Thursday, December 06, 2012

Brakeway Rainbows

World AIDS Day Activities 2012

World AIDS Day week 2012 resulted in a interesting mix ranging from the Arkansas's HIV Tobacco Symposium to another showing of the AIDS Quilt at the Clinton complex. Prior to the actual week, AETN broadcast, AIDS in Arkansas with panelist offering an overview of Arkansas' ongoing response and current barriers in testing and linking individuals to a care continuum. Hosted by Donna Terrell, panelist Derrick Newby, Cornelius Mabin, Dr. Naveen Patil, MD and Michael Burks. Each participant shared their expertise on the challenges and silo's that have impacted both service delivery and "messaging" within specific communities disproportionately affected by the disease. It was highlighted by Mabin that 4,617 individuals currently are not in care and the severity of this oversight will continue to serve as a gateway to additional possible infections. Newby spoke to continuing education modules for clinicians and other support personnel whom interact with patients or other consumers. Terrell surmised that even though there's been much work done it is terribly obvious that more strategies and approaches are desperately necessary. Helaine Williams, feature writer for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette crafted a Nov. 27th  piece to showcase the variety of activities across the state including a spotlight on the ground breaking book, "Our Lives, Our Stories, The Untold Story of Women with AIDS," produced by local community based organization, The Living Affected Corporation.( ) The article also outlined facts that HIV and AIDS has become a leading cause of death among Black women while reporting that a 48% increase of new infections among gay black men for 13-24 should raise cause throughout the community.

During the week there were ample opportunities to access information as well as updates on breakthroughs that have occurred in the past three decades of the disease. Future Builders, Inc's, theme " I Am My Brother's Keeper: One Voice Leading the Way to Prevention HIV/AIDS and Tobacco Use," focused on the significant of tobacco use in the LGBTQ community juxtaposed to the ongoing health crisis of HIV and AIDS. UAMS's Dr. Gary Wheeler presented objectives, behavioral patterns and mortality stats of HIV patients and tobacco use. He directly correlated the lack of smoking cessation in HIV patients that could affect their health outcomes. Dr. Marian Evans-Lee program coordinator with UAPB's Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office also connected the disease thresholds that lurk in the shadows of smokers with HIV and present additional facts on how the tobacco industry targets the LGBTQ community. Each speaker demonstrated advertising "hooks" designated for the respective audiences. Wheeler cited that for the young Black MSM's, rap artist/ actor Snoop Dog promotes his own brand of cigars titled "Executive Branch." The cigars will be made with tobacco sourced from the Dominican Republic and the first round of product, the "Executive Branch Cigarillos," will be sold in packs of two for $.99. Wheeler stated that such marketing is primarily targeted and valued priced within the African American community. Other presenters during the event addressed issues surrounding the impact of HIV within the same gender loving community, perspectives on oral health care, and bridging the gap between faith communities and HIV prevention. Part two of our coverage of activities will be in Friday's post.

Th Dollars and Sense of Advocacy

This forum has a long and probably tired trail of talking about how important those Benjamin's either will make or break whatever anyone or group is trying to accomplish. I've encouraged, poke, prodded and damn near threw some hissy fits that if we don't support our own causes through raising the necessary funds, then exactly what outcomes can we expect. The recent "Billion" dollar election should be a clear example that hands down, its all about the money. This is obvious as I got this outreach from the national arm of the Stonewall Democrats. It seems that this organization has some "coming to Jesus" meetings about their future and sent out this "SOS" (save our services) cry for assistance from its database.They are not alone in this search for funding streams. Local community based organizations find themselves grappling with the same issue and again, this forum urges our readers to support the agency or cause of your choosing. Don't forget that those tax deductible contributions can be also in-kind, cash, frequent flier miles, stocks or used cars. No matter what, do something before the year is out. Here's the shout out from the Stonewall folks in case you want to choose them for your gift.

