~Phil Remembers When…~
By Philip Bayush
Stand up against hate! That’s what hundreds of Johnstown area residents did on Tuesday. PO2 Samuel L. Stiles , a U.S. Navy sailor from Johnstown, died in Nagasaki, Japan on October 28th. An extreme hate group, known as the Westboro Baptist Church headed by the Rev. Fred Phelps from Topeka, Kansas, posted on their website that they were headed to Johnstown on Tuesday, November 13th. It was to picket the Samuel Stiles funeral to preach their message that “God hates America and is killing our troops in his wrath.”
I have known about this group for years, and have personally encountered their protests and signs at pride marches and concerts before. It is disturbing, disrupting, and just plain wrong. With all the additional things that I have read on their site, and activities that get even more blatant and bazaar, I refuse to give them any more publicity or getting myself more enraged about them than I already am. That is just playing into their game. Instead, I will tell you about the positive response that this hatred has sparked from my community. How a group of Sam’s friends and neighbors (some pictured above with me) through the use of Face Book and social media pulled together 100’s of people to form a human barricade between the protesters and the family and friends attending the funeral. It was to be a silent, anti-protest, with no confrontation with the protesters. As rumors filled the air and the internet, Tuesday morning finally came. With heavy police presence , the anti-protesters were permitted to line both sides of Luther Road, starting 500’ back from the church entrance. Young, old, men in full military uniform, families, friends, neighbors, total strangers, all of us standing side by side with a temperature of 27 degrees and snow flurries. Flags of all sizes were held by everyone. The funeral procession drove by without incident. The protesters were nowhere to be found.
Election day has come and gone, and our union is still intact. We have a two party system. Through the process of debate of ideas, we hopefully can combine the best of these ideas to provide the best solutions for everyone. Let’s all try to put our differences behind us and move forward.
Congratulations to the victors, including some of my personal choices from my last column.
First, the re-election of our President, Barack Obama. This is the end of a speech he gave to his supporters on election night right before he accepted his win “-Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests. There’s a lot more work to do. But for right now: Thank you. Barak.”
The re-election of PA House of Rep. Dist. 7: Brian Barbin
The re-election of PA Senate Dist. 35:
The disappointment for our area was the PA 12th Congressional Dist. Seat. Mark Critz of Johnstown was narrowly unseated by Keith Rothfus of suburban Pittsburgh, who according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette was “aided by millions of dollars of ads paid for by outside sources.” According to Critz, the deciding factors were “the onslaught of money spent against me” and the reconfiguration of the district, 70% of which was new territory for him. Mr. rothfus said he would maintain an office in Johnstown. Time will tell.
The 2012 election broke new ground on the controversial issues of same-sex marriage and recreational marijuana use. Colorado and Washington became the first states in the nation to approve of recreational marijuana. Maine and Maryland became the first two states to pass ballot initiatives approving of same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples can now marry in nine of the fifty states and in the District of Columbia.
We will also have a record number of women seated in the U.S. Senate seats, 20, the most in U.S. history. This also will include our first openly gay senator, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
On Friday, November 30th, the Keystone Alliance/Gaylife Newsletter will once again be hosting a benefit for the Community Care Management Program.
CCM is an AIDS Service Organization, which is located at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown, PA. I recently talked to Wenche Bonini, program coordinator for more information on this important local group. Her pleasant, calm demeanor , plus her incredible knowledge of HIV/AIDS matters appear to be a perfect match for this position.
Wenche Bonini of CCM and Philip Bayush Wenche Bonini of CCM and Philip Bayush
CCM serves Cambria, Somerset, Indiana, and part of Westmoreland County. The mission of CCM is to reach out to the HIV/AIDS population and their families to offer hope for the future through connection to medical care, support, advocacy and education. Through this mission, the staff of CCM begins Medical Case Management by linking the infected individual to HIV medical care, offered locally at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center’s Family Medical Center (FMC). The goal of CCM is to stabilize the clients’ lives to enable them to remain in medical care and improve the quality of their lives, despite living with HIV.
