“IF WE DON’T TELL OUR STORIES, WHO WILL?” – MR. BRANDON CARDET-HERNANDEZ
It seems like every day there is some new “breaking news” stripping one type of minority of their rights, ones that they have fought so hard for to make a part of living in the United States so great. However, the specific focus of this post is one person in particular and their trek and constant drive for change and the new way they are taking it on. That is person is Principal Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, of the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters school in the Bronx in New York City. His new mission, as he has chosen to accept it; is a 275 mile bike ride from Boston back to his hometown of New York City called Cycle for the Cause. A fundraiser to raise funds for the New York City’s The Center; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center empowers people who seek it’s help and services to lead healthy, successful lives. This September’s Cycle for the Cause is not the center’s first ride at an event such as this, as they’ve been strapping on their spandex for this ride since their inaugural ride in 1995.
The Cycle for the Cause event is an epic four-day experience, one that I actually thought Brandon was joking about given the distance, where all the participants stay and eat together in hotels along the route. Throughout the 275 miles ride from Boston to New York, the cyclists will pass through 20 cities in a fun and exciting way to not only raise money, but awareness in the fight to end the devastating diseases of HIV/AIDS. Since the fundraisers inception in 1995 it has raised more than $10 million dollars which directly funds the critical services relating to HIV/AIDS that the Center provides to those in need 365 days a year.
I become aware of this event through Brandon after asking him why he was cycling so much, as I had seen him cycling on his Instagram stories on a whole other level. I had previously gotten into it cycling the year before so I of course had to ask and know why he was riding so much. I already knew of his seemingly non-stop activism for nearly every cause you could imagine since I had gotten to know him. The Women’s Rights March in Washington, DC; he was there. The protest in Times Square after President Trump announced that transgender individuals would no longer be able to serve in the military, he was front and center. NYC Gay Pride, of course he was there! What is even more incredible is that he is using his platform as a known activist to raise money to support the amazing work that The Center is doing for our communities, and one he deeply immersed within at almost every level. He informed me that “there are still 1.2 million people living with HIV and this year there will be 50,000 new infections alone! While huge gains have been made, there is still so much that needs to be done to make sure that we end aids, support those living with HIV, and continue to educate all of the people in our communities. The fight against HIV is far from over.”
For him, The Center is not only doing such incredible work but holds a special place in his heart. Since 1983 they have opened their doors to our communities, remaining open 365 days a year to make sure there is a safe space with life affirming resources. The services they provide are abundant. “From LGBT youth supports, to action organizing, recovery and health, career services and more; the center is a 360 support center for the diverse needs of LGBT people.” One piece of the work that has been critical is their HIV supports. Not only are they supporting people who have tested positive with the resources and tools to stay healthy and supported, but The Center is also deeply invested in outreach to high-risk communities to make sure that all people are equipped with the right information as well as early testing opportunities. He also informed me that Black and Latino communities comprise 74% of all new infections, and 1 in 3 black and Latino men do not even know their status! We proclaims that we all have to continue mobilizing in order to fight to end not only the disease, but the stigma attached with it. It’s almost as if he is a walking book of knowledge on social injustice.
When I asked him when on top of all of the other avenues, causes, and ways he has been outspoken and taken stances on before, he told me that he felt the need to physically participate in Cycle for the Cause. In quite simple terms, he said “listen, riding 275 miles is not easy and but the focus of this ride is about creating visibility around HIV and AIDS, and really about making sure that some of our communities most critical resources and that we don’t lose the steam and impact we have made within this administration.” The words that I took away from that statement from him, were within this administration. He could not be more right. While we as a nation have made amazing gains in keeping people HIV negative, now have HIV tests that give people results within minutes, and pre-exposure medications people can take to protect themselves from becoming positive; there is still much to be done. The growing access to information and safer sex supports has increased and must continue. As we are fighting against a shift in health priorities like never before, this remains more important than ever.
The Cycle for the Cause ride begins on September 14th and culminates in NYC on September 17th, the fundraising and efforts do not end there. While it is too late to sign up for this years ride, there is still plenty of time to donate which I would hope after you read this you do. Regardless of whether it is $1, $5, $10, $50, $100, $500 (you get the point), ever dollar counts. The fundraising minimums for riders are $2,750 which is what Brandon started out at, and was what he was still at when I first donated a couple months back. As of now his goal has been raised to $13,000 and he is already 83% there with donations totaling $10,790. What a feat that it is in less than two months! When I mentioned before that every dollar makes an impact, here are some figures to show you what your donation can do:
With $500 The Center can connect 50 at-risk people with PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis).
With $250 The Center can train 4 young people as peer leaders.
With $250 The Center can help prevent 8 HIV transmissions with safer sex kits.
With $50 The Center can administer 3 free, rapid HIV tests.
So please go to Brandon’s Fundraising Page and make a donation to help him not only achieve his goal, but lets help him EXCEED IT! Not merely to reach his goal, but to help those who can’t or don’t have the means to help themselves. For more information on The Center’s Cycle for The Cause and all that they do and this fundraiser, you can check them out on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.
To learn more about Mr. Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, Prinicipal of the Bronx Letters School, Professor at the New School, Ed Expert at Please and Carrots, and Co-Founder of Project Nathanael, you check him out on Twitter and Instagram!