Browsing Category: AmeriCorps

Team NOLA on World AIDS Day 2011

Throughout the week of Dec. 1, 2011, New Orleans joined other cities around the world in observing World AIDS Day– a time of remembrance and awareness.

On Nov. 30, Team NOLA volunteered at a screening of “The Other City”– a documentary about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington, D.C. Donations were collected at the door to support a project to make HIV Awareness license plates for Louisiana. Team NOLA helped to promote, set-up, run, and break-down the event.

On Dec. 1, Team NOLA participated in the Facing AIDS project. We walked around parts of New Orleans, asking people if they would like to have their pictures taken with a message about how they are Facing AIDS. We were pleasantly surprised by how many people agreed.

The first part of our mobile photo shoot took place in the French Quarter. Next we went to the AIDS memorial in Washington Square Park where the Louisiana Office of Public Health does a wreath-laying ceremony every year. The last part of our photo shoot took place in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans.

We took pictures of ordinary citizens as well as people who have been involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS for many years. Everyone was given red ribbons and a flyer with our facebook page where they could access their photo later.

At night, at the request of the Office of Public Health, the lights on the Superdome were red in honor of World AIDS Day.

For other behind-the-scene shots, check out our facebook album!

Team NOLA: NO/AIDS Walk & Halloween 28


On September 25, 2011, Team NOLA joined hundreds of Louisianans in the 22nd annual NO/AIDS Walk. The NO/AIDS Walk is a fundraiser that benefits the NO/AIDS Task Force and other HIV/AIDS service organizations in Louisiana. It is one of the largest fundraising events for AIDS Service Organizations in Louisiana. This year the Walk raised over $180,000. Team NOLA is proud to have participated in this awesome event.

Registration started at 8 am, with the Walk kicking off at 10 AM. It was bright and sunny– perfect weather for a 5k stroll through Uptown New Orleans. It’s still pretty hot in New Orleans in the end of September, so within a few minutes we were sweating. But teams of volunteers provided us with water and encouragement along the way. At the end of the Walk, we were greeted with beautiful flowers and fresh bananas.

The Walk was attended by representatives from a lot of local businesses, universities, organizations, and non-profits as well as from several national corporations. Many of our co-workers were there. Everyone involved had a lot of enthusiasm and energy. It was fantastic to be a part of a huge, well-attended event that was for such an important cause.

Halloween 28

In honor of Make a Difference Day, part of Team NOLA volunteered at Halloween 28, a benefit ball for Project Lazarus. Project Lazarus has been providing housing and other services to people living with HIV/AIDS for 25+ years. Team NOLA had a lot of fun greeting guests who attended the fundraiser.

World AIDS Day in Detroit – Getting to Zero by Facing AIDS

World AIDS Day in Detroit is a day that does not pass without recognition. Community events are found not just within the city, but across the state at universities, health departments and at the agencies where our AIDS United AmeriCorps m members serve. This year a new event looked to honor those efforts in a collaborative event that not only set high standards for the future but reinforced our ties with the past. World AIDS Day Detroit (WADD) set out with the goal of raising awareness, battling stigma and remembering where we have been. “Zero new infections, Zero AIDS-related deaths, Zero discrimination.” Getting to zero, a goal that sets the bar high yet seems to make sense and a goal that Team Detroit looks to back each and every day we head out to service.

Collaboration is strength. Organizers of World AIDS Day Detroit understood and capitalized on this fact. Wayne State University School of Medicine, The Hemophilia Foundation of Michigan, The World Federation of Hemophilia, community based organizations such as AIDS Partnership Michigan, Affirmations and Michigan AIDS Coalition and others from across the city of Detroit combined efforts and embarked on what became a truly remarkable event. Major highlights of the day included speaker Jeanne White-Ginder (the mother of Ryan White), the gathering of south east Michigan mayors and officials in an effort to educate and address issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, the screening of the documentary “Bad Blood,” and a NoH8 photo shoot. Members of the community flocked to the event and partner activities across the state were publicized through WADD as it acted as a hub for World AIDS Day information.

Team Detroit’s role in this event focused on facing stigma by joining in the efforts of and its campaign “Facing AIDS.” The campaign addresses stigma and promotes HIV testing by “putting a face on AIDS.” Individuals or groups take a picture while holding up a sign stating how or why they are Facing AIDS; the photos are then highlighted on with others from across the country. Our shoot was popular amongst the array of activities at the event and the emotions behind the messages show the strength and resolve of those battling HIV. From those in the new generation inheriting the fight, to the veterans who already left their mark and look to see it out to the end, to the people we serve in our community who depend on us, all of their messages give meaning to why we do what we do.

“I am Facing AIDS because of all the friends and clients I have lost.”

