The National AIDS Memorial Grove commemorated World AIDS Day with two days of events honoring leaders instrumental in the fight against AIDS, and whose extraordinary work has made a significant impact during the more than thirty years since the first diagnosis of AIDS in the United States. This year’s honorees symbolize the spirit of the Grove and its collective mission and work to fight against AIDS.
Light in the Grove
On November 30th, the eve of World AIDS Day, the National AIDS Memorial Grove once again held its annual Light in the Grove gala fundraiser, which brought together more than 500 supporters, volunteers and community leaders for an evening of remembrance, renewal, commitment and reunion. This iconic event offers a nighttime journey through darkness and light, loss and hope. A sell-out the past three years, Light in the Grove offers a unique evening experience in Golden Gate Park; an outdoor, transparently-tented celebration with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and dinner, featuring music, performance, art and brilliantly evocative, surreal and technical displays of light.
This year, we were thrilled to have as co-chairs the original three creators of Macy’s Passport: Patrick Smith, Laura Heffron, and Larry Hashbarger, whose extraordinary talents helped to raise $28 million for HIV/AIDS charities and research projects over twenty-seven years.
Tim Hanlon, President of the Wells Fargo Foundation, was presented with this year’s Lifetime of Commitment Award. Tim helped change the direction of corporate philanthropy in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, leading Wells Fargo to become a strong advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and education programs. His powerful voice set a path for others to follow, making support for AIDS funding mainstream in corporate philanthropy. Tim has helped lead Wells Fargo to provide more than $17.8 million to local AIDS-related causes around the country during the last decade, with more than $575,000 donated to the Grove. Wells Fargo and its employees have also given more than 5,000 volunteer hours to support the Grove and helped secure critical funding to ensure that the Grove remains an important part of the national landscape, informing future generations of the American story of AIDS.
Click the links below for photos of Light in the Grove:
World AIDS Day Observance
During the World AIDS Day ceremonies at The Grove on December 1st, the National Leadership Recognition Award was awarded to Phill Wilson. Phill is the founder, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, the only national HIV/AIDS think tank focused exclusively on Black people. With a long history of advocacy work, Phill is a well-known and respected national leader and HIV/AIDS expert. For five years, Phill was Chair of the Ryan White Planning Council and instrumentally involved in the crafting of the Ryan White CARE Act. He was also a member of the HRSA Advisory Council, the Board of Directors for AIDS Action, Co-Chair of the Los Angeles County HIV Health Commission and Director of Policy and Planning at AIDS Project Los Angeles. More recently, Phill was an opening-day plenary speaker at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. Phill is actively involved with other local and national community-based and AIDS service organizations, including serving on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
Franco Beneduce was awarded the Local Unsung Hero Award posthumously on World AIDS Day. Throughout his life, Franco was involved in LGBT causes and issues. He was the visionary creator and producer behind the annual Light in the Grove event at the Grove, and the Folsom Street Fair’s Magnitude after-hours dance party. He lived by the motto, “Go big or go home.” In the mid 90′s, Franco co-hosted Closet-Free Radio, one of the first commercial gay/lesbian radio talk shows in the country. He also produced Rhode Island’s AIDS Walk. He lived in the Bay Area for two decades, where he raised funds for and supported various LGBT nonprofits, including the Folsom Street Fair and the Grove. Franco was a creative genius, whose love of beauty was matched only by the magnificence of his heart. Besides his numerous creative achievements, Franco’s proudest accomplishment was the two boys he was helping to raise, and his extensive community of friends.
Financial scholarships ranging from $1000 to $2500 were awarded this year to nine college students from six states as part of the National AIDS Memorial Grove’s Young Leaders Scholarship Program, which culminates each year on World AIDS Day. The scholarships are funded annually through a generous grant provided by UnitedHealthcare. Two scholarship awardees, Laura Potter and Jose Comi, took the stage at the World AIDS Day Observance, and shared their perspectives on the impact of HIV/AIDS on the younger generation, and their goals as future leaders in the fight against the disease.
The Grove was deeply honored to celebrate the tireless and passionate work of Tim, Phill and Franco and their life-long commitment to the AIDS community, and the Grove’s mission. Their collective leadership has made a tremendous difference in the lives of so many people and organizations who have been touched and inspired by their pioneering spirit. Additionally, the Grove takes great pride in helping to develop the next generation of leaders through its Young Leaders Scholarship Program, and encouraging continued public service and careers that will one day lead to a cure.
