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Michigan Walks!

By | 2010-09-30T09:00:00-04:00 September 30th, 2010|News|

By Cornelius A. Fortune

(Left to right) Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion HIV/AIDS Program Director Andrea Roberson, AIDS Partnership Michigan Executive Director Barbara Murray, APM Development Director Curtis Lipscomb, Community Health Awareness Group Executive Director Cindy Calhoun and CHAG Prevention and Finance Director Barbara Jones. BTL photos by Emily Locklear

It was a cold start, but an estimated 450 people came out in support of AIDS Walk Michigan-Detroit on Sept. 25 at Palmer Park, gathering at the Gatliff Pool and walking in support of raising funds for HIV/AIDS services.
During registration, which began at 8:30 a.m., a DJ played some upbeat music; lines formed; people danced; people Hustled in time, unified not only by an infectious beat, but an important cause. Others cradled coffee cups in their chilly hands, socialized, or ate the bagels provided for breakfast. Despite the brisk wind, most of the participants, wearing bright yellow shirts donning the AIDS Walk Michigan emblem, had smiles on their faces.
So far, AIDS Walk Michigan’s Detroit walk has raised over $28,000. Funding, noted AIDS Partnership Michigan Development Director Curtis Lipscomb, is always a challenge.
“In metro Detroit and all across the nation, the economy is hurting,” Lipscomb said. “AIDS Walk Michigan, which is a statewide effort, raises money to combat that and to add needed revenue for those services. Revenue is shrinking all through government levels. This our way to subsidize the cost of running our programs and services. For some of the sister cities that walk, this is the primary fundraiser.”
Other walks, some of which took place Sept. 25-26 and the last of which happens Oct. 2 in Flint, took place in Ann Arbor, Jackson, Bay City, Lansing, Traverse City and Mount Pleasant. They have raised a total of over $121,600 so far, said APM Executive Director and AIDS Walk Michigan President Barbara Murray, and brought out over 2,000 walkers.
Donations will still be accepted through Nov. 5, and funds will go to local HIV/AIDS organizations, including the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Ann Arbor, the Lansing Area AIDS Network, the Thomas Judd Care Center in Traverse City and several others.
Lipscomb added that the importance of the walks, along with making up for declining funding, is the show community support for the cause.
“It’s even more important for people to walk, and for many of us, the walk is the true advocacy event,” he said, “where all community members come out, young and old; people affected – infected – come out to walk and raise awareness.”
For Mechelle Ross, a native Detroiter, 2010 marked the seventh anniversary of her brother’s death. She has supported AIDS Walk Michigan-Detroit ever since.
“I come out here to support the cause,” Ross said. “(My reason) is kind of personal. Some people don’t have any insurance and it’s hard to know (if they’re HIV-positive). They’re scared. Some of them don’t want to get tested. We need to be knowledgeable about how AIDS is transmitted.
“They shouldn’t be treated no different than anybody else.”
Sharon Gee, a volunteer helping with registry, has participated in other walks, but this was her first in Detroit.
“I think it’s important for us to universally understand the impact of AIDS and what that has to do with our community and our culture,” Gee said. “I think uniting together for a common cause makes the universe a little bit smaller and manageable.”
Gary Heicklen, an Oak Park resident, made sure the event was a family affair.
“My wife works for one of the nonprofits,” Heicklen said. “I did it last year, too. I think people need to be aware of what’s going on. This is a really good way of bringing awareness to something that people don’t really want to talk about. It’s good to see everyone out here. Just a little bit more people would be a lot better.”
Detroit Deputy Mayor Saul Green spoke on behalf of Mayor Dave Bing.
“Clearly you all are as active or more active than any organization in the United States in fighting this epidemic,” Green said. “It’s so important. We have to continue to be involved. We have to pull together.”
Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh received a huge welcome and made it clear that his own participation in the walk was personal. Pugh is openly gay, and spoke of the disproportionate number of black, gay men with HIV/AIDS.
“I’m not here as the council president,” Pugh said. “I am here as a member of the community that is mostly affected by this virus and disease. This is personal to me. As somebody who has lost family members and too many friends, this is personal.
“I am here to make sure that we send the message that HIV and AIDS is 100-percent preventable. It starts with us. Prevention starts with education and education starts with a simple conversation.”

East Lansing City Councilmember Nathan Triplett, his wife Sarah and long-time LGBT ally Julie Powers pause for a picture as the Lansing chapter of AIDS Walk Michigan steps off. Photo by Todd A. Heywood

AIDS Walk Michigan is accepting donations through Nov. 5. For more information, visit {}.

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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.