An event two years in the making finally stepped off Saturday morning at South Fort Lauderdale Beach.

The Florida AIDS Walk & Music Festival returned after being canceled last year due to the pandemic. While it may have been gone, it wasn’t forgotten.

Hundreds of loyal and excited walkers showed up ready to restart the event. Most teams wore matching shirts. In bright red shirts, Team Latinos Salud was easy to spot anywhere in the crowd. Others showed up to walk the 5K in drag. One even came dressed in a head-to-toe Yoda costume and said the outfit helped him raise a lot of money for the walk.

The fundraising Jedi wasn’t the only one bringing in big dollars. The walk raised more than two million dollars, blowing past its goal of $1.5 million. The COVID crisis has dominated headlines this past year and charitable donations have gone down. Despite those extra challenges, Imara Canady with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation told SFGN that he’s glad people haven’t lost sight of the ongoing need for HIV/AIDS funding. “As we transition into society’s ‘new normal,’ we are so pleased that the community remains committed to supporting the fight against HIV and AIDS throughout South Florida.”

Walkers stepped off right at 10 a.m. and came back to a party in progress. Deep Fried Funk Band jammed for more than an hour, playing old school hits that had the growing crowd singing along. Once everyone was warmed up, South Florida's favorite Trina took the stage. The hip-hop legend from Miami’s Liberty City area delivered a high-energy set that had her fans on their feet the entire time.

The only way to follow up a performance by a legend is with a performance by an icon. Lil’ Kim was fierce and fabulous and had the crowd in the palm of her hand from the moment she stepped on stage.

More than a thousand fans sang along as she performed some of her biggest hits including “Ladies Night,” “How Many Licks?” “It’s All About the Benjamins,” and “Lady Marmalade” from the “Moulin Rouge!” soundtrack.

Two unplanned moments of her show were the sweetest and most memorable. When she spotted Trina watching from the back of the stage, Kim brought her upfront for a hug and some love. Later Lil’ Kim brought her young daughter on stage to bust a move while mama rapped.

Money raised from the event benefits several South Florida organizations, including The Pride Center at Equality Park, Equality Florida Institute, and SunServe. Terry Dyer, SunServe’s director of Development, said he couldn’t be happier.

“After such a trying year, it was wonderful to get together, walk, celebrate, and raise important funds,” he said. “Our hats off to [the AHF] team for organizing a pandemic safe exciting event. The fight to bring awareness and raise funds to end the epidemic of HIV/AIDS continues.”


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