Instead of going to a beach and partying, students are participating in increasing numbers in Alternative Spring Break service projects across the country. This year, students from Rice University, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and the University of Oregon came separately to San Francisco to volunteer with several non-profits, including the National AIDS Memorial Grove. At the Grove, led by gardener Ray Goodenough and longtime volunteer Matt Polsdorf, these students removed several truckloads of brush and produced five new terraces on the Grove’s southern slope for planting later this year.
Although most of the students were not even born at the time the Grove was founded, their service learning experience included an emotional verbal history of AIDS and of the Grove from Executive Director John Cunningham. Serendipitously, Gregg Cassin, who pioneered the Alternative Spring Break program at Boston College some 20 years ago, was present and also shared stories with the students.
University of Oregon seniors Tony Minaglia and Cassie Soucy led another group of students who focused on the intersection of health and poverty as expressed in concerns with food, housing, and health care. This diverse group of social justice activists chose the Alternative Spring Break experience to help inform their academic endeavors and guide future life choices. During the week they spent in San Francisco, they visited Glide Memorial Church and St. Anthony Foundation’s Family Services, and studied harm reduction programs.
Both student groups joined the March for Marriage Equality on March 27, 2013-the day before their service learning projects in the Grove. Sharing in the Circle of Friends after working together, both groups recalled the excitement of being with thousands of people marching for social change. One student said that experiencing the March For Marriage Equality, followed by a visit to the Grove, resulted in a shift from the religious perspective on homosexuality that he had been raised to understand. Another student expressed a deepening understanding of her grandmother who has lived with the virus since before the granddaughter was born. Another student spoke about how being where the AIDS epidemic and early grassroots response happened-and with people who were there-made the impact of AIDS feel “real” and informed his knowledge of the disease.
If you ask Scott Hafner to define who his heroes are, he would tell you that they are “…the people who do great work, generously, selflessly, quietly, in the shadows…” while his husband, Bill Glenn, would add that those he found heroic are those who try to “…further the cause of justice and to alleviate the suffering of the poor.” Without realizing it, both have done an amazing job of defining exactly what it is about each other, both individually and as a couple, that makes them such extraordinary men.
And it is because they are such extraordinary men who have worked generously and selflessly that makes them so deserving of being recognized for their leadership, service and philanthropy at the 2012 Light In The Grove event of the National AIDS Memorial Grove.
The accomplishments of these two men over the past three decades is nothing short of astonishing. Currently, Bill is a psychotherapist and spiritual director in private practice in San Francisco and Sonoma County. In addition to that “…I do volunteer work at San Quentin state penitentiary as a part of Insight Out. I serve on the board of the Morris K. Stulsaft Foundation, which funds organizations that provides services for underprivileged youth(0-24) in the five county Bay Area.”
Scott (and his brother) are the managing partners of their family’s small vineyard and winery in Alexander Valley. “We farm 100 acres of grapes, making 15,000 cases of wine each year and provide the livelihood for 14 families, most of whom have worked with us for over 20 years.”
Over the past three decades, Bill has served on numerous boards of directors , including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (where he was President of the Board), 18th Street Services and the ACLU Gay Rights. Glenn also was the Executive Director of Continuum for seven years.
Scott equally has served on numerous boards of directors, including the AIDS Project Contra County (where he was President of the Board) and the Horizons Foundation (where he was also President of the Board). Hafner also serves on the Board of Trustees of Connecticut College and is the only only out member of the Board.
When talking to them about what compelled them (and continues to compel them) to become involved in efforts in the AIDS community one cannot escape how their deeply-rooted faith permeates their work. Of particular note is the fact that both men are founding members of the Center for Gays and Lesbians in Ministry and Religion at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.
Explaining what drew him to becoming involved in the HIV/AIDS struggle, Bill commented “…it felt incumbent upon me to serve to the maximum of my ability a community that I love, one that held for me so much that I hold dear–the freedom to become a human being, to love with abandon, to assist in the task of offering hope to those caught in all sorts of binds around human sexuality, a community so suddenly beleaguered.”
For Scott, he simply remarks “I became involved in the AIDS community….as a way to take care of friends.” Scott recalls that “when we first moved to Santa Rosa I worked with Food for Thought, standing outside of the local supermarket asking for food donations for the food bank.”
