A free AIDS Benefit Performance was held on Monday, Nov. 29, in the Community Room of the Peter White Library from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The event was held in conjunction with World AIDS Day, which occurred on Wednesday, Dec 1.
The event began with dance performances by NMU’s Dance Composition and Performance class. The pieces were student-choreographed, all following the theme of “Relationships.” The NMU Dance Team performed second, to a song from the broadway musical “Rent.”
The event closed with a concert by a group of drummers from the Marquette community called Log Jam, which has worked with the Dance Composition and Performance class at events in the past. The group played upbeat music on several types of drums, sang and invited all audience members to dance along.
Several organizations had tables set up at the event as well. The Marquette County Health Department provided informative brochures, as well as condoms and red AIDS awareness ribbons. The NMU chapter of Kappa Beta Gamma took donations for cupcakes and sold AIDS awareness bracelets. All of their proceeds went to the National AIDS Foundation. Representatives from NMU’s Amnesty International group, a human rights organization, was also present to support the benefit and provide more information.
The event was organized by Maria Formolo, instructor of the Dance Composition and Performance class. Along with coordinating the function, Formolo also danced in several routines. This was her second year planning the benefit.
The event was previously run by Louise Bourgault, a former NMU professor who passed away in 2009. Bourgault was a well-known HIV/AIDS awareness activist. She won a Fulbright Africa Regional Research Award for her AIDS-related work. Fulbright Awards are scholarships given through the U.S. government’s Fulbright Program, which aims to increase mutual understanding between U.S. citizens and people of other countries.
Formolo hoped to honor Dr. Bourgault’s work and bring and to bring people together as a community for this issue.
“In a town like this, we can really close our eyes to the rest of the world,” Formolo said.
She discussed the negative manner in which AIDS is sometimes viewed.
“[AIDS] has had stigma and prejudice attached to it and a lot of finger-pointing and blame. Through education … we need to let down those barriers and find that place where we greet each other from the heart,” Formolo said.
Jennifer Pickard, a local artist who assists in Formolo’s Dance Composition and Performance class, performed several dances and sang original songs at the event. She emphasized the importance of acceptance as a part of AIDS awareness.
“It’s important not to close people out,” Pickard said.
Pickard appreciated the environment of the performance as a means of bringing attention to the issue and bringing people together.
“It’s always nice to share that release of singing and dancing and smiling for something like this,” Pickard said.
Laura Fredrickson, HIV/AIDS Coordinator for the Marquette County Health Department, was also present at the event. She wants students to understand that AIDS has not disappeared.
“[AIDS is] still a very serious illness. It’s not in the media as much today, but it’s still in the community,” Fredrickson said.
Fredrickson also emphasized the importance of AIDS awareness in places outside of the United States.
“There are people that don’t have the benefits that we have, the treatments. I think bringing that to people’s attention is going to help fight this disease and help people that need it,” Fredrickson said.