 A record number of LGBT people were elected to Congress as well as state and local positions. The first lesbian US Senator, the first bisexual, and the first gay person of color in Congress were all major milestones on our journey toward full equality. The biggest milestone, of course, was the reelection of President Obama - the first president to support full marriage equality.

National Stonewall Democrats has been at the forefront of these advances since 1998 when Congressman Barney Frank and LGBT activists founded our organization. Since that time, we've helped lead the Democratic Party to support for full LGBT equality - including the freedom to marry - culminating in a record 550 LGBT delegates at this year's Democratic National Convention. It has truly been a banner year for the LGBT community.

We Must Bridge the Gap

At this point in our organization's history, however, National Stonewall Democrats is facing one of the biggest challenges to date. It's no secret that we've struggled with fundraising over the past few years, but today we are at a crossroads and we're turning to you - our members and supporters.

For the second year in a row, our income has not met expectations. In 2011, we were able to offset the downturn by cutting costs - staff, services, programs; we cut everything to the bare essentials. We saw an uptick in funding at the beginning of 2012 as our renewed messaging and mission focus invigorated new and former donors, but as the campaigns heated up, donors were pulled in many directions and we felt the impact.

As the year closes, we're facing a budget deficit of over $30,000 and if we do not and if we do not bridge this gap, we will likely be forced to close our doors.
We didn't come to this conclusion lightly or quickly. When the board appointed me as executive director a year ago, we took a long, hard look at the entire organization and we realized that, although the political landscape had changed dramatically since our founding in 1998, our organization hadn't changed much. We set out to fix that.
In addition to trimming our budget to the essentials, we revisited our mission and purpose and we have great plans for the future. We retooled our messaging to be more bold and direct. We rekindled old partnerships and started building new ones to expand our coalition of pro-LGBT allies. We re-engaged with our chapters and helped start new ones in places where none had previously existed.
Even with reduced staffing and funding, we have had a year full of progress.

Our Work is Essential

National Stonewall Democrats has a unique position in our movement as an integral part of the Democratic Party's social justice coalition. In order to fulfill that role, the nature of our work must change to adapt to the political realities we face. Our success in traditionally progressive states - the "blue states" - has led us to many victories, but the less progressive states - the "red states" - have lagged behind.
In far too many places, the Democratic Party structures at the state and local level maintain a less than hospitable attitude toward LGBT equality and they are holding us back. In places where there are few openly LGBT elected officials and/or party leaders, stagnation and intransigence has taken hold. These "red states" are where Stonewall Democrats are needed
most and can have the most impact.

Our goals are simple:

  • Expand into the 22 states where there are no Stonewall Democrats affiliates while growing our existing membership
  • Grow the ranks of pro-equality Democrats in elected and appointed positions by recruiting, positioning, and supporting LGBT leaders who run for elective office or who seek appointments within the Democratic Party
  • Assist new leaders to be effective organizers and operatives through training, coaching, and leveraging our network in support of their efforts

All of this work will revolve around three essential core functions for which we are uniquely qualified and positioned to carry out:

  • Communications - Developing and disseminating strong messaging and communications in support of pro-equality Democrats
  • Advocacy - Lobbying, educating, and advising Democrats regarding issues important to LGBT people and holding the Party and its members accountable to the ideals laid out in the party platform
  • Coalition Building - continuing to build and strengthen our relationships with other Democratic Party constituencies, such as labor, immigration, and women

Our Future Is Up to You

We will never be a huge multi-million dollar organization - and we don't need to be - but we do need the resources to complete this important work.

That's where you come in. If everyone receiving this email contributed just $5, we could retire our debt and have a nice cushion going into the new year. If everyone gave $10, we could pay off the debt and have nearly 3/4 of our 2013 operating budget covered too.

You have stepped up in the past and we're asking you to do so again. Please show your support by contributing any amount you can today - $5, $50, $500, even $5000. Every penny counts.

The decision on whether or not National Stonewall Democrats continues operations is in your hands.


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