I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
—from Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All
Much has been written about the recent and devastating Marjorie Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Florida last February that claimed the lives of 17 individuals. I won’t go into it again much here, except to say that I, and millions of others, were simultaneously challenged and given renewed hope by the young survivors who stepped forward and declared, “enough is enough.” Their collective voices joined together into one unifying message that reverberated around the globe. They took their grief, anger, and desperation, and channeled it into a movement destined to create systemic change, from the ground up.
Over 35 years ago people living with HIV and AIDS took matters into their own hands as well, many of them young people who were supposed to be in the prime of their lives. They suddenly faced their own mortality at the hands of an unknown culprit, a virus they could not see but whose effects were painfully evident. They took that adversity and owned it and took charge, because no one else would, and time was running out for many. From that dark time the Denver Principles were created, and the PWA self-empowerment movement was born.
A lone voice in the wilderness may not be heard by itself, but together, voices carry. They lift us up and inspire, and remind us of who we imagine we can be. In this issue of Positively Aware you will hear a number of voices, including those of young people who are determined to create change by imagining what’s possible. Many of them are survivors in their own right, and their poignant messages demand to be heard.
We are all survivors in our own way, as you will hear from the voices of those who took part in The Reunion Project Roundtable Forum in late March. This national gathering of long-term survivors and their allies is the first step towards creating a national survivor coalition, which will help to further advance awareness and advocacy around many of the issues we face as survivors.
Tranisha, who has never known a life without HIV, is both a young adult and a long-term survivor. She says that we as an HIV community need to do better at not leaving anyone behind, and that “if you’re not connected to a young person, no matter their status, that [needs to] change—because young people have a lot to teach and show us.”
We have an amazing opportunity to bring together advocates and groups within the HIV community to teach and learn from each other. Facilitating intergenerational conversations through mentorships and buddy programs are a few of the ways we can pass on the wisdom of the elders to younger generations, while at the same time educating us old-timers about what the priorities and needs are for our youth and future generations.
In a lot of ways the issues they face now are not the same as those we did 35 years ago, but there is a common thread of humanity woven through all of us living with and affected by HIV and AIDS. By honoring and sharing those experiences and stories with one another, I believe we can, and will, create a future where our youth will one day lead the way, and the future will be bright.
Take care of yourself, and each other.