Luv ‘Til It Hurts was formally launched October 27, 2018 at the historic LGBTQ Center in New York City. In keeping with Luv ‘til it Hurts stated mission,
‘’to be a porous container, it aspires to ‘hold’ people together
long enough for essential introductions and exchange ideas’’
for me at the time of this writing, April 2019 it has already been a ravishing success. I launched Every Where Alien [my arts culture and content producing brand and company] in January 2019. My first project is in the form of a narrative documentary and requires travel to São Paulo. I’m thrilled Luv ‘Til It Hurts, found Every Where Alien’s project worthy of support.
I am equally thrilled by how this journey with Luv ‘Til It Hurts has placed me proximal to several astonishing artists and HIV/AIDS activists from around the world. In September by the time I walked into Kairon Liu’s New York Humans as Hosts solo photography exhibition I understood. This experience, for me, had to be more than a fiscal exchange. Kai is brave and brilliant. His art is breathtaking and layered and provocative. I was here to learn, to hear, to witness, and to breathe.
Simply put I would not have met Kai were it not for Luv ‘Til It Hurts. Quite likely neither would I have met Malaya Lakas, Philip Miner, Theodore Kerr —each all, in their own right, gifted and prodigious HIV/AIDS activists, administrators and artists.
Mine and Pony Zion’s trip to Brazil in January 2019 gave occasion for me to deepen my relationships and collaboration with the truly legendary artivist innovators Flip Couto of Festa AMEM and Félix Pimenta of the House of Zion in Brazil. I had the honor to work with the unmitigated genius of Coletivo Coloteres in capturing the footage as the two-week residency in São Paulo unfolded. And of course I got to witness firsthand the life and work of Luv ‘Til It Hurts’ founder Todd Lester.
In the course of doing this work to research and write this poem chronicling Luv ‘Til It Hurts Launch I’ve been gifted with new friendships, inspired by world-class art and activism, and the prospect of vanguard globe-spanning collaborations.
And for me, as an often reluctant and sometimes burnt out longtime HIV/AIDS activist perhaps the greatest surprise is to realize, even now after all these years, there is so much this pandemic and its survivors and activists have to teach us about but what it can plausibly mean to be human beings, and how we might co-create freer safer more vital societies for our kin—even when either ourselves, our families, our friends, our communities, are faced with withering stigma, economic injustice, health and healthcare access disparities, and yet still the prospect of dying too soon.
On the night of October 27, 2018 Pony Zion opened the Luv ‘Til It Hurts launch with a group dance performance performed to a song he wrote and produced. Flip Couto and Festa Amem and Félix Pimenta shared a video about their work and travels. I shared a poem chronicling 30 years of black queer art activist organizing and the House Ballroom Scene in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in New York City. Pony and I shared a bit about our then forthcoming Luv ‘Til it Hurts and #houselivesmatter supported residency in São Paulo. We joined our co-presenters Malaya, Phillip, Theodore (Ted) and the panel began curated and co-facilitated by Kairon Liu and Todd Lanier Lester.
To write this poem I interviewed, in the course of six months, the principal contributors to the panel at the Luv ‘Til It Hurts launch. I wanted to hear from them firsthand how and why they were drawn to the project? I wanted to learn how HIV/AIDS, art, activism and stigma has impacted their lives? I wanted to hear from them their sense of what proved meaningful in the discourse, process and exchange with the project and the audience during the event. Above all I wanted to hear their heart. I am blessed to have been present with them and I am blessed to have borne witness through their eyes and my own the legacies of HIV/AIDS then and now.
The poem is written in five parts. I wrote each section as I completed either an individual interview or a set of interviews. I wanted each section to be able to live on its own and tell its own story. I hoped to discover through the sections’ iterative and evolving interactions what the poem was truly about and how the emergent themes related to one another to tell a bigger story. I pray, however flawed, I have succeeded in hearing their hearts and learning a bit more of my own.
Luv ‘Til it Hurts, by Brad Walrond