Sunday, May 15th, 2011 was the first time I did the AIDS walk. It won't be the last. I can't find the words to describe my experience. Many may think that it's just walking, something we do every day, what's the significance? For anyone whose life has been affected by the devastation that is HIV/AIDS, it is more than just walking. It is an emotional and spiritual experience.
The crowd was a beautiful kaleidoscope of people. From Black to White, young to old, gay to straight, we all walked as one for a cause. There was so much kindness and warmth between us all. There was joy, and for some of us, stifled tears. I'm certain there were as many reasons for walking as there were faces in the crowd. But, in spite of our reasons for walking, we walked in unison. A fraternity bound together with a common goal...to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS.
The long walk is a lot for someone like me, who is not in the best physical shape(Lol). There were moments that I wanted to give in. In those moments, I had my cousin and my good friend by my side to keep me pressing on. The volunteers cheered us on as we made our way. More than that, I had my mother's spirit surrounding me. She kept me strong, kept my focus on my goal. And with that, I crossed the finish line.
At the finish line, there was an area with a sign that said 'I walk'. There was a paper 'wall' where walkers could write why they participated in the walk. I stopped to read it, and then I picked up a marker and wrote a message to my mom, with the hope that she could see it from heaven.
And then I shed a tear. But I wasn't crying for my loss alone. I cried for the millions of people who have also experienced the loss of loved ones to HIV/AIDS. That wall was a personification of the emotion and pain that was our common thread.
I feel such a sense of pride in myself for walking this year. I'm proud of the tens of thousands of people who walked with me through the rain. I proud to say that I was part of such an awesome event. But I know we're not done. We need to keep protecting ourselves. We have to keep spreading the word about prevention.
We need to keep reminding others about the importance of being tested and knowing your status. We need to support those who are affected and infected by this epidemic. We need to understand that walking is just a battle that is part of a bigger war. This is just one 'step' in the walk to find a cure...one walk amongst many.
Chante'l S. Mikell