Saturday, November 10th 2018
9:30 AM - 5:00 PM
The Reunion Project was founded in 2015, by long-term HIV survivors Matt Sharp and Jeff Berry, who recognized that there is an entire group of individuals who had survived the epidemic but in many ways have been left behind by the community that they helped to build. The Reunion Project provides a safe space for HIV/AIDS survivors to come together and honor those that have weathered great adversity and tremendous loss. Matt and Jeff, believed that the stories of survivors deserved to be told and shared, to help those who suffered tremendous trauma find their way back out of isolation and depression that came as a result of surviving the epidemic.
About The Reunion Project
Historically, The Reunion Project summits consisted of a mix of facilitated discussions, panels, and presentations led by key researchers, advocates, and long-term survivors of HIV and AIDS. With support from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead, Merck, Walgreens, and TPAN, publisher of Positively Aware magazine, The Reunion Project has been to Chicago, Palm Springs, CA, Philadelphia, PA, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Atlanta, and Seattle. Cities for 2018 include Washington, D.C. and New Orleans.
In 2018, The Reunion Project convened its first National Roundtable Forum, a community-led, diverse coalition of HIV/AIDS survivor advocates from across the U.S. More than 50 advocates, researchers, and people living with HIV gathered March 30–31, 2018, at the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences in Rancho Mirage, California, to discuss the needs and priorities of survivors of HIV and their allies. To see a full report of this meeting click here.
A National Steering Committee leads the group’s efforts and includes Sharp (San Francisco) and Berry (Chicago), along with Jeff Taylor, Palm Springs; Gregg Cassin, San Francisco; Chris Bartlett, Philadelphia; Waheedah Shabazz-El, Philadelphia; and Louis Spraggins, Chicago.
This year, Philadelphia is proudly hosting The Reunion Project in honor of those in the tri-state area who have been long in the fight. The venue for this year’s event will be hosted at the William Way LGBT Community Center, located at 1315 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Food, Fellowship, Education, and Fun will be a part of this celebratory event!
Featured Artist Mary Bowman
Performing for over 5 years, Mary has graced stages all over the East Coast, and in 2012 she had the honor of performing at International Conference on AIDS in Washington, DC. Becoming a Nationally known poet has not wavered Mary’s ability to offer herself raw and unadulterated, as a young woman living with HIV. Mary is the author of “LOTUS” a collection of poetry that was awarded 2011 book of the year by the National Underground Spoken Word Poetry awards. Mary is currently building her own organization, Purpose Over Entertainment (P.O.E.T.) P.O.E.T. is dedicated to reducing stigma and ignorance by using visual and performing arts to bring awareness and education to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Their purpose is to bring healing, hope, and inspiration to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS all over the world. Mary has been featured in several blogs and newspapers including Street Sense (DC), The NY Times, and TheBody.Com. Several local and internet radio stations including, WPFW’s Inside Out with Sheila Alexander- Reid, PozIAm Radio with Robert Breining, and The Exchange with Aaron Myers on blog talk radio. Mary has facilitated support groups for youth living with HIV, and has participated in several panel discussions/ rap sessions with youth wanting to learn about HIV. Mary is a poet, advocate, author, singer, however at the end of the day Mary is just Mary; A 25 year old woman, born with HIV. She smiles, she cries, she laughs, and she frowns just like anyone else.
Guest Speaker Gregg Cassin
Gregg Cassin, a 30+ year survivor of HIV, is a powerfully charismatic speaker and facilitator, working with universal themes of how life’s challenges and suffering present us with growth-filled opportunities. He has worked with the LGBT, HIV/AIDS and youth communities for over 25 years with his lectures, retreats and workshops. Speaking in Catholic high schools 30+ years sharing his “Coming Out” story. The theme being that every human being has an obligation see our lives and the contribution we make as our own personal ministry. To recognize that the sharing of our truth- our light is our gift.
During the height of the epidemic Gregg began facilitating groups for people affected by HIV/AIDS. In 1989 he founded the San Francisco Healing Circle, an emotional/spiritual support group, and the San Francisco Center for Living, as well as leading conferences and retreats around the country with AIDS, Medicine and Miracles and now Shanti Project. He created “Honoring Our Experience”, a retreat program addressing the issues of long term survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. He also facilitates retreats for LGBTQ young adults and the LGBTQ asylee/refugee community. Gregg holds regular gatherings called REVIVAL! at St John the Evangelist Church. These gatherings bring long-term survivors together for the sharing of stories and to honor those we’ve lost and to celebrate the miracle of our own survival… healing the loss, depression and isolation many long-term survivors feel.
Gregg’s work honors the sacred inner journey each one of us is called to as queer people. Exploring the importance of self-love, connection, belonging and innocence. Story-telling remains the foundation of his work, the power of sharing one’s story and being the witness for others.
His contribution to the HIV/AIDS community has been recognized with the Certificate of Special Recognition from the U.S. Congress presented by Nancy Pelosi as well as honors from the City of San Francisco. He is seen in the ground-breaking documentaries “Absolutely Positive” and “That’s a Family!” He is an LGBT rights activist helping to organize and emcee anti-Prop 8 and DOMA rallies since 2008. He is a Dad and grandparent.