By Ryan Ngala
[Harlem, New York] - What a gorgeous sunny day it was in the heart of the Harlem community many people gathered at the Fred Samuel playground located on 140th Street at Malcolm X Boulevard. I saw many of them wearing tee-shirts, both in black and white, that read “Faith Walk Twenty Thirteen: Promoting Awareness in communities of color,” both in black and white as they registered online at EventBrite.com; their names were added to the list as they signed in.
People were representing their churches and organizations in the neighborhood including Abyssinian Baptist Church, Abyssinian Development Corporation, African-American Muslim Commission On HIV / AIDS, Bethany Baptist Church, Canaan Baptist Church of Christ, Church of the Intercession, Coalition On Positive Health Empowerment [Cope Health], Community Health and Awareness Ministry, Inc., Convent Avenue Baptist Church, East Ward Missionary Baptist Church, First AME Bethel Church, First Corinthian Baptist Church, FOY HIV / AIDS Ministry [Mt. Calvary Baptist Church], Iris House - A Center For Women Living With HIV / AIDS, Inc., Love Alive International Foundation, Inc., Masjid Sabur Worship, Educational and Referral, New Mount Zion Baptist Church, New Hope Community Church, New Testament Baptist Church, Paradise Baptist Church, Rivers of Living Faith Ministries, St. John’s Baptist Church, and St. Luke’s AME Church and Survivors Fountain of Hope Wellness Initiative.
When they were about to leave the park, many people were holding up their banners and signs with slogans such as, “Get Yourself Tested”, “Engage, Educate, Prevent” and “Twenty Thirteen Harlem HIV / AIDS Faith Walk.” The marchers also got wristbands with the words, “Know Your Status.” This march was a major event being sponsored by The Harlem Hospital Center, NYC Council Faith Based Initiative, The National Black Leadership Commission Aids, Inc., and many more.
When the march began the participants walked throughout the streets chanting “HIV, Get Tested!!!” and “Wake Up Harlem.” They also sang a couple of gospel songs along the way. I joined the marchers as they started to walk towards 125thStreet to go to the Harlem State Office Building where the health fair was being held. We walked the red carpet to where there was a worship service with special guest speaker Bill Thompson sending a strong message that the disease of HIV / AIDS must come to an end! He raised awareness about young people in our communities getting the disease and not even knowing, If they are positive.
There are so many ways to get the disease: sexual contact, drug use, occupational contact with the virus. It is so important that young people should: Get Educated, Get Tested, and Get Involved. Many people decided to go to HIV Testing and get started with their National HIV Testing Day Health and Resource Fair Passport 2013, which they carried with them to each table to have to get the names and signatures of people who want more information on Diabetes, Hepatitis C, as well as information about the FDNY Application and Iris House. Those who were able to collect a total up to twelve signatures or more received a special gift. Refreshments including hot dogs, ice cream and bottled water were provided.