NEWS

In The Life: Lestian McNeal

Lestian McNeal, Program Coordinator, Black AIDS Institute

One night in September 2012, I was home alone, no cable, nothing to do, but interested in watching the 1st Presidential Debate between then President Barack Obama and Former Governor Mitt Romney. Due to my lack of resources (i.e. cable and a TV) I googled options for watching the debate at a local bar.

Attending this event, and meeting these volunteers gave me my first opportunity to impact a community through advocacy. Two weeks after becoming a volunteer, I joined the Obama For America 2012 staff as a Deputy Field Organizer - this experience changed my life.

A few years later in 2016, I was privileged to work with the Florida Democratic Party to unseat a 12-term Republican incumbent. This Congressman was known for accepting NRA funds days after the Pulse nightclub shooting and represented the community where Trayvon Martin was murdered. Thanks to the efforts of my team and I, the incumbent was defeated and new leaders were elected. But a night that started on a high note, also saw the election of Donald Trump.

Before the election results were announced, I headed home. I lay in silence in the arms of my friend, my head filled with fearful thoughts about the future. Fearful for our safety in even the simple act of lying here together as gay men. In the morning, still afraid, I awoke to his smile. In that moment I knew that a moment of despair does not impede a lifetime of using advocacy to improve the lives of people just like us.

Advocacy has allowed me to live out my truth, and my identity in an unapologetic way. The political landscape may have shifted but my hope for equity and justice have not. And more than ever, I look forward to the fight ahead.

Lestian McNeal is a program coordinator for the Black AIDS Institute.

IN THE LIFE is a story series for #30DaysOfHIV, sharing the life experiences of Black, gay/bisexual/NGC men/trans men, told in their words. Visit www.blackaids.org to submit your story from May 27-June 27. #IntheLife #BlackBoyJoy #BlackHealth#Storytelling #GayisGood #Blackisbeautiful