My dad, Joh Krider, died from AIDS complications almost exactly twenty years ago in December 1996. This picture of us was taken over a year before he died. There is so much I love about it, not the least of which is that it captures me rocking my favorite outfit of that era. I only wish the red platform shoes that I surely wore had made the shot.
It was taken outside the Key West airport by the cab driver who dropped us off. I teased him about his attire for the plane trip to Kansas – Do you really think a jacket and tie are necessary? He could be fussy that way; he believed that wearing white pants after Labor Day was breaking a real rule. We are smiling in the photo, a reflex of mine in all sorts of stressful situations, but it wasn’t a particularly happy time. His relationship was falling apart and he was abruptly moving back to Kansas. With me. To die.
I didn’t talk about AIDS much as he was dying or even much after he died. But as World AIDS Day approaches I want to not only remember him but also to remind us all that the AIDS crisis is not over. Over a million people die every year from AIDS. 5,600 people contract the HIV virus every day. These are our family members and our friends, not merely abstractions in foreign lands. Many of these people are too afraid or ashamed to talk about it because of the stigma associated with the disease. Combating AIDS continues to be a fight for social justice and human rights.
Like many of you, I am fearful about what may be ahead for our country. May we learn from history in general as well as the history of the AIDS crisis during its early stages during the Reagan administration. Act-Up and other groups were confrontational in their protest of lack of funding and new drug protocol for AIDS, but ultimately they were effective. They insisted on being heard and were even the first group in history to shut down the New York Stock exchange. In the coming weeks, months and years, we too may need to speak out, beyond what may feel comfortable. May we put our arms around whatever form of protest moves us – just as I had my arm around my dad that morning in Key West.