Every day people with HIV/AIDS are the targets of discrimination and bullying. The stigma of HIV is still an issue in the world today – as well as anti-LGBTQ bigotry. Sometimes it comes in very simple forms, but it still hurts.
The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland has been on the front lines of fighting discrimination against the HIV/AIDS community as well as anti-LGBTQ discrimination, discrimination against people of color, people living in poverty and many more who find themselves disenfranchised or in need. We need your support to keep up our fight against anti-HIV/AIDS, anti-LGBTQ, anti-poverty and all forms of discrimination.
On the day of Cleveland’s Pride festival, the defenders found themselves the subject of bigotry.
On what should have been a day of celebration for ALL people, one man’s narrow-mindedness almost ruined it. The AIDS Taskforce had been given the donation of a flatbed truck by ‘Mr. Excavator’ for their float in the Cleveland Pride Parade on June 23rd, 2012. A team of volunteers and staff were on hand to decorate the float with images of patriotism and community spirit – and a healthy dose of messaging about practicing safer sex. When the driver learned that he was going to be driving through the gay pride parade, he instantly turned angry. He shouted obscenities and stormed off – not willing to discuss it any further. He wanted nothing to do with people with AIDS or LGBTQ people. He jumped into his truck and attempted to drive away so quickly, he nearly ran down several volunteers and almost drove through the gate at the agency’s parking lot. He left us without a float with less than 2 hours to go before the parade.
“It was really hard for us because this day is so much about equal rights for all and the celebration of difference and the important of acknowledging who you are, and for him to drive away and kind of leave us high and dry was disappointing,” said Tracy Jones, CEO of the AIDS Taskforce.
We have communicated with ‘Mr. Excavator’ management, but they have yet to respond with a position whether to stand with their driver or to stand with the LGBTQ community.
The local news affiliate FOX 8 covered the story:
We are called upon daily to help those who are the targets of discrimination and bullying. More than 2,000 people count on us on a regular basis – thousands more are impacted by what we do. Young people call on us when their families, communities and others turn against them when their HIV status or sexual orientation is learned. Organizations turn to us to help train their employees to be more sensitive to the diversity of the clients they serve.
Clients – most of whom earn less than $10,000 per year – turn to us when they are unable to access food, housing, medical care or other services in the face of discriminatory practices – even when it is clearly illegal to do so.
Fortunately, the paraded ended well. We located another, much smaller, truck and were able to get the float into the parade. It even won best float! However, the incident also highlights how important it is to continue the work we do to protect our clients from discrimination of all types.