For the seventh year in a row, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) will take part in the Rose Parade, this year with a float titled “Keeping the Promise.”
The float will highlight community heroes by honoring civil rights and social justice activists throughout history—from iconic civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Heather Heyer, who was tragically killed in the violent white supremacy demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this year. Surviving family members of Heyer and other high-profile advocates for justice will ride on the AHF float during the New Year’s Day parade, along with three young essay contest winners.
The essay winners will be chosen from a “Keeping the Promise” youth essay contest that launched Monday and poses a simple question to young people ages 14-20 years old: “What are you doing to stand against hate in your community?”
Essay submissions will be between 500-1,000 words each, and can be submitted through the contest website until Nov. 15. The top three winners of the essay contest will receive grants up to $5,000 either for community projects or toward furthering their education and will be flown to Los Angeles and have the singular opportunity to ride on the 2018 AHF Rose Parade float, representing the next generation of American activists and community leaders.
“My daughter Heather stood bravely for unity and against hate and always believed in dialogue and discussion as the keys to peace,” said Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer and co-founder of the Heather Heyer Foundation. www.heatherheyerfoundation.com “We are honored to continue Heather’s legacy by partnering with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and encouraging young people across the country to promote peace.”
The AHF float will recreate the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which King and other icons of the Civil Rights movement marched across in 1965 in what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” when armed policemen attacked civil rights demonstrators with billy clubs and tear gas. Rising at the back of the float will be a rendering of Lei Yixin’s “Stone of Hope” granite statue of MLK. AHF and Heather Heyer Foundation officials also believe that its “Keeping the Promise” theme dovetails quite effectively with this year’s official Tournament of Roses theme: ‘Making A Difference.’
In the three days immediately following the attack on Charlottesville, AHF launched its #StandAgainstHate campaign both to honor those who were already standing up in the current white supremacist environment (like Heather Heyer) and as a call to action for others to join her in standing up to hate. AHF spread the message to #StandAgainstHate with billboards, a social media campaign and town halls in Los Angeles, Miami, Brooklyn, New York and Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio.
When AHF first began its mission of service to the community in 1987, it chose the mission of “cutting edge medicine and advocacy, regardless of ability to pay.” Over the last 30 years, community advocacy has been the bedrock of AHF’s work, from taking on HIV and anti-gay stigma to fighting for affordable medication for the chronically ill. AHF works to combat disparities in HIV treatment and prevention across axis of gender, race, geography, income, and sexual orientation.
“This year marks the 30th anniversary of AHF’s founding. Fighting for the voiceless and winning remains the cornerstone of our Foundation,” said Samantha Granberry, vice president of AHF’s worldwide marketing division “As both a public health and social justice organization, we will continue to stand against hate in all its forms. The youth of today are raising their voices for change, and through this youth in action essay contest and think tank, AHF will help ensure that their voices are empowered and heard. We value partnering with the Heather Heyer Foundation, and other leading celebrities, Influencers, and activist as together we fight to win equality for all. It is attainable. This is just the beginning.”
The Heather Heyer Foundation was created to honor Heather Heyer, a young civil rights activist, who was passionate about promoting equal rights. The Foundation’s scholarship program will provide financial assistance to individuals passionate about positive social change. Scholarships will be awarded to those seeking a degree or certification in, but not limited to, law, paralegal studies, social work, social justice, and education.
AHF is the largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare provider in the United States. AHF currently provides medical care and/or services to over 818,000 individuals in 38 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Asia.