Monday, June 04, 2007

Moti Hasson Hosts Silent Art Auction Benefiting HIV Law Project

Tonight I went to Chelsea's Moti Hasson gallery to attend an exhibit and silent art auction benefitting the HIV Law Project. The show, entitled "Four-Handed Lift: Advocacy, Art, Spirit & Community," was curated by Koan Jeff Baysa, Almond Zigmund, Bernard Leibov and included works by 40 artists. The crowd was typical -- 85% contributing artists and their guests, 10% organization's employees and board members, 5% freeloaders (i.e. "Is there going to be an open bar?"). Regardless they dressed well and the weather was idyllic, so the mood was festive for a late-Spring, early evening event.

Since 1989, HIV Law Project has been providing legal and advocacy services to low-income, HIV-positive New Yorkers, particulary women and people of color. The organization grew out of a time when AIDS was primarily seen as a disease affecting white, gay, middle- to upper-class, men. The gap between services to these groups of individuals, which has only deepened and broadened over the years as minority communities became the hardest hit and the heart of the ruling party became harder still, is one that still desperately needs bridging; HIV Law Project has a proven history of building and sustaining these bridges.

The show was cleverly curated and one could sense a silent dialogue between the pieces as they hung, communicating messages of loss, of hope, of community. Academy Award®, winner Kathy Bates dropped in to show her support the organization, as did one of Manhattan's ruling Renaissance men, Florent Morellet - restaurantaur extraordinaire, artist, activist, mapmaker, Grand Marshall of 2006 NYC Gay Pride parade, and saviour/unofficial Mayor of the last remnant of the "real" Meatpacking district -- providing food and even one of his own art pieces for the event.

HIV Law Project Executive Director, Tracy L. Welsh, Esq., thanked all in attendance, gave an overview of the work her group does, and then highlighted two pressing state legislative issues that need to be brought to light and defeated.

The first relates to the collection of medical information of people with HIV and the legislature's attempt to circumvent the written notice laws for testing people for HIV. The guarantees that are in place protecting the privacy of people with HIV and ensuring that individuals making the difficult, important decision to test for the virus are informed are at real risk. Waving the all-too-familiar FEAR flag, conservative legislators in the NY Senate and Assembly are citing the "super bug" scare from February 2005 as a legitimate basis for public health and safety to erode existing rights already provided in New York State. Take a moment to read the joint letter issued by the HIV Law Project, ACLU, NYCLU on this issue.

The second issue involves a bill stalled in the NYS Senate, called the "Healthy Teens Act," which guarantees that NYS provide its young people with comprehensive sex education including information on protecting themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Incredibly, 25 years after the start of the epidemic NYS schools still do not have a comprehensive sexual education program in place! It's shocking! We can do better than this. New York State cares more about its kids that this President and recognizes that abstinence-only education is insufficient and dangerous. Ignorance is no longer bliss, today it can be deadly. The bill is stalled in the NYS Senate by its Majority Leader, Senator Joseph Bruno (boo, hiss, boo). To date, he's refused to bring it to the floor of the Senate and will only do so if enough NYS residents make enough noise. Do something to feel proud about today -- call Senator Bruno's office right now at (518) 455-3191 and tell whoever answers to ask Bruno to bring the "Healthy Teens Act" to the Senate floor imediately.

Did you call Senator Bruno yet? Because if you didn't, you really shouldn't read any further until you do. Seriously, call him, right now!!!
So for all of you who called Senator Bruno, I wanted you to know that I left the event before the bidding closed on the items, but I saw the sheets filling up as the bar worked overtime. Some things never change.

Bravo HIV Law Project -- keep up the amazing work!!

1 comment:

Dawn Y Young Co-Peer Coordinator of the Center for Women and HIV Advocacy said...

Thanks so much for your support of our organization as well as The Center for Women and HIV Advocacys' current campaign "The Healthy Teens Act". We are HIV infected or affected women who feel our children have a right to real sex educztion to protect their lives.