“We are Facing AIDS so nobody else has to surrender their loved ones to this disease.”

“We are Facing AIDS to build a stronger community.”

Messages like these are often drowned out by stigma’s shout. We must highlight the good in what we do, in who we work with and in why we do it. Allowing these thoughts, feelings and aspirations to go without mention is to allow defeat. The day we allow stigma to overtake our efforts is the day we all lose. The Facing AIDS campaign has grown over the years and Team Detroit was proud to once again take part and allow the community we serve and those we work with each day to have a voice and spread their message of hope and perseverance.

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Team Tulsa and National Make a Difference Day

Decade-of-Divas2This year, National Make a Difference Day was the same day as the biggest fundraiser of the year for H.O.P.E., an HIV testing clinic that the Tulsa AIDS Team has been working with for 18 years! So of course we jumped at the chance to help out at “Decade of Divas,” an evening including auction items, great live music, and wine.

H.O.P.E. stands for Health Outreach Prevention Education and is one of the largest HIV prevention organizations in Oklahoma. It provides free HIV testing Monday-Thursday during the day and also has a walk-in clinic on Monday and Thursday evenings. H.O.P.E. is Brant’s host site this year, was Carolyn’s host site last year, and has been hosting AIDS United/AmeriCorps members since 1994.

Decade-of-Divas1Paige and Karen got to help out at the wine pull, Carolyn staffed the silent auction, and Naomi and Brant got to work the registration table.

Overall the whole team had a great time getting dressed up, hanging out together, enjoying a great music and a good cause. We also imagined what it would feel like to have the kind of money that people were bidding on dinners, cruises, vacations, jewelry, art and other fine auction items.

Team DC’s World AIDS Day 2011

Every year on December 1st people around the world commemorate those working tirelessly and selflessly in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  It is also a day to remember those who have lost their lives to the virus. The purpose of World AIDS Days is to educate one another on the dangers of stigma and discrimination, remind each other about the importance of getting tested, support those living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, and reflect on those who are no longer with us. For some people it is a challenging day — why should December 1st be any different from December 2nd or November 30th? People often pose the question, “why isn’t World AIDS Day everyday?” In fact, for many people, like the AIDS United/Washington AIDS Partnership AmeriCorps team, World AIDS Day IS does take place every day.

The team went above and beyond this year, making December 1, 2011 a really significant and special day. The 12 members spent the first part of Thursday at Children’s National Medical Center. As one of the staff members at the hospital said, “This day would not have been possible without the AmeriCorps members here.” The team was stationed throughout the hospital helping with a variety of tasks. Some helped ensure that the HIV testing area stayed organized and that staff members knew where to get tested. Others attended a panel discussion with staff members of the Children’s National Medical Center who have been working in the field of HIV/AIDS for over a decade. Other AmeriCorps members educated the hospital community on safer sex and resources for youth in the city, and also facilitated educational games. Others passed out red ribbons, so that everyone in the hospital could spread awareness about HIV/AIDS.

Here are just a few of the special moments that took place throughout the day:

The day started out with a panel discussion for the entire hospital highlighting the successes made in HIV services as well as how the department can improve in the future. The passion and knowledge in the room was astounding. I was honored to be in the auditorium with so many dedicated and talented members of the community. The panel was followed by a vigil led by one of the hospital’s chaplains. She provided us with a space and ceremony to remember those we have lost in this fight. As the emotion flowed through the room the energy created recharged my battery to continue the work we are doing each day to ensure that everyone gets the education, care, and support they deserve.

The day continued with fun, informational, and educational activities in the hospital’s mini atrium. AmeriCorps members informed the hospital’s community about HIV/AIDS resources, facilitated educational games, and helped uplift medical providers who often never take a moment to celebrate life. It was an amazing feeling to walk into a room filled with positive vitality and optimistic energy for the future, as well as an awesome DJ and red ribbon cookies. I couldn’t help but dance and smile every time I walked through.

One of the main points mentioned in the panel discussion earlier that day was leading by example. I am so impressed by how many members of the hospital community came up to me to let me know that they got tested! Watching medical providers and hospital staff members step up as role models made me realize that there is real hope for the future of this disease. Without the AmeriCorps team directing people and raising awareness about the importance of getting an HIV test, the numbers of people seeking testing would not have been that high.

When I left the hospital at about 3:30 the main atrium was FILLED with people doing artwork, making bracelets, dancing, and smiling. It is a rare phenomenon to see that many people taking time out of their busy schedules to celebrate the wonderful, and life saving work they do.

