|API Wellness Center commemorates API AIDS Awareness Day at AT&T Park. Assemblyman Mark leno, MC Honey Labrador, movie star Jason Scott Lee, and ED John Manzon-Santos. Lee was modest but eloquent with hsi support for stopping HIV in the API community. Phot
Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center commemorated the 2nd National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on May 19 and celebrated its 20th year of community leadership in the Bay Area. The Center hosted a festive event at AT&T Park‚Äď‚ÄúHome of the Giants.‚ÄĚ Organizers had curated an Awareness Art Show‚ÄĒa showcase of powerful visual and performance art addressing HIV-related stigma in A&PI communities.
Hollywood actor Jason Scott Lee, who has starred in unforgettable films including Born in East L.A., Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, The Jungle Book, and Lilo & Stitch, and Honey Labrador (TV‚Äôs Queer Eye for the Straight Girl, Xcess/Access) were in attendance to highlight the critical role that A&PI mainstream celebrities can play in fighting discrimination.
‚ÄúA big aloha from the Islands where I currently preside,‚ÄĚ said Lee. ‚ÄúI am a new inductee to this cause and am blown away by the compassion of the people in this organization. I feel so much love and dedication...not to mention the smarts and vision they have.‚ÄĚ He explained the Hawaiian expression ‚Äúohana‚ÄĚ means no one is left behind or forgotten.
Miss San Francisco 2006 Carol Chen, the first Asian Miss SF in 60 years, echoed Lee‚Äôs sentiments as to the importance of increasing HIV/AIDS education and leaving no one behind in awareness and service.
When asked why Labrador came to this event, she told Bay Times, ‚ÄúI came because I was asked, and because I get to. It‚Äôs wonderful to have this teensy weensy platform of having a television show that has made me more aware of what I can do.‚ÄĚ She said the organization touched her personally, being an Asian and Pacific Islander from her father‚Äôs side, and knowing countless people who are HIV-positive, and having lost many friends to AIDS, especially in the ‚Äė80s. ‚ÄúI feel it‚Äôs my duty to come out and help raise awareness,‚ÄĚ she said.
In a silly mood, Bay Times asked her for any Queer Eye advice. ‚ÄúAlways use a lash curler, carry around some lip gloss, and a little concealer,‚ÄĚ she said. When this reporter joked, ‚ÄúAnd what about the women?‚ÄĚ she replied, ‚ÄúEvery woman has everything she needs. It‚Äôs inside of her. But sometimes you just need a little help from your friends to help get it out. And who‚Äôs better to do it than a bunch of queers?!‚ÄĚ
The evening also featured four hot Asian male rockers known as Bento; youth hip-hop group Mini Shock; UTOPIA (United Territories of Polynesian Islanders Alliance) who performed exotic folk dances from Hawaii, Tahiti, and Samoa; the Caroline Chung Trio; and writer/performance artist Justin Chin, author of Attack of the Man-Eating Lotus Blossoms, reading his hilarious poem about a helper monkey for an AIDS patient.
The National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, officially recognized by the federal government and a part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, grew out of the Banyan Tree Project. The Banyan Tree Project, funded through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, is a national effort spearheaded by A&PI Wellness Center with regional partners from Honolulu to Boston. The project fights HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in A&PI communities. The theme of the Banyan Tree Project in 2006 is ‚ÄúI Am Still Me.‚ÄĚ This theme sends the dual message that anyone can become infected, and that A&PIs and their families are living with HIV/AIDS.
Concurrent commemorative Awareness Day events were held in over 15 cities across the U.S. including Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Honolulu, New York, Seattle, and Boston. Attendees were shown the latest Banyan Tree Project public service announcement dramatizing the issue of HIV-related stigma in A&PI communities, which will air throughout May and June to reach millions of households across the U.S. via Comcast and other broadband and broadcast audiences. The five-point Banyan Tree Pledge encourages individuals of all backgrounds to stand up against stigma and discrimination. Early signatories include U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, SF Mayor Gavin Newsom, actor Russell Wong, and Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis. And that night Lee and Labrador signed the pledge as well.
The Center‚Äôs mission is to educate, support, empower, and advocate for A&PI communities, particularly A&PIs living with, or at risk for, HIV/AIDS. The center is the oldest and largest nonprofit in North America focusing on sexual health and HIV/AIDS in A&PI communities.¬†
Immediately following the Awareness Program was MIX ‚Äô06, a very special fundraising event to launch A&PI Wellness Center‚Äôs 20th year of service, emceed by the fabulous community icon Tita Aida. Community Awards were presented to Cable Positive, PlanetOut Inc., and long-time activist Steve Lew. ‚ÄúThis year we are thrilled to name our first Public Policy Award after Steve Lew to publicly recognize the tremendous impact his advocacy has had on HIV/AIDS in communities of color,‚ÄĚ said John Manzon-Santos, Wellness Center executive director.
‚ÄúBoth Cable Positive and PlanetOut have demonstrated unprecedented leadership nationally in promoting A&PI visibility and fighting HIV-related stigma.‚ÄĚ Labrador presented the Media Partner Award to PlanetOut, pointing out, ‚ÄúThese are friends of mine and have done so much for our community.‚ÄĚ She has produced several short films that can be seen on their website. ‚ÄúPlanetOut has consistently shown leadership and courage in raising visibility around important, stigmatizing issues impacting LGBT communities, such as drug addiction and HIV.‚ÄĚ Through its brands such as GAY.com and The Advocate, PlanetOut is helping amplify our diverse communities‚Äô influence and impact.
Lee presented the National Ally Award to Cable Positive. He said, ‚ÄúThis award recognizes Cable Positive‚Äôs amazing and extraordinary efforts in furthering the A&PI Wellness Center‚Äôs mission and vision.‚ÄĚ He added, ‚ÄúCable Positive has raised critical visibility among celebrities of all colors, including Asians and Pacific Islanders, and has awarded over one million dollars enabling organizations across the country to access the world of cable and amplify community-based, community inspired HIV messages.‚ÄĚ
Tita joked that there was supposed to be a sensational production number with her, but her 700 backup dancers did not show up. ‚ÄúWe were going to do it out on the baseball field. Oh well, maybe next year.‚ÄĚ She then brought on civil rights lawyer Ignatius Bau to present the Steve Lew Public Policy Award to Steve Lew‚ÄĒthis being the first in an annual series of awards for activists and advocates named after Lew. He has been an HIV survivor and advocate for 20 years. ‚ÄúSteve really was a pioneer at a time during the epidemic in which Asian Americans with HIV were very much invisible,‚ÄĚ said Bau. ‚ÄúSteve was one of the first to step forward and be public‚ÄĒto be interviewed in the public, and be able to go to government officials throughout the U.S. and give an Asian face to this epidemic, showing how the disease impacted the Asian American communities in a way that required a response..‚ÄĚ
Representative Nancy Pelosi and Assemblyman Mark Leno gave certificates of recognition to the Center. Leno said how important it was to continue to raise awareness and educate about this very serious epidemic. ‚ÄúUnfortunately among communities of color we see HIV infection rates at still unacceptable rates‚ÄĒupwards of ten percent a year, but because of the great works of organizations such as the A&PI Wellness Center, we have a chance at fighting and winning this battle.‚ÄĚ He joked, ‚ÄúWhat a great place for a party. Barry Bonds wanted to be here tonight, but asked if I could extend an invitation to all of you to join him in the locker room when he hits that 715th homerun.‚ÄĚ