April 4, 2007
MARK HAYES, 1958-2007
Mark Hayes, AIDS Warrior
We’re sad to report that Mark Tomoyoshi Hayes, longtime AIDS activist, Housing Works New York State issues organizer, and recipient of one of this year’s Keith D. Cylar AIDS Activist Awards passed away Tuesday afternoon.
A long-term survivor of AIDS, Mark was diagnosed with Stage 3 esophageal cancer last June. He died at home with his partner Bill Keyes, siblings, and other family members nearby.
Pursuant to Mark’s wishes, there will be no funeral. There will be visiting hours at the Hans Funeral Home, 1088 Western Avenue, in Albany this Thursday, April 5, from 5PM to 7PM.
Mark’s family has requested that contributions be made to the Keith D. Cylar Activist Fund in lieu of flowers.
Housing Works will be holding our own memorial in honor of Mark this Friday, April 6, at 10AM, at our Brooklyn Headquarters, 57 Willoughby Street, in the 2nd floor Board Room. If you’ve got stories to share, you’re welcome to drop by.
And Mark will be honored at next week’s Cylar Awards Benefit Gala on Thursday.
A legacy of action
Mark Hayes was diagnosed with HIV in late 1997 and began getting involved in the New York Capital Region HIV community in early 1998.
He had served as the Housing Works State and Federal Issues Organizer since 1999--a position that is part community organizer, part advocate and activist, and part den mother.
During his eight years at Housing Works, every day the New York State Legislature was in session, Mark led a team of Housing Works clients and upstate PLWHAs in legislative visits focusing on key HIV/AIDS policy, budget, health care, disability and antipoverty issues.
Mark was passionate about advocacy, not just about AIDS, but about injustices of all kinds. He fought particularly hard to get legislation passed in Albany to protect transgender people from discrimination, first through inclusion in the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act and, when that failed, through the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act. “Albany advocacy will never be the same,” said Anthony Howell, a Housing Works client, peer organizer, organization assistant, and one of many folks Mark persuaded to get involved in advocacy.
Mark also worked to build participation by upstate New York residents living with AIDS and HIV in national advocacy and organizing, including the Campaign to End AIDS.
“Mark was a true AIDS warrior, and I will miss him very much, as will his many comrades,” said Charles King, President and CEO of Housing Works. “He and I spent many hours in jail together, as he participated in almost every civil disobedience action we did.
“He was allergic to almost everything, smoked like a fiend, and loved vodka. Mark continued to work long after he could no longer eat or drink and could barely walk. In fact, last November, he got himself appointed to the Albany Human Rights Commission so he could fight for better protection for people living with HIV and AIDS and for transgender people.
“In January, the Housing Works Board of Directors voted unanimously to give Mark the Keith Cylar Housing Works AIDS Activist Award this year,” said King. “We will be presenting this award to his partner Bill this coming Thursday and will be honoring Mark at the dance honoring this year’s awardees on Wednesday.”
A lifetime of activism and involvement
“Mark brought a fierce dedication and a devoted love to every action he undertook,” said Michael Kink, Legislative Counsel for Housing Works. “His strength and commitment helped to change the world for the better.”
Shortly before his death, Mark received a letter of recognition for his contributions to people living with HIV and AIDS from the Commissioner of New York State Department of Health.
He was recognized with the Names Project Community Hero Award and the AIDS Walk 2006 Community Leadership Award, both given in memory of Father John Lysogorski, who was also well known for his fight against HIV and AIDS.
Mark served as a member of the Steering Committee and co-chair of the Community Awareness and PLWA sub-committees of the Ryan White HIV CARE Network of Northeastern New York; board member of the Corporation for AIDS Research, Education and Services (CARES); board member of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club; Steering Committee member and co-chair of Advocacy Committee of Medicaid Matters NY; NYS representative elected to the National Steering Committee of the Campaign to End AIDS (C2EA); the representative agency as co-sponsor of NYS GENDA Coalition; and was most recently appointed as a member of the Commission of Human Rights for the City of Albany.
Past affiliations include the NAMES Project, the community advisory board of Albany Medical Center's Division of HIV Medicine, and the Talking with Kids about HIV/AIDS program through the Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Mark's partner and family wish to thank those who cared for him in his illness: Dr. Cindy Miller and Minda Hubbard of the AIDS Treatment Center at Albany Medical Center; Dr. Nini Wu of NYOH; Bonnie Smith of the Eddy VNA; and reiki practitioners, Alice Mazur and Harry Danker.
Obituary and online guestbook
Mark’s obituary was published today in the Albany Times-Union. To read it, click here.
An online guestbook is also available. To sign it, click here.
Below are some loving comments of remembrance from a handful of Mark’s friends and colleagues:
"I am so saddened to hear of Mark's passing yet, at the same time, left with wonderful images of the way Mark embodied commitment and courage to our cause.
There was hardly a day that the legislature was in town to consider an issue important to people living with AIDS and/or disabilities that Mark wasn't leading a group from Housing Works in leafleting, lobbying or sometimes more provocative activities.
I will always remember the fearless zeal he exhibited in leading several of us to chain ourselves to a fellow advocate's wheelchair outside Governor Pataki's office on behalf of the Medicaid Buy-In.
Mark was a true grassroots leader. I will carry his image with appreciation and inspiration within my memory for many years to come."
"Mark will be missed. In my work with him, he had a "we can do" fire in his belly that motivated me and others. He was funny—a trait you don't find that often in this movement. He was one of the best investigators of who is doing what to whom. He was in the front lines of any protest activity and was acutely attuned to the realities of Black, Latino and Asian persons living with AIDS. For me there was always comfort in knowing Mark was in Albany (a fate I would not wish on others) and even became involved in the Albany community. Every fight with the oppressed was his. This is a real loss."
"Mark Hayes was a true AIDS Warrior who managed to bring about positive and progressive change on so many different levels, local, state, federal, but more then that on a personal level. His warmth and laughter and sense of humor made you feel like a better world was possible. Just his natural way instilled hope—the thing I long for most at times. Seeing him was one of few bright spots on otherwise dreary early morning trips to Albany. He will be really missed by thousands."
"I am so sad and want to express grief and appreciation for all of Medicaid Matters New York. Mark was a fabulous, gifted, committed member of the MMNY community who will be sorely missed. I can personally speak to his persistence and perseverance in MMNY advocacy work. He was dedicated in his work, and also warm and human. I valued him as a colleague and a friend. I am sad."
"My sincere sympathy to the Hayes family. My thoughts are with you during this difficult time. Mark is an exceptional individual whose passing is an enormous loss to our community. I'll think of him always, safe journey, my dear friend!"