On Dec. 1, the entire country commemorated World AIDS Day but Palm Beach County’s official celebration was Dec. 8 at Compass.
Compass, the LGBT community center of the Palm Beaches, displayed its annual AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibit to recognize World AIDS Day. Compass made each member of the packed room feel special. Staff was not only on hand as ushers and greeters, they provided each guest of the packed room a small AIDS pin as a keepsake. Dylan Brooks served as the official Master of Ceremony. Brooks is the Director of HIV Prevention and Education for the organization. Lake Worth Beach Mayor Betty Resch read the proclamation for the solemn occasion.
As an organization, Compass has a reputation for being a pillar in the community. Their actual mission is to “engage, empower and enrich the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer [LGBTQ] people and those impacted by HIV and AIDS.” This was evident in the history-making announcement made by Julie Seaver, the CEO of Compass.
“One of the traditions we have missed these last few years is enjoying a performance from The Voices of Pride,” said Seaver. “Before we moved to this location in 2009, Voices of Pride was already women deeply into the fabric of the LGBT community and the Compass family. So, today, I'm honored to announce that in accordance with Paul’s wishes, the dedication of Compass’s first-ever scholarship fund, The Paul Reekie Scholarship for Music and Theater.”
Reekie was the accompanist for the Voices of Pride for several years. He passed away in October 2020. His death was caused by an accident at his home in Boca Raton. Compass also dedicated a white grand piano to Reekie’s memory. After the dedication, Voices of Pride uplifted the crowd with a few selections. They performed “I Love a Piano '' by Irving Berlin, “I Dream A World” by Andre J. Thomas with words by Langston Hughes, and the “60’s Chic Medley” which was arranged by Jay Althouse. The medley included songs like “Johnny Angel,” “It's My Party,” and “I Only Wanna Be With You.”
For 2030 a goal has been set to end the HIV epidemic. A number of agencies across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced this plan in 2019. Compass called on Chris Lacharite, the HIV program director of the Long-Term Survivors Network to discuss how we can do our part. Crister Moynahan from Rebel Recovery spoke to the crowd as well. Moynahan discussed what his organization is doing to help end the epidemic by 2030, he also gave words of encouragement and talked about the beauty of getting tested.
“We have to make sure we are doing it intentionally, we have to do it by continuing to have conversations, we have to do it by showing our time and dedication to each other and to other organizations like Compass and Rebel Recovery who are doing the work on the front lines,” says Moynahan who serves as the CSPS director of Community Services. “We have to make people feel that it's OK to get tested. To demonstrate the type of relief you can gain from getting tested, and also knowing that if you do find out a positive result, you can immediately start the process for getting connected to services.”
Before the ceremony ended, Compass staff took turns reading the names of those we have lost to AIDS. This part of the ceremony is always treated with care. Reverend Marie Alford-Harkey from the Metropolitan Church of the Palm Beaches gave the benediction right before guests were guided to the ballroom to view the quilts. Guests were encouraged to walk around to view the quilts while holding their candles. Soft music played as guests used this time for reflection.
“The quilt is a powerful visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic and remains the largest ongoing community folk art project in the world,” the official AIDS Memorial Quilt website read. “More than 50,000 individual 3-by-6-foot memorial panels — commemorating more than 105,000 individual lives of people who have passed away from AIDS — have been sewn together by friends, lovers and family members and have transformed into one of America's national treasures.”
According to a report from unaids.org, 37.7 million [30.2 million–45.1 million] people globally were living with HIV in 2020. Furthermore, 1.5 million [1.0 million–2.0 million] people became newly infected with HIV in 2020. Compass is doing all it can to help end the epidemic. Each year, they host programs and events that educate the community and raise money for Aids through SMART Ride.