There was some good ol’ fashioned Civic Engagement going on at the Walker last night. We hosted the community forum “ Meth, Sex & Men: Our New Challenge,” organized by the Red Door Clinic, the Minnesota AIDS Project, the Aliveness Project, Pillsbury United Communities, and PrideAlive among many other hardworking and worthy organizations.
The panel and subsequent forum set out to raise awareness and strategize solutions for the growing challenge of, and connection between, crystal methamphetamine use and HIV infection among gay and bisexual men. Panelists included Johnny Hess, LADC, Program Director of the Sobriety Village Project; Harold Martin, MD, MPH, Infectious Disease Specialist; Gary Schiff, Minneapolis 9th Ward Council Member; Charles Tamble, HIM Program at the Red Door Clinic; Richard Terzick, MA, Program Director of Alternatives Treatment Center; and three community members in recovery.
One of the critical roles in the Walker model of Civic Engagement is that of a Container: being a safe place for unsafe ideas. I admit that I was a little worried about if people would come, and that was probably due to my own ignorance about the issue. A significant and worrying trend of HIV infection among gay and bi meth users? In the Twin Cities? I had no idea. But as the event got under way I thought, This is a successful container! The audience – members from the various sponsoring organizations, members of the GLBT and allied communities, family supporters, recovering and current users –was proof positive that this issue is pertinent and people are ready to get involved. They just need a space (read: Container) to get it started. Engage, people! Engage!
However, not to be outdone, we had other events going on at the Walker yesterday that I would normally only see in a legal contract under the heading: “ Acts of God.” 1) A fire evacuation broke the mid-afternoon boredom so that my co-workers and I all spilled out onto the streets and into the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to chat with visitors as the fire engines roared by on Hennepin. No damage, though. We’re all okay. 2) Ten minutes into the Meth Forum (before panelist introductions were even finished!) the alarms go off again. As all 142 forum participants shuffled down to the storm shelter, absorbing the announcement of a National Weather Service tornado warning, I thought: No, way! Twice in one day! But it was fun to see Visitor Services and Building Operations leap into action, and I’m happy to report that after a brief respite in the parking garage, we all returned to civically engaging. Go, Team.