27 April 2014
15 years of client representation in New York.
15th Anniversary celebration of the New York “VOCAL” group (Voices of Community Advocates & Leaders in New York).
There was a true celebratory mood amongst those who attended and EVERYONE had interesting stories to tell and were most welcoming to this outsider from down-under. Many photos of the evening have been posted on the VOCAL web site ... there were politicians, drug law reform advocates, treatment / research sectors joining the user group members (the latter funded by the former in a clever 'deal'). Ethan Nadelmann, Tony Newman, Marsha Rosenbaum, Ira Glasser and Gabriele Sayegh were present from the DPA while there were many other familiar faces, all delightful but don't ask me for names!
On arriving at the venue there was incredible energy, enthusiasm and electricity in the magnificent 33rd floor ‘penthouse’ in West 42nd Street next to the Port Authority bus terminal. The brief walk from Times Square at rush hour was an education in itself as most days in New York tend to be.
The presentations were to honor:
Melissa Mark-Viverito, SPEAKER OF THE NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL
asha bandele, AUTHOR & POET, DIRECTOR OF ADVOCACY GRANTS PROGRAM, DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE
gabriel sayegh, NEW YORK STATE DIRECTOR, DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE
Charles King, PRESIDENT & CEO, HOUSING WORKS
Robert “Bobby” Tolbert, LEADER & BOARD MEMBER, VOCAL-NY
Each spoke well and it was an uplifting event for all. In very different fields these honorees had each devoted time and energies on aspects of relieving suffering for those with addictions, viral infections and other consequences of under-privilege.
I met up with dozens of people at the function and would estimate that about half were professionals and half user/client representatives. Some of course were both. Each seemed to have very interesting stories, deep insights and individual perspectives on the subjects. By 9pm I was longing to meet somebody who was boring!
Photos have been posted by an efficient organisation: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vocal-ny/sets/72157643893705294/
Written by Andrew Byrne ..
It might seem churlish to say the our Australian equivalents, NUAA and Family Drug Support (and VIVAIDS) were started 25 and 17 years ago respectively. But considering all the barriers and difficulties that exist in a country of Puritan origin, it is a wonder that there is such a group at all. I note the group’s name is not really descriptive of their charter which started originally with housing for HIV sufferers.