Bill’s involvement in the Grove dates back to “an early planning meeting at Isabel Wade’s house,” where he was invited because “I had been raising some money at SFAF, and Alice and Isabel were trying to understand the funding landscape.” Additionally, Bill was one of the dignitaries who dedicated the South Portal at the 1995 World AIDS Day and gave the keynote at the World AIDS Day Observance in 2004 in the Grove.
Bill and Scott are quick to add “…we have our names in the Circle (of Friends), and are great supporters of John Cunningham, Margarita Gandia and Vivian Stevenson, Susan Sachs and so many other board members, past and present.”
When asked how they would describe each other, Scott says of Bill that “…he does his work more than anyone else I know. People love him, with good reason. I am forever grateful that we’re together.” Bill describes Scott as his “…deeply generous, compassionate, warm, funny, wise husband.” Bill and Scott met 31 years ago, while running in the Berkeley Hills and have been together ever since.
We were delighted that Leader Nancy Pelosi joined us at our Community Volunteer Workday on Saturday, April 21st. Her visit to the Grove commemorated her twenty-fifth year as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Pelosi was first elected to the House in 1987 to represent California’s 8th Congressional District, which includes most of San Francisco. In 2002, she made history when she became the first woman elected to lead a major political party in Congress; in 2007 she became the first woman elected Speaker of the House.
In her first speech to the Congress in 1987, Nancy Pelosi famously said she came to the House of Representatives to fight AIDS. In those days, some people suggested that she might not want to become identified with that particular cause. But Pelosi wanted to share what San Francisco had learned about prevention and care with the rest of the country, referring to the “San Francisco model of care.”
Leader Pelosi helped enact legislation to assist in housing of people living with HIV/AIDS. She pushed to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act, which assists thousands of low-income people in getting care and treatment. Her efforts to prevent drastic cuts in care and treatment for San Francisco have resulted in the restoration of millions of previously cut dollars from systems of care that people living with HIV/AIDS rely upon for access to medications and primary medical care. She is committed to ensuring that care, treatment, prevention and research initiatives receive funding increases. Pelosi continues fighting to expand access to care as part of comprehensive health reform. She has also led efforts to fund the global fight against AIDS. If all of that were not enough, Leader Pelosi was instrumental in passing the legislation in 1996 that designated our local “AIDS Grove” as this country’s National AIDS Memorial.
Representative Pelosi has faithfully commemorated her milestone years in Congress by volunteering at the Grove. On both her 10th and 20th anniversary years in Congress, she planted commemorative trees. Today, both these trees stand strong and graceful.
Thank you Leader Pelosi for the honor of commemorating yet another milestone year in Congress with us at the National AIDS Memorial Grove!
The purpose of the National AIDS Memorial Grove’s World AIDS Day Youth Scholarship Program is to engage youth to explore the ways they are touched by HIV/AIDS and the Grove. It is an essay contest for current high school sophomores, juniors and seniors, addressing the significance of HIV/AIDS and the National AIDS Memorial Grove in up to 750 words, and judged by a panel of experts from the community. This year, four scholarships of $1,000 USD were awarded, and winners were recognized at the Grove’s annual World AIDS Day observance on December 1, 2011.
Read some of the essays below:
Around the world, nearly 8,000 children die each day of hunger. Some starve. Some get sick and their hungry bodies are too weak to fight. Either way, the result is the same: another child dies every 10 seconds.
At our April 16 Community Volunteer Workday, the Grove was privileged to host a group of twenty-five youth from Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church’s Junior High Ministries. The youngsters were part of a much larger movement of students and youth groups all over the world making an effort to fight hunger and save lives by participating in World Vision’s 30-Hour Famine program. These students had chosen to spend the final four hours of their 30-hour fundraising fast—working at the Grove.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of students participate in this fast, going without food for 30 hours. They experience hunger firsthand to help feed and care for hungry children. They learn what it takes to stop hunger by raising monies to help feed and care for tens of thousands of children all over the world. Their eyes are opened to a world of hunger and hope, and their minds are filled with the understanding needed to fight poverty and injustice.
My name is Kushaba Moses Mworeko a 31 year old Ugandan.
It was my pleasure commemorating World AIDS Day 2010 with fabulous people who are very much concerned with this epidemic that has claimed millions and millions of people.
