UPDATE ON BRENDA – July 26, 2012 –
International AIDS Conference, Washington, D.C.
Featured speakers: Bill and Hillary Clinton, Elton John, Bill Gates, Whoopi Goldberg, Debra Messing, and Brenda Hubbard!
There may have been 22,000 participants at this event, but believe it or not, Brenda was NOT hard to spot among them. She was the one glowing in pride of her CoCoSi representatives there with her today. The area Brenda and her group are located in is called the Global Village. Her area within this large arena is called the Latino Caribbean Diaspora Collaborative Community which included Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.
As Brenda heard her name, she interrupted a conversation and came over to offer a warm embrace and kiss in appreciation of our making the two-hour drive/Metro ride to meet her. Quickly she began introductions not only by offering the names of those with her, but also by listing their recent degrees and accomplishments much as a mother would proudly show off her children. She really is like a second mother to these young people.
Brenda is totally confident in the skills of her group members, too, and doesn’t appear terribly anxious that the “live feed” from the Salvadoran prison which is scheduled to begin shortly on today’s program will actually happen without a hitch. She has someone there with a degree in communications who, she trusts, will know exactly how to handle the technology piece.
Two hours after that, Brenda has a dance troupe scheduled to perform. In fact, as I look over the extensive program–the size of a 3” thick metropolitan phone directory–Brenda has been the activity leader for various discussion groups and performances for the past three days here. Yet she looks fresh and alive rather than exhausted. Clearly she is in her element.
As you read in her story, Brenda is a very focused, goal-oriented woman. At the end of her story (or on p. 121 of the book Embracing the Salvadoran Spirit), she mentions the strong desire to take a group of her youth from CoCoSi to the International Aids Conference in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2012. At the time we talked, it seemed a pipe dream and so far in the future. When I asked her today if this event was everything she had anticipated and hoped for, she answered, “And SO much more.” It is Brenda’s humble attitude that permeates the day. “I feel so honored to be here with all these people,” she reinforces.
This Global Village is not your walk by and grab a mint or pen from a vendor kind of display area. It is jam-packed with activity. There are several stages set up at various venues with performances and speakers scheduled simultaneously. Scattered around are small discussion groups and forums. I don’t know how someone can manage to listen to everything without a group pre-planning carefully and dividing up who goes where and then coming together at the end of the day to share information. And that is the formal information-sharing. Imagine the informal opportunities for youth to meet people from all over the world. It is a mini-United Nations in one large arena setting!
Looking out over this spacious, well-organized area from above when arriving, all I could say was “WOW!” It is a mass of vibrant color and creativity in the booths and display areas and an intermingling of all ethnicities in common cause. I couldn’t wait to get down among the organized chaos and join it. Seeing the traditionally-dressed people was especially eye-catching. A woman from Nigeria wore the striking, gorgeous kente cloth and matching headgear of blue shiny foil-like material while Brazilian dancers performed on the stage wearing skimpy, Carnival-type costumes.
At lunch every time a spot at the table was vacated another person with a different story filled it within seconds. Across from me sat an emaciated thin man with tattoos from Las Vegas; a young woman beside me was from Genoa, Italy; another from Tennessee; a woman contracted AIDS unknowingly from her husband who had been in a relationship with a man, but no one including her doctor or pharmacist would tell her what she was suffering from because she lived in rural Arkansas and it must be her fault, etc., etc.
Each felt this conference was valuable and important. Each had his or her favorite highlights whether it be specific speakers, talking with their U.S. representatives, participating in the march around the U.S. Capitol and White House, etc. The fact that they were participating together from all parts of the world reinforced one another.
Thank you, Brenda, for inviting us to come and meet you here today!
Another of our storytellers, Brian Rude, was also at this event. He studies and travels worldwide, including to biennial AIDS conferences for the inclusive nature of the events and to “catch up with the world.”
To read Brian’s story: https://www.embracingelsalvador.org/brian-rude/