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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 27 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 30
Aleksa Manila marches on Washington
Seattle drag celeb does DC, joins Wyclef Jean onstage
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Aleksa Manila marches on Washington
Seattle drag celeb does DC, joins Wyclef Jean onstage

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

'Keep the Promise!' was the theme of the 2012 AIDS March on Washington, which took place July 22 and attracted more than 2,000 participants. Among them was Seattle drag star Aleksa Manila.

The event coincided with the 19th International AIDS Conference and the 2012 Gay Men's Health Summit, both of which also were held in the nation's capital.

Organizers said they intended the march to serve as a 'clarion call' for universal access to AIDS care and treatment and the efficient use of funding - and to send a message to President Obama to keep his promises to the LGBT community. The march began at the Washington Monument and ended at the Capitol Building.

'Walking towards the Washington Monument, I was just sort of overwhelmed. Realizing that I am part of this LGBT rights movement & I am one of thousands of advocates from around the globe who are going to participate in this in this event,' Manila told SGN.

Manila stood in awe as the Rev. Al Sharpton addressed the audience before the march.

'He is very dynamic, just a powerful speaker,' said Manila. 'To know about him is great, but to be in his presence was ethereal.'

The Most Rev. Desmond Tutu of South Africa, an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, addressed the marchers by video. Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the largest community-based HIV/AIDS medical provider in the United States, also gave a speech, as did noted TV and radio talk show host Tavis Smiley.

Flag bearers representing various countries and U.S. states spoke on the problems associated with HIV/AIDS unique to where they were from. Manila noted that Washington was not represented in that group.

Entertainment prior to the march was provided by comedienne Margaret Cho and musician Wyclef Jean. Both celebrities also participated in the march.

During his performance, Jean invited Manila to join him, saying 'I can't be singing this song with no ladies on stage.'

'I was feeling very empowered,' Manila told SGN. 'For me it was a very personal statement, going in drag.'

Onstage, Manila also met Cho and was given the 'March on Washington/Keep the Promise 2012' poster hanging from the podium where Sharpton had just spoken. Cho later signed the poster for Manila.

'With my Mac lip pencil,' Manila said.

'I really did get tearful, though,' said Manila of the march. 'I consider myself of that younger generation. Growing up, I did not see my friends die, but when you're in the midst of such a powerful congregation of HIV advocates, young and old and of the future & I can't help but be affected by the passion in their voices as we scream 'Medication for every nation! When do we want it? Now!'

'I'm in the middle of this continuum of LGBT individuals. This is what our elders were fighting for. This is what I've experienced & and ultimately [the youth] are part of this history,' said Manila.

'It's a good reminder. To be rejuvenated, to be reenergized, to come back home and to realize there is so much work to be done.'

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