GALAEI Honors AIDS Activist

Jose DeMarco receives the David Acosta Revolutionary Leader Award

Elicia Gonzales, Jose DeMarco, David Acosta and Gloria Casarez (courtesy of GALAEI)

Last week, GALAEI honored longtime LGBT, HIV/AIDS and Latino rights activist Jose DeMarco at the third annual David Acosta Revolutionary Leader Award (DARLA) ceremony. A native of Philadelphia, DeMarco is a member of AIDS Policy Project, Health Global Access Project and ACT UP Philadelphia. He’s also a former board member of GALAEI, founder of Proyecto SOL – a leadership organization for Latinos living with AIDS – and an instrumental instructor at Philadelphia FIGHT’s TEACH classes for Spanish-speaking residents living with HIV/AIDS.

Gloria Casarez, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, recognized DeMarco for his unyielding efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in the city with a citation on behalf of the City of Philadelphia. Executive Director of GALAEI, Elicia Gonzales, emceed the event, which included a reception and silent auction.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to honor Jose DeMarco,” said Gonzales. “The DARLA was created to recognize individuals in our communities who are doing revolutionary work and who are inspiring others to do the same. Jose de Marco galvanizes all of us to do better and to demand better for our LGBT, HIV/AIDS and Latino communities.”

The DARLA was first given in 2010 to its namesake, David Acosta, the founder of GALAEI. The award’s selection committee reviews nominations received from the community and honors an individual who embodies Acosta’s legacy of revolutionary leadership. Last year’s award was dedicated to youth leadership and was presented to Biancah Melanie Ortiz, a Latina transwoman who serves the community as a role model and teacher who educates other trans youth about how to keep themselves safe and healthy. This year’s award recognized revolutionary adult leadership.

“Jose DeMarco is a home-grown leader. His work on HIV/AIDS has primarily been rooted here in Philadelphia, but his reach and involvement is global,” said Casarez.”He’s worked on issues of language access, syringe exchange and health in schools. Jose is tenacious, he inspires me, and his work reminds us all of the power of true community-based leadership.”

DeMarco spoke about the work he’s done, as well as the future of AIDS both in Philadelphia and around the world. “AIDS is the defining crisis of our lives,” he said. “Its epidemiology and natural history both reflect and maintain the most basic inequalities and injustices. At every level, AIDS is a shocking and glaring need for social and economic justice that must be demanded and delivered to stop AIDS domestically and globally.”

In 2010, Mayor Michael Nutter proclaimed April 16th to be GALAEI Day in Philadelphia. In honor of GALAEI Day, the organization annually recognizes an individual who works to improve the community in ways that align with its mission. Since 1989, GALAEI has worked to improve the quality of life for Philadelphia’s Latino and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities, especially in the area of HIV/AIDS and other health-related issues, through education, prevention, care and community collaborations.