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Happy Birthday to me ...
by Tony Alvarado-Rivera

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Alright. Let's be real. After months of trying to find the time-- the words-- the rhyme-- the courage,

I have finally busted out my paper and pen only to find out that computers have messed-up my penmanship. So that leaves me no other choice but to type out my heart and soul. Since this is my first article, I have decided to introduce myself.

Because my life is constantly changing--at the moment, I am Tony Alvarado-Rivera. I am 20. I am a Chicano living on the North Side of Chicago with my home being Cicero. I am a student---both of libros y vida. Among other things, I am an aspiring activist, poet, worker, teacher, father, and possibly even husband. I am also Queer. In the end, I am all of these things--and none of them can be separated. Each and every one I feel en mi corazĂșn. And while people pick and pull at my labels, I refuse to give in.

So there I am in a paragraph. It all seems so simple, yet I invite you to enter my life and see that it is far from simple. The new year brings a new outlook on what to me has been a blessed life. On the 24th of this month I turn 21. The defining moment in my life where I transition into "adulthood." Now don't get me wrong. I know I am simply turning 21, but that comes with a lot of pressure. Part of me is scared. Scared because I enter the world of the big leagues where everyone is judging, everyone is competing, everyone is too busy trying to get ahead to bother with others.

I want to make sure I enter this new year with my best foot forward without forgetting where I come from and where my heart is. So, in turning 21, I have opted not to go drinking and clubbing (for now). Instead, I have decided to give back to the wonderful community that has helped me become the person I am today. I want to pay homage to the grand divas of the Chicago activist scene. How do I plan on doing so? Well, with a FABULOUS party of course! My friend and soul mate Emmanuel and I have decided to throw a fundraising event celebrating our birthdays to raise funds to distribute a scholarship to a Latino(a) GLBT youth. We want to help a youth financially, while allowing the person to go through a mentoring program with the help of ALMA.

Too many times our lindos hijos y hijas are falling through the cracks because we have not been out representing our Brown love for the same sex in a healthy and positive way. I want to cry out with the strength of la Llorona. I want to do my part to help my peers, our children, our raza rise from the oppression and invisibility surrounding us. I too want visibility of my paisanos, which is why I want this event to become a new tradition in the GLBT community. A tradition to say thank you to a wonderful and great community. I want to say thank you to all those who have touched my heart and have given me the knowledge and strength to join la bataya.

I want to say thank you to Toni Armstrong, Jr., Evette Cardona, Christopher Ramirez and GLSEN, Julio and everyone at ALMA for believing in the power of youth. Every being connected with About Face Youth Theatre for watching me grow, mentoring me, and giving me my voice and the power of storytelling. Too often in our lives we forget to thank those who have helped in our evolution.

When I blow out the candles I will be thinking of all those who have made my life a blessing. I invite you to join me in doing the same. Take time out to thank those dear to your existence. Give them a note, a hug, or the pulsing feeling of love. So, celebrate the new year and be a change agent. Think back on your life and remember how it felt being the only one. Enough with those days ... it's time to make a change. I'm turning 21, and no longer alone.

To contact Tony, send an email to ...

Join us for the 1st annual ... Classy Bitch Ball 2003, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2003, Ann Sather Restaurant, 929 W. Belmont 6-9 p.m., (773) 528-1239.

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