As an oldest child of the six children, I became the caretaker of the family at age 15 after losing my sister and my parents (Johosophat and Jovia Natukunda Mworeko) of HIV/AIDS in 1989, October 1992 and April 1995, respectively. These have become my heroes and I feel so proud talking about them while trying to save a few people. In 1989 and early 1990s the AIDS epidemic was rampant in the country because public awareness was low and because the health care system was not well equipped to deal with the spread of HIV/AIDS. This epidemic had caught like bush fire and had already registered devastating effects throughout Uganda. Death, death, and death was the order of the day. For instance, in the Rakai District, South Western Uganda, 70% of the adult population had vanished because of HIV/AIDS, leaving behind helpless orphans. But the cause of their deaths remained a mystery because many thought the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS were the result of spells from African witchcraft (juju). Photo by Todd Franson, Metro Weekly
I remember a witchdoctor coming home to save my sister but in vain. There was a musician, Philly Bongole Lutaaya who was already infected with the virus and decided to save his countrymen and future generation. At that time, in Uganda, the truth about the disease was concealed because the word SEX had to be mentioned which is a TABOO in our culture. But amidst discrimination and rejection, Lutaaya was determined to unveil and reveal the Truth that “AIDS was the killer and it was spread through SEX, and blood contact.”
The government came up with an awareness and education campaign on the epidemic with campaign messages from Philly Lutaaya’s music.
The following are some educational lyrics from his AIDS awareness song and album, “Alone”:
Today it’s me
Tomorrow someone else
It’s you and me
We’ve got to stand up and fight
We’ll take a light in the fight against AIDS
Let’s come on out
Let’s stand together, fight AIDS
In times of joy, in times of sorrow
Let’s take a stand and fight on to the end
With open hearts, let’s stand up and speak out to the world
We’ll save some lives, save the children of the world.
The government felt it was wise having these campaigns start in schools through music, dance and drama and then to families. I was so very involved in this awareness campaign and what hurt me most was that my family became the first victim. At first I didn’t believe it, but …I came to realize it as years went by when my other relatives and friends died.
I am deeply frustrated by what is going on in my country. With the Anti-homosexuality bill 2009 which seeks to introduce life in prison or the the death penalty for acts of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ and to criminalize the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality (giving it seven years in prison). And if the offender is a business or a non-governmental organization, its certificate of registration will be cancelled on conviction. Other provisions are; death for gays that are HIV positive and up to 3 years in prison for failure to report a homosexual. In other words, this bill makes everybody a potential criminal.
Thank you to John Cunningham, the Executive Director of the National AIDS Memorial Grove, who invited me to attend World AIDS Day 2010 and who honored me on that day. I believe that the more we together come forward and talk about it, the stronger we become in working out the its remedies.
I like Dr. George Ayala of MSMGF who said that “Every person deserves the right to fair treatment and freedom from persecution. The more we learn about HIV, the more we see that working to eradicate stigma, discrimination, and violence is essential to securing the right to health for MSM.
I hope whoever reads this will be touched and realize that HIV/AIDS is real and something needs to be done about it.
Here is the original message I sent to John the night before World AIDS Day,
Tomorrow December 1, is WAD. This day usually reminds me of Important people that I have lost to this epidemic. My parents and sibling (Dad, Mom, and Sister)- 1989, 1992 & 1995 respectively, my Uncles, Aunties, cousins and friends.
Everyone of us is either infected or affected. World AIDS Day is important for reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there is a lot still to be done.
According to UNAIDS estimates, there are now 33.3 million people living with HIV, including 2.5 million children. During 2009 some 2.6 million people became newly infected with the virus and an estimated 1.8 million people died from AIDS.
So, my appeal to you is, to stand with me tomorrow as we remember the loved ones we have lost and comfort the ones that are infected and continue to raise awareness on this epidemic.
Thank you so very much.
LIGHT AND SHADE
By Miguel Ochoa
The National AIDS Memorial Grove depicts the road that one encounters through AIDS with the light and shade that is naturally produced by the Grove. Throughout the AIDS journey, one is bound to face moments when they would like to disappear off into the shade and live in darkness.And then there are other moments that bring light and brightness back into ones life, again.
I can only imagine that living a life with AIDS would be a life filled with broken circles, broken communities, and broken lives. The circle of friends and family that you once had is now broken by those who turned their backs on you when you first notify them that you have AIDS.
There are some people out there who have no support system what so ever, and must go through the emotional, physical, and spiritual roller coaster of dealing with their new situation alone.
But I can also imagine, that when you surround yourself by those who truly do care about you, and build a new group of friends who are going through the same things as you are, the circles of your life start to mend. If you do build a group of friends to help you cope with AIDS, you are indeed lucky, as that will create a new circle and bring the light back to your life. Until there is a treatment to completely cure AIDS, the community around you, and those circles around you, will keep breaking.
