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                                         World AIDS Day Observance

Congregation Kol Ami along with the Center for Spiritual Living-Los Angeles hosted an interfaith World AIDS Day Ceremony of Remembrance, Affirmation and Hope. World AIDS Day is observed every December 1. Rabbi Eger and Rabbi Chaiken along with Rev. Keith Cox of CSL-LA welcomed Rev. Dan Smith of West Hollywood United Church of Christ who opened our service with a blessing of remembrance and hope. West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico inspired us with his message. Kol Ami member Robert Wymms and CLS-LA member Gary Bond shared personal testimonies of living with HIV/AIDS. Thank you for attending our World AIDS Day Ceremony of Remembrance, Affirmation and Hope. 
We gathered to remember our family and friends who died of HIV/AIDS and affirmed those living with the disease. Our interfaith ceremony offered inspiration for resilience and hope for the cure.

On display was a panel of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Below find the Mayor D’Amico’s remarks:

Not everything that is seen as a broken can be fixed, but nothing broken can be fixed until it is seen for what it is. And once seen, it cannot be unseen. Life cannot be unseen.  

For those of us with 39+ years of AIDS history, 39+ years of hoping, 39+ years of wishing, 39+ years of planning for one day when we could say the epidemic is over…we are closer but…we still need to hope and wish and plan and fight a little longer. For we cannot announce mission accomplished until every single one of us, those like us living with HIV for more than 30 years and those that have been living with HIV for 30 days, and those at risk for contracting HIV, until every single one of us is safe.

I have thought a lot about safety lately since the recent surge of drug overdoses in West Hollywood- many involving people living with HIV. And the homeless people living on our streets. And of our trans sisters who need the entire community’s protection.

Who is safe and why? I used to think that AIDS taught me most of the big lessons of life I needed to know, including, first take care of myself, be honest about who and what I am and take care of others too. But that requires a commitment from all sides. Everyone involved. 
I assumed, it seems, wrongly, that if I did it so would others, that if I knew my boundaries, so would others, that if I could be that way so would others in our community. 

AIDS taught me another big lesson, that young people die, for the 39 years of my adulthood I have watched people die, people I loved, people I knew, people I didn’t know, people I wish I knew, people die unexpectedly, for terrible reasons, and I began to believe I was powerless to do anything. 

I was wrong about that too. I can blame AIDS fatigue or old age, but I’m afraid it really is just my own comfort and my own safety that I didn’t want disturbed.

In 1988, the year when I was homeless and couch surfing, working at a low paying job, enjoying the uselessness and invincibility of my youth, I found out I was HIV positive at the LA Free Clinic.  
1988 was 31 years ago, I was able to find a path out of that web at a time when everyone was dying and many, many more would die I assumed that everyone could rescue themselves if they tried hard enough. 
I assumed that because I worked on the first HIV testing study of young men in the Country that I knew what young men thought, I assumed that because I worked at APLA and protested in the streets and fought for ways to improve the lives of people with HIV that I knew what the real problem were for people with HIV.  
I thought that because I came out as one of a handful of elected officials with HIV in the world that I understood stigma and shame and the power and the danger of personal confession.
Of course, it’s not that simple, embarrassingly I forget that life is never that simple. It’s not that simple for any of us.  

And that is what World AIDS day means to me this year, that life cannot be collection of options and histories. Life must be a collection of desires and actions. We must continue to invent the world we want to live in. And I want to live in a world that is safe for everyone.  
I wish us all the fortitude and ability to find the strength to continue this fight until everyone of us is safe and everyone knows it.

Thu, October 22 2020 4 Cheshvan 5781