I had the honor of working with Mrs. Coretta Scott King several times in the early days of the epidemic. She graciously spoke at both the United States Conference on AIDS and HIV Prevention Leadership Summit. The USCA session had leaders from the civil rights movement coming together to salute leaders in the fight against AIDS.
As only she could do, Mrs. King said that the “fight against AIDS was a fight for civil rights.” She also let it be known that Dr. King’s fight for equality included the LGBT community. At the time this separated her from some of her peers. Too many were upset that she would stand in solidarity with us. The last time I saw Mrs. King, she hugged me and whispered into my ear, “you are carrying on Martin’s dream.” I had just lost another friend to the virus and I fell into her arms sobbing. She held me while I cried and talked about the sacrifices required when fighting to make this a better world.
I wonder what she would think of America today? I’m particularly struck by the image this week of a Native American elder who was blocked and shamed by a group of teenagers at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, the same place where her husband made his historic speech.
We have a huge job ahead of us. Dr. King said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As we work to end the epidemic, we must commit to ending it everywhere. My fear is that HIV will be over for people with health insurance and access to medications, but continue to devastate those who have less, those who live outside of the mainstream, people like us. Remembering the legacy of Dr. King, I’m reminded that he also said, “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Ending the epidemic is a leap of faith. We believe we can accomplish what some think is impossible. Thank you, Dr. and Mrs. King, for showing us the way and giving us hope.