Kenneth J. Black “Ken”
Ken grew up in Hunterdon County, NJ, and moved to Bucks County during the 1950s. He said it was the diversity, nightlife, and small-town feel that influenced his decision to move to New Hope and meeting his husband, Louis Licitra at the Prelude in 1978.
He said New Hope is “nestled in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.”
His favorite places in New Hope are Karla’s and the Raven. Ken’s favorite memories are meeting Louis, the baseball games at the 1740 House, and the many parties.
He added that he “loved the old New Hope” and is “sorry to say that the town no longer has the magic and excitement it once had.”
Ken wanted to contribute to the community and actively participate in events. He was employed by the State of New Jersey in the Department of Health where he had the opportunity to establish HIV/AIDS programs.
He said, “As a gay man in the 1980s, I saw so many friends fall ill to the devastation of HIV. As a health care worker, I quickly saw the spread of this disease from the major population areas like Philadelphia and New York attacking the solitude and serenity of our safe little town.
I watched as people got sick and died with little I could do, other than try to get information out that it was not the other guy’s problem. There were few resources at the State Health Department to focus attention on what was happening.
I remember one day, out of frustration, marching into the State epidemiologist’s office and demanding resources to get the word out. I was ushered out of his office being told that a gay-related infectious disease would have to take a back seat, since asbestosis was the disease of the day, putting children at risk.
I quickly learned that gays were a disenfranchised population. The only defense we had was information at that time. I attempted to distribute materials at the Prelude and the Cartwheel with little success, being told it was bad for business. So with this sense of apathy from both sides prevailing, I watched many friends die. This made me become more committed to my work and community and our little utopia of New Hope.
Eventually, though, all sides did come together. The State Dept. of Health established a division; from a staff of one (me) to 150 employees with a multi-million dollar budget. The word did get out and many were spared the cruel devastation of this disease.”
Ken said working with FACT and keeping the organization vital to the community is his greatest achievement in New Hope. He said, “I am older than dirt and along the way have gained some wisdom and history.”