Today is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and the theme is “Unity in CommUnity, Stand Strong to Prevent HIV.”
National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD) is a national mobilization effort designed to encourage Natives (American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians) across the United States and Territorial Areas to get educated, get tested, get involved in prevention and get treated for HIV and AIDS.
Today is also the first day of spring, known as the vernal equinox, a day of sunlight and starlight in equal measure. For many indigenous cultures, the cycle of life is defined by the changing of seasons and spring is considered a time of profound change, of new beginnings and birth. The cycle of life, the four directions, and the change of seasons reminds us that everyone and everything is connected.
At the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park, this weekend marked the first Community Volunteer Workday when more than 100 volunteers gathered in a spirit of healing, hope, and remembrance. In an inspirational moment at the start of the workday, I spoke about the coming change of seasons and implored our volunteers to think about the ways that we are connected to each other, as a community, and to other communities fighting for social and environmental justice.
In the aftermath of “Standing Rock’s Last Stand,” I call on us all to think about the interconnected nature of social and environmental justice issues, activism, and mobilization.
What do Water Protectors have in common with AIDS activists? How are the banks of the Missouri River sacred in the same manner that the memorial space in Golden Gate Park is sacred—can you imagine a pipeline cutting through the sanctity of the Grove? How can we stand together in solidarity?
Another cultural approach that I share from my indigenous heritage is the concept of “Talking Circles” – gatherings of people in a circle to share ideas, bring voice to diverse perspectives, and promote listening and understanding. At the Grove, our workdays include “Circle Time” as a special moment to gather in the Circle of Friends to share words of wisdom and healing, thank our supporters, and call on the names of our ancestors and relatives.
Clearly, AIDS activists and Water Protectors have much in common and I firmly believe that we can learn from one another. Resistance and resilience are shared traits and the health of our communities is fundamentally linked. In the spirit of a new season, I implore us all to come together, seek Unity in CommUnity, and to promote social and environmental justice for all our relations.
–Adam Bad Wound
Adam Bad Wound is director of development at the National AIDS Memorial Grove. Originally from the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota, Adam is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and National Congress of American Indians.