had any issues that needed to be resolved, whether it was counseling, HIV testing, doing laundry, or food assistance, she would help. That was her job, helping the youth. At one point in time, at Ruth Ellis, they were trying to start a mens focus group, and she helped with that. Horizons was totally different than Ruth Ellis, and she felt like she had a lot more roles and responsibilities that had to do with the whole outline of what AmeriCorps members were supposed to be doing. Bré did HIV testing and counseling, and dabbled in care services for a while, she was responsible for recruiting for one of our interventions for MSMs and did a lot of outreach. Every day they were out in schools and peoples homes in the neighborhood, doing really aggressive outreach: passing out condoms, and they would test on the spot. Like I said, it was a totally different experience than working at Ruth Ellis, it was very fast paced.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

Definitely the Super Fifth Day in Indiana during my second year, it was so interesting to see how their team operated, and the differences between our AmeriCorps team and theirs.

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

The first year, our long-term project was at a senior citizen’s center, and it was awesome, because I’d never realized that senior citizens were actually having sex. They were really engaged, they wanted to know the information, and a lot of the older people wanted condoms, but instead of asking us for them, because we were younger than them, they tried to sneak around us. It was really cute, because they reminded me of my own grandparents. Then I thought, “Oh my gosh, my grandfather could be having sex, and he could be at risk for HIV,” so I took him some condoms and we had the whole conversation. It was really great to be at an agency and have so many years between all of us and still be able to have an understanding on one topic. There was an older lady who got up and told her story about how she became HIV positive in her sixties. Her husband had died, and she decided she was going to date someone else–she had sex with him and he gave her HIV, and I thought that was amazing. We’re so used to seeing younger people getting infected with HIV, I never thought in a million years that, when I’m sixty, HIV will be something that I will still have to worry about.

Is your current employment related to your year of service?:

Being that I had a year and a half of experience at Horizons under my belt, it wasn’t that much of a transition [after being hired by the agency]. I will say this: on Thursdays, I missed my Team Days. That was my favorite time in AmeriCorps because not only did we do really good team projects, it was a day we had to focus on other issues in the community besides HIV. I found myself every day, like, “HIV this, HIV that,” and I was like, can we start doing other volunteer work at different places? Because it wasn’t in my job description I couldn’t do it, so I started volunteering at other agencies and organizations and on boards.

Were you able to use the education reward?:

I did use it to go to Wayne State for a couple of semesters–I still have money left, so I haven’t used it all. I do plan on going back to school in the fall and using the rest of it before it expires. It was a blessing: not only did I get out of high school with so much experience, but I had money to go to school.

Have they participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

Not necessarily participated in, where I did work, but the fashion show the AmeriCorps team put on two years ago, I was there, and it was awesome. Last year, we did a service project for MLK day at Cody High School in Detroit.

One Thing They Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

Try it, don’t knock it, and don’t think about it too much. I think that was my issue. When you hear HIV and you’ve never heard it before, you kind of get scared because you don’t know what that means. Take a step out on faith and try it. It’s a yearlong program, so if at the end of the year you realize you don’t like it, AmeriCorps still looks wonderful on a resume. There are so many AmeriCorps members in different positions around the country, and just having that on your resume, sometimes, can get you in the door. I know, for me, it’s been a blessing. After I got out of the program, I got an AmeriCorps Alumni Card from Bank of America, and even when I was at Target and places and I was sliding the card, people would say, “Oh you did AmeriCorps, I did too!” Even though they didn’t do it for AIDS United, they were doing it for different programs, for VISTA, for City Year, and when people see that you did AmeriCorps, they really like to talk to you. I guess they feel, “Oh, I went through this program, and it was really amazing, and I got great things from it, so you must have too!” It’s really interesting to talk to other AmeriCorps members, especially from different branches, to kind of see what their experience was like and if you can relate to it in any way, shape, or form.

Describe the impact that their year of service had on them as an individual:

AmeriCorps really raised my self esteem, on so many different levels. On a professional level and on a personal level. If I had never done AmeriCorps I would have never known how to get in contact with the people I needed to get in contact with to transition. Terry [Team Detroit's City Supervisor] was always supportive of my decision, and so were a lot of my team members. AmeriCorps really is responsible for Bré, the advocate, being here, and just being able to work, and to have contacts, and to know people who know people. People say really nice things about me to others, so I feel that AmeriCorps, for me, was awesome. Yeah, I had some rough moments in service, but I don’t think you’ll ever get to work at a place where you don’t have some type of issues. But for the most part, AmeriCorps was the most amazing thing that has ever happened in my life, the most amazing job that I’d ever had. Since I’ve been been out of AmeriCorps, I’ve been working at the agency that hired me in ever since. That was 2007, it’s 2012, and I don’t see myself doing anything else. And I know that if I decide to move to New York, Chicago, D.C., as long as I have AmeriCorps on my resume, I shouldn’t have anything to worry about as far as working in the HIV field, which is amazing. I love AmeriCorps.