The AIDS Memorial Grove represents this sorrowful cycle with its circles that are whole and other that are broken. There is even a tree that lies in the middle of a path, by the Circle of Peace, forcing people to climb over it. For me, the symbolic meaning of that one tree is that there are big obstacles that will get in our way, and one way or another, it is necessary for us to find a way to go over those obstacles, which in the end, will make us become stronger and will again bring us out into the light.
by Jeannel Miclat
“Stay still anak”. The mother spoke affectionately as she watched her son. He wiggled and twisted this way and that, as he lay on an old rusted table. He was her last and only child to survive. Wrinkles had finally caught up to the seemingly permanent youthful face of hers. She already lost her earlier children to unwanted friends: Malaria, Dengue, and Tuberculosis. She was not willing to lose her last hope to those plagues again. His possible savior: the vaccines his mother saved up for months to pay for.
“Just a little pinch,” the nurse smiled through her words as she prepared the needle. “Ready?” The little boy shut his eyes, clenched his fists and eventually nodded yes. “All done”, the nurse grinned.
The nurse looked back over her shoulder to see the concerned mother watching her clean the needles and gloves. The nurse broke the tension. “This is a very small and very poor clinic. We cannot afford many gloves or needles. But now we know what to do. There is nothing else to worry about.”
Throughout the world there are thousands of these tiny clinics. Not all of them know how, or can afford to sterilize medical tools that have been contaminated by bodily fluids that contain bacteria and viruses. This leaves many, many children exposed to HIV and eventually AIDS.
Since the early 1980′s, the worldwide HIV infection rate has risen exponentially to 33.4 million in 2008. The highest concentrations of infected people are in some of the poorest and most inadequately supplied regions: Sub-Saharan Africa, South-east Asia, and Latin America. HIV and AIDS has shown it doesn’t discriminate. It knows not your gender, your race, your sexual orientation, or your age. It only knows…you are a host, a possible victim and future statistic. Worldwide media campaigns and Public Services announcements have enlightened people on the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS. But what if you don’t know? How will you protect yourself? Knowing it exists is not enough. Preventing is not enough. Treating is not enough. Curing HIV is when it will be enough.
by Rosa Reyes
One important lesson that I have gained through the processes of learning about HIV/AIDS, has been that anyone can get infected with HIV/AIDS. In this epidemic there is no age, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status and even if you are not infected with the disease you can still be affected. For this reason, I can see the importance of bringing awareness through The National AIDS Memorial Grove.
When I first saw the subject for this essay I felt I was not going to be able to write it because I did not feel connected with the topic- I thought that this could never happen to me. Through research and learning more about HIV/AIDS I have come upon the realization that this is not true, because teenagers are very susceptible to getting an HIV/AIDS infection—especially if we are not educated and aware of the seriousness of what an HIV/AIDS infection is and how it is transmitted. I have also learned that the more aware and educated I become about this topic, the more I can protect myself and the people around me.
Just learning how to prevent the infection of HIV/AIDS is a big step to decreasing the number of people getting infected. If our society starts to put more focus in sex education the risks of young adults becoming infected will be less. This will provide people at risk with the information and choices: of using condoms consistently and correctly, being honest with your partner, abstinence, or delaying the first time one has sex. HIV counseling and testing, not sharing needles and treating sexually transmitted infections that will then lead to the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Through all this, The National AIDS Memorial Grove plays an important role in bringing awareness to our community. The tragedy of HIV/AIDS brings people from different backgrounds together to learn and grieve with each other. It provides a sanctuary to those people who are going through the hardship of being infected with HIV/AIDS and to those who have had a dear one who has passed away due to HIV/AIDS. The National AIDS Memorial Grove also plays a vital role in maintaining public awareness of HIV/AIDS, as it reaches out to young people and brings them consciousness of this tragedy and its impact in our community.
Scholarship The purpose of the Youth Scholarship Program is to engage youth to explore the ways they are touched by HIV/AIDS and the Grove. The National AIDS Memorial Grove Youth College Scholarship Program is an essay contest for current high school sophomores, juniors and seniors, addressing the significance of HIV/AIDS and the NAMG in up to 750 words and judged by a panel of experts from the community. This year, three scholarships of $1,000 USD were awarded, and winners were recognized at the ceremony on December 1, 2010, World AIDS Day.
Read the essays:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2009