Boston – The recent death of ACT-UP founder Larry Kramer caused me to recall the 1980s when so many of us LGBTQ folks watched our community being decimated by HIV/AIDS. I realized, just as so many of us did, that I had to do all that I could since those in power failed to respond, and from all appearances seemed not to give a damn about the loss of gay lives. Silence = Death became a rallying cry for those of us who were on the front lines and were also fighting to try and save our own lives, as well as those of others. Then, as now I chose to raise my voice and to reject the comfort that the silence can sometimes provide. In 2020 Silence = Death still resonates.

2020 is the year that 1918 met 1968. Journalist Bakari Sellers has made a comparison between 2020 with events in 1918 and 1968 that resonated with me: “In 1918 we had a great pandemic, and in 1968 we had a country that is teetering on the edge.” JoAnn Jenkins, of the American Association of Retire Persons, recently wrote that “There is no doubt that we have deep divisions within our country. We are witnessing increasing incidents of racial violence. Blacks and Latinos are dying at higher rates due to COVID-19. These disparities are not random, but instead are the result of inequality due to a lack of social, economic, and political opportunities. As a social worker, [my professional code of ethics] provides important context for what my role should be in times such as we are currently in. … Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.” … These recent murders of black American citizens at the hands of law enforcement, sworn to protect and serve, reflects a new low in the calamitous state of the black experience in America. … I share the emotional exhaustion and constant worry about loved ones and have empathy for friends who are frightened for the safety of our husbands, sons, brothers, brothers-in-law, cousins, nephews, who are black.

While I do not condone violence (eg, looting, the destruction of property) I do understand the anger and the frustration being expressed. Some people say “it’s horrible that an innocent black man was killed, but destroying property has to stop”; what if instead people said “it’s horrible that property is being destroyed, but killing black men has to stop”? For me, the wrong part is being emphasized. Then as now Dr. King’s words remain “I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? … It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.” … I continue to stand in solidarity with others who are demanding action and change. … The current climate is nothing more than the unmasking of tensions that have been simmering for hundreds of years. We can no longer hide. We can no longer turn a blind eye. We can no longer live in silent agreement. So, in 2020, it is important that Silence = Death does not become Silence = Complicity. (Bay Windows – Gary Bailey at

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