Interviewed by: Emma Krasicky (Current Team Detroit member)

Want to see what the current team is up to? https://www.facebook.com/TeamDetroit Check out our Facebook page!

AmeriCorps Week – Team Detroit Looks To Its Roots: An Introduction

AmeriCorps week is upon us and this year the goals set by the Corporation for National and Community Service aim to bring AmeriCorps members and alums together. The two main goals for 2012 AmeriCorps Week:

  • To help make AmeriCorps members and alums feel part of something larger than themselves and their projects; and to connect AmeriCorps members and alums with each other and a nationwide effort.
  • To communicate the powerful impact AmeriCorps has on critical national and community challenges and on the lives of members and alums.

The theme for this year is AmeriCorps Works. This theme, “Communicates the value and effectiveness of AmeriCorps while providing flexibility to be used in many different contexts. It provides an overarching framework to communicate AmeriCorps triple bottom line return on investment — for the recipients of service, the people who serve, and the larger community and nation.

Team Detroit members witness firsthand the return on investments in our community, not only in how it impacts the city in a positive way but in the way it can impact the members who serve. Each year members enter a field that is in no way easily understood, easygoing or stable. These members go through the required trainings, are introduced first-hand to the stigma saturating the fight against the disease, head out to the community and then try to make their mark by educating peers, neighbors, youth, family members, seniors and the community leaders who often themselves let this issue fall through the cracks. After all is said and done, members look back at their service year, rightfully appreciate the experience and impact they had on their community and then look to the future.

In Detroit members seem to fall in love with this field despite the battle that lay ahead. I have on more than one occasion run into numerous Team Detroit alums at community events. The conversation typically starts:

Alum (noticing AmeriCorps gear): “Oh! You are in AmeriCorps?”

My response: “Yeah, I am part of Team Detroit this year.”

Alum: “I was too!”

The conversation continues with reflections of the alum’s service year, what the long term project for year is and how the placements for the year are going. Former Team Detroit members seem to be embedded in HIV/AIDS community and it is an awesome feeling to know that you could run into an alum at just about any event you attend. I am also lucky enough, like many other members on the team, to serve at an agency that hired an alum after the alum’s service year ended. Being able to work next to a former team member is a great experience and the benefits are obvious (advice on how to handle the service year, ideas for team days, avoiding burnout, etc.).

Team Detroit now looks to highlight some of these former team members. The next few days the AIDS United blog will feature our interviews with the former members, most of who stayed in the field after their year of service. We hope you enjoy seeing the impact this program has on members and how over the years a small team in Detroit has filled the ranks of the HIV/AIDS community, joined the social work field and/or found their place in education. This was a great project that connected our current members with alums and we hope to use these efforts to build up that relationship.

Keep in mind that Team Detroit formed in 1997 and is now on team 15. One hundred forty nine people have served on our 15 teams, performing more than 200,000 hours of community service. Valued at $20 per hour, the in-kind contribution is nearly$4 million. Service areas include HIV counseling and testing, case management, HIV education/prevention/risk reduction, support group facilitation, and other client focused services. This program is the only structured internship for training, hands on experience, and placement in our state, creating the next generation of workers in the HIV/AIDS field. At least 25 former team members now work at agencies in Michigan.

These interviews are with a small group of alums but we hope to connect with additional members in the future. Also, we are not trying to take away from those who did not stay in the field or find employment related to their experience. Many go on to further their education or find another program for a second year of service. Regardless of what their next venture was, we appreciate their role in creating the structure and culture that now defines Team Detroit.

Want to see what the current team is up to? https://www.facebook.com/TeamDetroit Check out our Facebook page!

Team NOLA on MLK Day

On MLK Day, Team NOLA joined more than 200 volunteers at the Success Preparatory Academy (SPA) for a day of service organized by City Year New Orleans.

