Local and Community News
New York: Prayers, Plans on AIDS Day; Black Leaders Make Point at Burial Ground
February 10, 2003
Politicians, clergy and AIDS activists joined hands on Friday at the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan and prayed for strength from their ancestors to fight HIV/AIDS in the black community. The solemn commemoration marked the third annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, observed nationwide to focus attention on the disease. More than 150 groups in nearly 60 US cities participated in the commemoration.Adapted from:
National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS President Debra Fraser-Howze cautioned black leaders against allowing HIV/AIDS casualties to fill a mass burial ground like that of the African Burial Ground, a 17th century site that was discovered in 1991. "Today, we came together at the African Burial Ground knowing that day we're going to be met by our ancestors and asked one specific question. And that question is: 'What have you done with your freedom?'" she said. "Well, we're doing with our freedom what we need to do to educate our community to keep them alive."
Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields said, "Being here, looking out at these burial grounds, we gain strength from our ancestors. We gain strength in terms of our resolve to do all that we can to fight AIDS."
Nationally and locally, AIDS continues to devastate the black community. In New York City, nearly 45 percent of the more than 46,000 people living with AIDS are black, according to the State Health Department.
Prior to the prayer service, several leaders spoke of developing a more aggressive plan to combat AIDS and encourage testing in the black community. Thomas E. Douglas, executive director of the faith-based advocacy group Harlem Director's Group, called for more funding for housing and substance abuse treatment for people with AIDS.
Newsday (New York City)
02.08.03; Margaret Ramirez