Many of the artists were young people when they or their lovers were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. For over twenty-thirty years they have survived. Now, they live to tell younger members of the LGBTQIA+ communities what it is like to live past the AIDS epidemic. These long-term survivors have tremendous resilience and flexibility of mind and body. They are some of the LGBTQIA+ communities’ elders, the caretakers of valuable insights-deep and rich narratives full of subtlety and surprise.
The Red & Orange House Foundation produced CELEBRATING RESILIENCE with San Francisco AIDS Foundation Elizabeth Taylor 50-Plus Network (SFAF ET 50+), Wednesday, December 5, at STRUT, 470 Castro Street, third floor, 6-8:30 p.m. Poetry started promptly at 7 p.m.
Over 90 people attended the event!
Opening night, the artists arrived early for a behind the scenes rehearsal AND–the distribution of the never-before-seen art exhibition catalog! Each Bodyscapes SFAF ET 50-Plus artist received one free art catalog featuring all the poems and drawings created during our Bodyscapes Healing Art Workshops conducted in October 2018.
Graphic designer extraordinaire, Zanne deJanvier! Thanks, Zanne for another awesome catalog! See her work at dejanvier.org
Promptly at 7:30 PM after a delicious lasagna meal provided by SFAF ET 50+, our program began. After the usual thank you’s, I invited Harry Breaux, elder statesman and Honoring Our Experience Bodyscapes Artist 2017, to share his memories of the years that came before 1980.
“The seventies gave me the experiences I needed to make peace with my “difference,” to understand what it is like to live a style that had been repressed for all of my earlier years, to be “out and proud” of my difference. I witnessed a sexual transformation in society that allowed a group who had been forced to the sidelines to suddenly find their public voice….filled with courage, passion, determination, anger, rebellion, political action and eventually, shock and awe.
And then came 1980, the beginning of the AIDS years. The focus began to switch.
In 1980, I was living in Houston and remember waking up one morning around 3 a.m. in a sweat like I had never experienced before. Everything was soaked and it seemed sweat was coming out of my fingernails. That was the moment that I believe the virus went from forty-nine percent to fifty-one percent and my HIV-positive “adventure” was on…
…There is a life here still, but it has been gutted by the betrayal of my country in its response to AIDS. I, and those like me living the “surviving” game, no longer are certain that the rights and privileges we fought so hard for will not be taken away. Daily we are bombarded by reports of the easy erosion of the gains attained on the backs of the now dead.”
Follow this link: Harry’s full essay was published in A&U Magazine August 2018
Poets offstage–some poets rehearsed silently with intent, some were pensive, some engaged with the opening remarks…others shared some love.
Our poets lived their youthful years when being LGBTQIA in America was unacceptable. They struggled for self-identity and the freedom to live that hard-won identity OUT LOUD. Our Bodyscapes poets are over 50 years old and contemplating what it feels like to LGBTQIAP, both HIV positive and negative, in the later stages of their lives here in San Francisco-a city now dominated by a new and younger generation, both in the tech culture and the LGBTQIAP+ world. Many feel that too familiar gnaw of loneliness and neglect from a culture that does not see them and wants them to be invisible.
Newton Butler’s eloquently poetic insight, in search of an answer to physical and symbolic pain of aging.