SPA is one of many charter schools in New Orleans that seeks to close the “achievement gap” present in the city’s schools. Promoting the core values of Achievement, Enthusiasm, Respect, Service, Teamwork, and Ubuntu, SPA serves some of the most at-risk students in the country– 96% of whom receive free or reduced lunch.

Our mission for the day was to beautify the school. To that end, Team NOLA helped paint two murals. One mural depicted the core values over the New Orleans skyline. The other was of a quote by Dr. King from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”  Dr. King wrote this letter in response to a few moderate white clergymen who denounced him as an outsider stirring up racial tension in their city of Birmingham. Dr. King argued that the tension he was causing was necessary in order for society to make true progress in civil rights. And, though he was based in Atlanta, Dr. King felt morally obligated to take part in the civil rights battles being fought in Birmingham.

It is in this context that he wrote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

This quote echos the school’s core value of Ubuntu, a southern African philosophy which stresses the interconnectedness of all human beings.

After we finished painting, we were treated to a buffet featuring everything from jambalaya to injera.

Team Detroit Honors MLK Day

In the spirit of community service, compassion, and commitment to what Dr. King famously called “beloved community,” AmeriCorps AIDS United Team Detroit joined AmeriCorps members across the nation in making this year’s Martin Luther King holiday a day on – not a day off.  In contrast with past years, when activists boldly took to the streets, our team chose a less public display of solidarity and commitment to social justice. From behind dimly-lit warehouse walls, this year’s Team Detroit decided we would take to the shelves.

While friends and family slept in late, I’m proud to say that Team Detroit arrived bright and early, at a kick-off rally hosted by City Year Corps members, serving nearby. Once the formalities of introduction, historical acknowledgement, and preparation were complete, the team converged on an unlikely building, just a few miles north of the downtown core. Outside the small office space, we waited for the clank of a chain-link gate’s opening, then followed dozens of other volunteers through a discreet side door, and into the warehouse stowed behind.

Clambering away from the icy January wind, we piled into a cramped aisle, tucked between two columns of metal shelves, on top of which lay countless stacks upon stacks of books. Greeted by an older man who beamed from ear to ear, Team Detroit was introduced to the work of the Kiwanis Book Club. Kiwanis, we learned, was an organization committed to promoting literacy in Detroit youth. As we further surveyed our surroundings, Team Detroit members realized that the two towering bookshelves were just the beginning of what was actually a mountainous literary collection. There were books piled everywhere, so that it was nearly impossible for the scores of volunteers to avoid brushing shoulders—or, occasionally, stepping on toes. All these books—donations collected from near and far—were to be sorted, packed, and sent off to teachers who could then send them home with a student unable to afford to purchase literature.

As we got to work, it was hard to avoid grinning. Smiling to myself, I thought, if I had to pick just one, I’d say MLK day was my favorite team day, so far. That’s because, of all the national holidays, Martin Luther King Day has always been my favorite. Its spirit is beautifully in sync with the core value of the AmeriCorps program – to serve, and participate actively in community. This past MLK day, we didn’t sleep in late, spend money, or dress up in our nicest clothes; but we did give a gift. And, after some reflection, I think it’s safe to say we were given a gift, ourselves, too.

Team New Mexico | Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Team New MexioAn individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day which many people take to recognize racial and other social inequalities that still exist in our nation, Team New Mexico promoted diversity and equality in a parade in Albuquerque. We teamed up with N’MPower, an organization for young gay and bisexual men aimed at raising HIV/AIDS awareness and education through positive social connections and peer support. We met early in the morning and decorated our banner, then joined the parade route around 1 p.m.

Surrounded by the cacophony of beating drums and buzzing vuvuzelas, we marched proudly with our banner amongst others who held signs bearing paintings and quotes of Martin Luther King Jr. The parade itself was rather informal, but the passion behind those marching in it was clear and abundant. We marched a few miles from the University of New Mexico’s campus to the courthouse downtown, where several others rallied together and a number of key speakers recited some of Dr. King’s speeches, stressed the importance of the holiday, and provided various forms of traditional New Mexico entertainment.

Through our presence in the parade, we worked to educate the community on the importance of the intersection between the rights and lifestyles of black and LGBTQ communities and how they’re affected by HIV/AIDS. We handed out flyers for an upcoming event we’re participating in at N’MPower for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7th. We will be administering free HIV testing at a health fair, followed by a candlelight vigil and some fun entertainment. We hope our outreach done during the parade will reflect a good turnout for this upcoming event!