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August, 2006

Spirit of the Revolution: Health care is a sacred human right

By Casanova

Editor's note: Casanova is the founding director of Artists for a Better America in New York City and a leader of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign. He talked to Spirit of the Revolution during the recent National Truth Commission held in Cleveland, Ohio.

The American people are confronting a system that denies health care to millions.
The American people are confronting a system that denies health care to millions.

My testimony at the National Truth Commission was about health care, and especially the Medicaid cuts happening in New York City, and everywhere else across the country. They're also threatening to cut SSI, the payments that disabled people depend on to survive. They are eliminating community centers and adult day programs for the disabled, including people with HIV like me. Without centers, where will we go for fellowship, services, and our mental stability?

As I told the Commission, Medicaid cuts equal certain death. I take 31 pills a day and 2 insulin shots. Without these medicines I will not survive. If these cuts take place, the revolution will start today. Our families will not just sit there and watch us die. If we do not act, we will see people in New York City and America literally lying in the streets and dying in front of our eyes. It's biblical, like the plagues of Egypt or the leper colonies of Jesus' time.

My relationship with Jesus started when I was living in the Tompkins Square Tent City back in the 1980s. One morning a Christian brother from New Jersey took me by the arm and helped me up out of the snow where I was sleeping. At that time, I was too caught up in my addiction so I could not respond. But a seed was planted. Later, that same group of Christians began to feed 2-300 homeless people every Saturday afternoon. When I saw that kind of belief in God, it made me want to believe too.

Jesus was a teacher but he also took action. He healed the sick and stood up for the poor. Now Jesus is my mentor, my teacher, and my motivator.

The only way to avoid catastrophe is to build a movement for universal health care. If the law says everyone will get the same treatment, then you can be sure that everyone will get good treatment. We all know that today the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Sometimes we don't realize that this means the sick get sicker. Look around at the poor peoples movement. A lot of us are sick, and many of us can't get the right treatments and medications.

From now on, all my artwork will be about health care. I will paint people who have HIV, cancer, and other illnesses. It's not enough anymore to just talk about unity. We have to set our personalities aside and work together to save lives. We have to stay in communication and share articles, photos, and newspapers.

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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