Following the event at the hospital, the AmeriCorps team ventured over to the Latin American Youth Center where many of our organizations collaborated to create World AIDS Day events for youth in the city. The youth events actually began on the Tuesday prior to World AIDS Day at a popular local poetry venue. This gave youth the opportunity and space to express how HIV/AIDS has impacted their lives and the lives of people they love. The powerful messages shared carried over to the Latin American Youth Center on Thursday afternoon.

The events at LAYC included watching the film, The Other City, a documentary about HIV/AIDS Washington D.C. The movie was followed by a question and answer period with Jose Ramirez, one of the community members featured in the film. During the movie AmeriCorps members helped serve food, provide HIV, STI, and pregnancy tests, and educate youth about HIV in DC as well as provide useful, youth-friendly resources. The building was packed with young people until about 7:00 when the event moved to the Warehouse Theater downtown for a performance of “The Battle,”  a play directed and produced by a local DC youth about HIV and how it affects relationships. It was a perfect end to long and eventful day.

Reflections on Remembrance

Lance Hicksby Lance Hicks

On Friday, November 18, I joined members of AmeriCorps AIDS United Team Detroit in service at the Metro Detroit Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil. The ceremony was held at Central United Methodist church, in the heart of the city. The annual event was conceived as a means of honoring the many transgender people who have been murdered due to transphobia—fear or hatred of trans people and those perceived to be trans.

In so many ways, the event was familiar for me—as a transgender person who’s been locally active since my teens, I’ve been attending TDOR memorials for years. On the night of the vigil, I experienced a lot of things I expected—familiar faces shone from all corners of the cavernous church sanctuary where Martin Luther King, Jr. himself once spoke. Throughout the night, I embraced countless friends and mentors—people who had once supported and guided me not only though the many tumults of adolescence, but also through the process of my own transition to gender authenticity. I paid my respects, as one by one, the names of transgender people were read, music performed, and speeches given.

Despite its familiar feel, this year’s Day of Remembrance wasn’t the same as always. Only weeks before the vigil took place, a local transgender young woman, Shelley Hilliard, was declared missing. Her dismembered and mutilated body was discovered shortly after, along the side of a major freeway. Since Shelley was young, transgender, African American, and involved in the commercial sex industry, her death was bitterly unremarkable. Transgender people—especially women, people of color, and sex workers—encounter extreme risk in daily life. Take a minute to scroll through the names on the Remembering Our Dead website ( ), where transgender people who have been murdered due to hate are honored and acknowledged, and you’ll notice the patterns. What made Shelley’s death significant in our community, at this time, was the fact that so many of us knew and loved her. For us, Shelley wasn’t a statistic—she was our friend, and our neighbor.

In the few short days following revelations regarding what happened to Shelley, and the TDOR event, committee members reached out to Shelley’s mother, Lyniece Nelson. I’ll admit, when I first heard of plans to honor Shelley in the Day of Remembrance ceremony, I was concerned. I knew that Shelley’s loss was a devastation to the community, and that her memory deserved our respect; but I was worried that the time was too soon, and feelings too raw.

All my concerns subsided, at the Vigil. With incredible strength, Mz. Nelson rose to the head of our gathering,  just days after identifying the body of her daughter, and she spoke with love and determination about the injustice our whole community had suffered—and more importantly—about the struggle we each inherit, to create a safer world for everyone. At the end of her speech, Mz. Nelson shared in embrace with Sylvia Gurrera—the mother of slain transgender teen Gwen Arujo. Mz. Gurrera had arranged to keynote the event well in advance, and the timely meeting of the two mothers was more than just poignant: it was rousing. The strength of these mothers, in the face of such great loss, was inspiring—a memory I won’t forget any time soon.

Memorable as these moments were, what truly caught me off guard was the feeling of solidarity, respect, and true dedication I could feel, as I stood alongside members of my team. In my first few years as a trans activist, I’ve become accustomed to the shared commitment of other transgender people to create a more socially just world for people of all genders. But attending the Day of Remembrance vigil as part of Team Detroit was the first time in my memory that I felt truly allied with people outside the trans community, in continuing that struggle.

For me, this feeling confirmed what I’ve heard so many times before—by AIDS United representatives at pre-service, our city supervisor and team coordinator during the hiring process, and alumni who excitedly urged me to apply for the program, when I first mentioned my interest. A true dedication, passion, and commitment to the work we do is what defines an AmeriCorps member. For people involved in this journey of learning and of service, the commitment we make to stand beside community members across the country, in struggle for a better world, is genuine, and is something we carry throughout our lives. Hearing these words from others inspired me; but feeling their truth for myself was nothing short of humbling.

With the Day of Remembrance behind us, now, I’m excited for times ahead. I know that the challenge of working for HIV/AIDS prevention in Detroit won’t be easy. I’m not daunted, though. I’m energized and emboldened by the dedication of my teammates, and determined to make this year count.