Monday, November 29, 2010

Finding Visionaries, from Guest Blogger, activist and friend, Guido Sanchez

As I finished JOURNEYS THROUGH DARKNESS,  a biography on the life and art of award-winning, legally blind photographer Kurt Weston, I was faced with a question: who was going to write a Foreword for my book? Among the people I knew, one came to mind. And so I asked Guido Sanchez if he could help me out. And he did. For those who do not know Guido, he's a terrific guy, wonderful friend and passionate about his work. I first met him when he was a CEO at Hudson Pride Connections Center and continued to stay in touch with him as he moved on to work for CenterLink, in NYC.

I'd like to share with you "Finding Visionaries," the Foreword he was so nice to write for my book. I hope the read will inspire you, as Guido has inspired me through the years, and continues to do so.

Thanks again, Guido.
Thank you all for reading.

Alina Oswald
Author of JOURNEYS THROUGH DARKNESS
www.alina-arts.com


“Finding Visionaries”
A Foreword to JOURNEYS THROUGH DARKNESS

By Guido A. Sanchez, CenterLink Manager, New York City and Former CEO of Hudson Pride Connections, an LGBT and HIV/AIDS Support Organization

Cover image of Journeys Through Darkness, a Biography by Alina Oswald with photographs by Kurt Weston
Journeys Through Darkness, a biography by Alina Oswald with photographs by Kurt Weston



I was once asked why I, someone so young (only a few years past a quarter century), could care so deeply about HIV / AIDS that I would commit my life to it, as the Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center & AIDS Service Organization in Northern New Jersey. The question kind of stumped me, and all I could say was “why not?” How could I, an openly gay and proud man, deny that AIDS is one of the single most important parts of my history, my community's history? AIDS activism continues to suffer today from apathy and puritanism, all the meanwhile our communities are still being decimated, and people are still being infected.
Since AIDS activism rose up within the community-at-large in a very public and graphic way in the mid-1980s, the AIDS community and artists community have had inextricable ties. Artists have tried to represent their experiences with HIV / AIDS (such as the play Angels in America), voice their anger (such as any work by David Wojnarowicz), or force change (such as ACT UP's 'Silence=Death' posters). On a sadder note, there is the undeniable fact that AIDS has decimated our artists community – and anyone who has been a part of the movement has to ask themselves, how many future leaders, painters, writers, singers, dancers, creators, mentors, etc. have we lost to the virus over the last 25 plus years?   
Not all of these visionaries were lost, and photographer Kurt Weston has chosen to share his own journey through darkness in his life and work, with the help of biographer Alina Oswald.  I first met Alina when she came to our Community Center to write one of her many articles on HIV / AIDS activism and the social service landscape. Alina’s dedication to the grassroots work around HIV has brought her to offer her services as a photographer, and luckily even display some of her art photography in a show at our gallery. This book brings together so many pieces of her vision for a world without AIDS. I've never had the opportunity to meet Kurt, but now I feel like I understand artist’s vision much more. Kurt’s openness about his status and his experience, and the way he synergizes that into his art, is a moving inspiration. Kurt cites in the book that he is inspired by those who are inspired by reason, intellect, and compassion, and as Alina weaves his story for us, we see those three traits, and so much more, as Kurt navigates his life as an artist living with HIV. Alina takes us on a journey with Kurt, as we find his artistic vision grow stronger when his vision becomes impaired through AIDS medication, and as his life takes unexpected and surprising turns, all of which he navigates with grace, integrity, and above all, passion.
Now when I get asked how I can devote so much of my energy to AIDS activism, I know I can say that Kurt is the reason I do what I do. Kurt’s ability to inspire, and then to humbly cite his own source of inspiration as others who glean their own inspiration from reason and compassion. That someone’s ability to journey through darkness, and to maintain an immovable passion for helping others journey through that same darkness, to help people travel beyond their fears, hatred, prejudices, and find that light, could be woven into an inspiring tale, that is why we need people like Kurt and Alina. That is why we need stories like this. Now instead of saying, “why not fight with every breath I take” I know what I can say instead.