It was an unseasonably warm Saturday in late January as Living Room’s group of volunteers and I lined up, signs held high, in anticipation of Atlanta’s 2017 MLK Day March. We were surrounded by various groups sporting t-shirts with catchy slogans, holding their own banners and signs. These groups were labor unions, churches, and LGBTQ rights advocates who were all marching in solidarity to honor the life and legacy of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We heard a roll of chants and drum beats ahead of us, and knew that we will be moving forward soon. We have decided that we, “will walk in the light of creative altruism.”
In my mind, this experience exemplifies the famous quote, “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.” Indeed, the MLK Day March of 2017, was not an exact replica of the historic 1963 March on Washington. Many other marginalized groups that remained silent during that time have now stepped forward to advocate for their own right to be treated equally. Yet, the purpose and sentiment of the march has withstood the test of time. In essence, the increased diversity of the participants has merely changed the prefix of the word.
If you look at what’s trending on social media or flip on the local news, you’re bombarded by stories of injustice and inequality. The Civil Rights Movement is very much alive today. Reporting on these issues pushes these topics to the top of policy debates, thereby leading (we hope) to change both locally and nationally. But, these stories generally concern larger segments of the population. The voices of our clients, who are struggling to obtain or maintain housing and who are also living with HIV/AIDS, often go unheard. This is particularly distressing as they are a part of the population that experiences inequality at the highest rates.
There are many other barriers people living with HIV/AIDS face, including housing discrimination even though it is illegal. If an individual living with HIV is trying to find permanent housing, first month’s rent is often due upon the signing of the lease. This extra expenditure can be impossible for someone on limited means already stretched thin by medical bills and medication payments. Living Room believes housing, a basic human need, should be a human right. We can provide these individuals with temporary assistance to help them obtain the apartment, because, without support, they are at risk of falling back into the cycle of homelessness.
“Living Room believes housing, a basic human need, should be a human right.”
This is why Living Room marched. Our clients’ lives matter and their stories must be heard. Living Room marched to amplify the voices of the most vulnerable division of the population, demanding equality and human rights for all.