By Mark Maddox
As an elementary school kid in the 1990s beginning to recognize that I may “have a little sugar in the tank”, I can distinctly remember the sting of hearing, “You’ll get AIDS and die.” While I came of age after the height of the epidemic, I realized the importance of comprehensive healthcare and working to fight stigmas about HIV/AIDS and the LGBTQ+ community, people like me.
The fight for healthcare equity, basic and vital resources, better accessibility, and recognition are not new to the LGBTQ+ community. The San Diego LGBTQ+ community has a broad and deep history of collaborative, grassroots support of people living with HIV/AIDS.
In 1983, grassroots community activists came together to organize at #1 Fifth Ave. In the same year, our lesbian community came together to form Blood Sisters. Susan Jester spearheaded the first San Diego Walk for Life (now called AIDS Walk), and Nicole Murray Ramirez organized a march to demand the city take action on HIV/AIDS. Drag entertainers hosted fundraisers at our bars. Our community organized, collaborated, fundraised, marched, and supported each other through the devastation.
In 1990, Mama’s Kitchen started to deliver groceries and meals to clients with AIDS. Prior to my role at San Diego Pride, I was the Director of Volunteers at Mama’s Kitchen and saw firsthand the positive health outcomes for not only clients with HIV but numerous other critical illnesses. Mama’s Kitchen is a shining example of expanding from their LGBTQ+ community leadership and grassroots activism origins to respond to the needs of today’s communities.
December 1st, was the 35th commemoration of World AIDS Day. Mama’s Kitchen hosted the annual Tree of Life ceremony, to gather our community together to remember those lost to AIDS. I think often about the many queer people in that generation lost to the virus. What would they think of the work we have done and about the attacks on our community now? How would they engage in the movement? What history would they be making now had their government shown compassion?
My hope is that they are proud of what our movement has done – and is doing – to end new HIV infections. This comes from our continued support of community organizations that are leading the effort.
Interim Co-Executive Pride Directors Announced
Sarafina Scapicchio & Jen LaBarbera
“We’d like to thank our staff, who proposed this co-leadership model”
— San Diego Pride Board