CCM is dedicated to community awareness and reducing the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
CCM has been providing Medical Case Management since 2000 increasing our population to approximately 85 clients. The clients who choose a local HIV provider, are maintained in medical care which is provided at the Family Medical Center.
According to the Pennsylvania HIV Prevention community Planning Update (Summer 2012, Volume 17.2), out of more than 1 million Americans with HIV:
942,000 (80%) know they are infected
726,000 (62%) were linked to care
480,000 (41%) have stayed in care
437,000 (36%) are receiving treatment and;
328,000 (28%) have a very low amount of virus
In their bodies.
These statistics reveal that there are many individuals who are in need of HIV care. Despite the rural nature of the counties that CCM services, two out of the four counties are in the top five of AIDS Incidence for new HIV/AIDS cases, according to the Coalition Regional Services and Strategic Plan (CRRSP), from the AIDS Coalition of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Westmoreland and Cambria counties are in the top five for living with HIV/AIDS cases.
Bonini highly recommends regular HIV testing for sexually-active persons and the use of condoms. If you have any questions about free testing or HIV/AIDS issues the CCM number is (814) 534-6732.
After talking about the stats and mission of CCM, Bonini and I discussed some of the highlights of the upcoming benefit. She immediately lit up, and thanked the KA/GN for all their past support for fund-raising and help coordinating free, confidential HIV testing in the past in the GLBT community. “All you guys are just great- I don’t know how you do it!”
Well, here we go again! Mark your calendars and tell your friends! On Friday, November 30th, the KA/GN will host “A Very Mary Christmas- A World AIDS Day Benefit” for CCM. It will be held in the Crown Ballroom at the Downtown Holiday Inn, Johnstown starting at 8 PM. I will be your MC for the evening along with our newly crowned Miss Keystone Alliance 2012-2013 Miss Ashley Gilbert. Come join us for a fun-filled holiday show full of great entertainment! We will also have a Q&A segment with Wenche Bonini, the program coordinator for CCM. New this year, we have added a silent auction area. We are still accepting items for this, including gift certificates, gift baskets, merchandise, artwork, or any item of value that you or you business would like to donate for this important cause. Contact the newsletter, John De Bartola at (814) 421-8000, or myself for more information or to arrange for pick-up or drop-off of auction items. Or call Jan at (814)248-2781.
What a great night we are planning! Free covered parking, table seating with full or light menu available, cash bar, a great show, and the professional staff that welcomed our Keystone Alliance Pageant in September. Please open your heart by attending, purchasing tickets for friends to attend, make a monetary donation, or donate an item for our silent auction. Tickets are only $5 in advance and $10 at the door. Call (814)248-2781or visit our website at:www.gaylifenewsletter.com
A very special “THANK YOU” to:
Johnstown magazine for the wonderful coverage of our event in their November issue, and to the good folks at the Johnstown Area Heritage Association and the Stone Bridge Lighting Project. On Friday, November 30th, the night of our benefit show, and then the next night, Saturday, December 1st, for World AIDS Day, the historic Stone Bridge will be bathed in red light. Thank you for caring in our little part of the world, and joining with other great structures around the world commemorating this day. The Johnstown holiday inn for their expertise and cooperation to help make this important event a success.
And as a final note, watch for the KA/GN Thanksgiving Special Edition on Wednesday, November 21st. I will be sharing some holiday memories and family acceptance issues of GLBT members, and suggested topics for pleasant dinner conversation around the table (just in case you and your partner want to be invited back for Christmas!) Eric and I had Thanksgiving dinner a little early at his mom’s this year with his family, so I’ll have some pics and stories to share. Take care my friends, and please try to support our benefit, We all know things are a little tight on everyone now, but this could be that one night out that you not only had a great time, but it was also for a great cause. Remember, this is our hometown team right here, in our own back yard.