1987: The HIV/AIDS epidemic was in full swing and little by little, the world began to react. In this year, activist Cleve Jones made the first panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt, Princess Diana opened the first specialist AIDS hospital ward in England and the FDA approved AZT as the first antiretroviral drug to be used as the disease’s first treatment. In Chicago, there was one person who recognized and foresaw the problems that people with AIDS would face not only under the law, but without its protection. Attorney James Monroe Smith saw that beyond the physical and mental effects of HIV/AIDS, people were suffering workplace discrimination, insurance denials, confidentiality breaches and illegal evictions. In a country of public “benefits,” there was suddenly nowhere they could go, and no way for people with the illness to use them.
With a group of diverse volunteers with varied backgrounds spanning from healthcare to social service delivery, and his knowledge of the law, Smith began the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, one of the very first organizations devoted exclusively to protecting the legal rights of those living with HIV/AIDS. Through public policy advocacy, legal help and educational programs, ALCC has expanded over the last 25 years to include programs that touch those who need them the most, continually evolving with the needs of the community. The programs at ALCC span the diverse needs of the city: from the James Monroe Smith Outreach Center, located on the campus of the Cook County Hospital (where it is more accessible to the South and West sides of the city), to the HIV-Positive Immigrants’ Rights Project, which provides linguistically and culturally appropriate legal assistance to foreign-born individuals living with HIV.
Recently, I became involved with the ALCC as a member of its Ambassadors Board, a group of individuals that is just as diverse as the community the organization serves. As the inaugural board, we are comprised of a diverse group of people- gay and straight, white and Latino, young and seasoned professionals- that have the simplest of tasks at hand: spread the word. Before this year, I had no idea what ALCC was about, why it was so important to the community or what amazing things it does with its resources. One of the best parts about this organization is that it not only represents people that are the closest to our hearts as LGBTs, but the city as a whole. ALCC is built to serve anyone and everyone who needs their assistance, never placing anyone on a wait list or delaying response from a call for help, and for that they are truly great.
With that being said, the ALCC is able to run an amazingly efficient and effective organization based on only a few small ticket fundraisers a year. On August 15th- that’s NEXT Wednesday!- we are hosting Planet J-Pop- our yearly international themed fundraiser at Sidetrack. From 6:00-9:00pm, join us for a trip to Japan; tickets include a couple of drinks, food provided by Indie Café, Taiko drummers, a silent auction, and a raffle with a grand prize of a trip to Japan!!! Come out to the event to learn more about the ALCC, how you can meet Cindy Lauper (AND see Kinky Boots!) and support an amazing cause.
To purchase tickets, visit: http://jpop2012-autohome.eventbrite.com/
If you are interested in volunteering or for more info, visit: http://aidslegal.com/index.html.
Check it out, and let me know if you have an organization that deserves a spotlight.
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Lauren was born and raised in South Minneapolis and like many other innocent midwesterners got sucked into the black hole of Chicago politics 4 years ago. As the LGBT Coordinator for the Gery Chico for Mayor Campaign she attempted to take on the entire city and hasn’t looked back since. Now working for a communications firm, she spends her extra time running around with cases of PBR playing in different sports leagues, hosting couchsurfers from all over the place, and deciding how she is going to change the world. A simple lady at her core, she has decided that the first person to send her an edible arrangement must be the one.