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Free Health Education Fair Puts Positive Spin on Transgender Day of Remembrance

by Conswella Bennett

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday November 27, 2012

After years spent reading the names of those lost to transgender-bias violence, Atlanta approached the Transgender Day of Remembrance with a positive bent this year, organizing for the first time a free health fair, along with a vigil, a community panel discussion and The Purple Affair, a gala event honoring those working to improve life for those in the trans community.

"It was absolutely beautiful," said Tracee McDaniel, executive director of the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, who helped to organize the health fair along with its memorable vigil that is held to remember those who have died or were killed because of identifying as transgender or gender non-conforming.

Besides paying homage to those who have passed away, McDaniel said by adding the health fair component, which included various informational booths, they were able to empower and give priority to those who are living.

Other activities which began during the weekend included a community panel discussion held at the Little Five Points Community Center, "The Purple Affair: An Evening of Transgender Recognition," and the Transgender Recognition Sunday at Shepherd's Table Covenant Church.

The health fair and vigil was held on Nov. 20 at the Phillip Rush Center. There were more than 100 people who stopped by throughout the day and attended the vigil that evening. This year, the vigil was moved from the steps of the Georgia Capitol to the indoor location.

"I took part in the health fair, to get the word out about HIV and its effects on minorities and African Americans," said Dr. Benjamin Moore of the Alpha & Omega HIV/AIDS Foundation and Health Initiative International, Inc. "We are trying to let people know that it's 100 percent preventable. If you are having sex, use protection. It's not who you are but what you do that puts you at risk."

"We are trying to let people know that it's 100 percent preventable. If you are having sex, use protection. It's not who you are but what you do that puts you at risk."

Also on hand was Maria G. Carter, distributor with Morinda Bioactives, who shared samples of Noni juice, Thrive Max, and Thrive Original, saying that bioactive drinks are a better alternative than some of the popular sugary drinks many people turn to quench their thirst.

"I want to get more people exposed to bioactive beverages so they can be more-healthy," Carter said. "Obesity is on the increase and diabetes is on the increase especially in the black community."

Sharing information at the health fair were Gail Moore, prevention specialist and Erica Avant, CTRS Specialist/Phlebotomist with AID Atlanta. The two were eager to inform those who stopped by about AID Atlanta and their services providing education and support services for people living with HIV and AIDS.

McDaniel was pleased to have local NAACP representatives also in attendance. She told EDGE that their participation "signaled to us and me personally that our community is interested and sees transgender as human beings and not just as a strange group of individuals."

Besides four days of activities that culminated in the health fair and vigil, other organizations have also begun to have various events that are beginning to include transgender or gender nonconforming people. McDaniel hoped that it was the beginning of a larger trend to balance a decade of reading the names of those lost to violence with a renewed focus on improving the lives of those transgender individuals trying to live full, rewarding lives in Atlanta.

"The more people shining the spotlight on the transgender community the better off we are," McDaniel noted. Although she said she respects those transgender people who live their life stealth, she is comfortable with stating publicly that she is transgender.

Next year, McDaniel would like to expand the health fair component and have more participation especially among the transgender or gender non-conforming community. She has asked the community to provide feedback on how they would like to celebrate future TDoR celebrations via [email protected].