By Nicole Murray Ramirez
I first approached then Mayor Susan Golding about an AIDS memorial and she had me chair a Task Force of citizens to look into this. Soon we realized that this project, then proposed in Balboa Park, would take hundreds of dollars and many of us felt our focus should be to continue helping people living with AIDS, and the Task Force was dissolved. After Mayor Kevin Faulconer was elected and San Diego County was at more than 8,000 men, women, and children having died from AIDS (that we know of), he agreed on another AIDS Memorial Task Force and our first lady Katherine Stuart Faulconer agreed to co-chair it with me. In the last decades I have visited AIDS memorials from Buffalo, New York to Anchorage, Alaska, and researched their history. Almost all of them had opposition, but everyone finally came together after they were built to celebrate and remember those that they had lost.
Our city’s Park and Recreational Board voted unanimously for an AIDS memorial to be located in the soon to be built Olive Street Park, just a few blocks from Balboa Park. It will not be a regional park or have all kinds of HIV/AIDS events there, but it will be a place that we can go and quietly, lovingly, and peacefully remember our thousands of San Diegans we have lost to AIDS. There will be also be special “markers” of the names of our present and past HIV/AIDS organizations, the story of AIDS and also one about our care-givers, women — our unsung heroes.
This past Monday Susan Jester and I had dinner with the mayor and his wife, and we hope to get started on the Olive Street Park as soon as possible. We’ll then have a wonderful, beautiful dedication ceremony of our San Diego AIDS Memorial.
Yes, there can still be other AIDS memorials and markers anywhere in San Diego County. I certainly hope there will be.
I must most certainly acknowledge and thank then City Council member Todd Gloria who supported this project from the beginning and came up with the idea of Olive Street Park to be its home. Special appreciation and love also goes to Susan Jester, the Rev. Dean Penny Bridges and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Jim Lennox, Jen LeBron, Jay Sheehan, Francis Barraza, Bruce Abrams, Rabbi Laurie Coskey, John Ly, Big Mike Phillips, Sherman Mendoza, Ben Dillingham, Jim Cassidy, Benny Cartwright, David Jester, Imperial Court de San Diego, Being Alive, Alberto Cortes and Mama’s Kitchen, Shannon Wagner, Carolina Ramos, Diana Schmid, Jimmy Ramsey, B52’s, AHF Pharmacy, the AIDS Health Foundation, Chad Michaels, Rock Star Rob Halford and former State Assemblyman Jeff Marston who was also on the first AIDS Memorial Task Force, and AT&T … God Bless You All.
Harvey Milk Breakfast draws 1,000
Once again the 11th Annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast drew more than 1,000 San Diegans. When I first approached Dr. Delores Jacobs and Commissioner Robert Gleason about my idea of this breakfast in the tradition of the annual Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez breakfasts, many thought it would not go over well, especially because the governor had then vetoed the Harvey Milk State holiday bill. Now, 11 years later, it is one of the largest civil rights breakfasts in the county. A very special and sincere thank you to the hardworking Center staff and volunteers especially Ian Johnson, Rick-Arlo Yah-Lira, Jacqueline Palmer, Rebekah Hook-Held and Cara Dessert. The Imperial Court de San Diego who 11 years ago gave $5,000 seed money to produce the first breakfast and this year gave out $2,000 in LGBT student scholarships.
Among the V.I.P.s in attendance were Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Senate President Toni Atkins, State Assembly members Todd Gloria and Brian Maeinshein, City Attorney Mara Elliott, Police Chief David Nisleit, District Attorney Summer Stephan, City Council President Georgette Gomez, Council member Dr. Jen Campbell, former senator Chris Kehoe, Chula Vista Council member Steve Padilla, Encinitas Deputy Mayor Joe Mosca, Council member Chris Ward, Joyce Rowlands, City Commissioner Bruce Abrams, Sheriff Bill Gore, Police Lt. Dan Meyers and Ambassador Marcela Celorio, Consul General of Mexico in San Diego and Randy Edmonds, tribal elder.
Thank you so much for all our sponsors and every one of you who came. Especially Harvey Milk Champion of Equality Award recipient Norma Chavez-Peterson, Harvey Milk Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Kate Kendell, the fabulous San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus (outstanding!) and Sweetwater High School’s Homecoming Queen Karlie Cruz and Homecoming King Jonathan Velasco.
— Nicole Murray Ramirez has been writing a column since 1973. He has been a Latino/gay activist for almost half a century and has advised and served the last seven mayors of San Diego. Named the “Honorary Mayor of Hillcrest” by a city proclamation, he has received many media awards including from the prestigious San Diego Press Club. Reach Nicole at Nicolemrsd1@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @Nmrsd2.
Editor’s Note: The opinions written in this column are the author’s own and does not necessarily represent the opinions of the staff and/or publisher of Gay San Diego and/or its parent company, San Diego Community News Network (SDCNN). The newspaper and its staff should be held harmless of liability or damages.