Parnell Marcano

Sharing His Humanity

By Dorothy Randall Gray

I’d like to be remembered as someone who made people feel seen. I try to be there for folks, and listen. Even when someone’s asking me for change, I try to acknowledge their presence.”

Parnell Marcano’s activism began in the early 90s working with the Minority AIDS Project. At that time, the death toll from AIDS was at its height. So many lives were being lost, he felt called to do something about it. He became a health educator and quickly learned what it took to be an activist. Men who had engaged in unprotected sex in prison and contracted AIDS there were affecting entire communities once they were released. In conducting a campaign advocating condom use in prisons, Marcano had to fight an uphill battle with a system whose regulations forbid sexual contact between men and turned a blind eye to its actuality. Marcano continued his activism by working next in a needle exchange program.

A ruggedly handsome actor, Marcano states, “I came to LA to be an artist, not an AIDS activist, but I will still lend my talents to causes and help to promote them.”
When friends ask why he still goes to marches he replies, “Somebody’s got to go! We need to be involved. I’ll show up for all of us-for the ambivalent ones, or those who are too scared.”
Marcano’s voice fills with passion as he exclaims, “People coming up behind me need to see their reflection!
They can see Billy Porter, Coleman Domingo, and so many others who are out and still haven’t forgotten where they came from.”

How can we create change and move forward?
Marcano responds, “Just by having conversations with people you already know. Small conversations magnify things. We don’t have to do big grand gestures. You can just talk to one person and open their mind. I have grown by listening to others share their experiences about addiction and being transgender, for example.
What is so taxing about sharing my humanity? You don’t have to like me for us to talk. After all, it’s not my job to make you comfortable with my life!”

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