6th Anniversary of Black Lives Matter

July 13th was the 6 year anniversary of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Image – Johnny Silvercloud ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnnysilvercloud/ )

As a response to the murder of Trayvon Martin, and the acquittal of his killer, #BlackLivesMatter was created.  Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi began Black Lives Matter as a “Black-centered political will and movement building project.” 

Black Lives Matter is “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” (Black Lives Matter Herstory) Since its founding in 2013, Black Lives Matters has grown to become a worldwide network of chapters, activists, and actions.

Black Lives Matter and HIV

As an early grassroots response to the governmental and institutional neglect of the HIV epidemic, the growing and increasingly visible LGBT community rallied to support the mounting number of people effected by HIV.  These early activists joined together to create organizations and systems to provide support and care.  As the epidemic grew, those organizations and systems grew into the network of clinics, AIDS Service Organizations, LGBT health centers, prevention programs, and support centers that continue to work to prevent HIV and provide care and treatment for people living with HIV.

As the HIV epidemic has grown, its impact on multiple communities has changed. What began as an epidemic primarily impacting white gay men is now most heavily impacting communities of color, particularly Black gay/bisexual men and Black women.  Roughly 13% of people in Texas are Black, but this community shoulders the burden of over one third of Texans living with HIV. 

With few exceptions, our organizations and systems were not developed by or for people of color.  To begin to address the gaps in identity and relevance between HIV organizations and the Black communities that need access and support, we must reframe ourselves and our missions.  We know the connections between HIV and environmental factors such as poverty, marginalization, and access to opportunity.  These factors are rooted in the historic racism that permeates our culture and have resulted in not only the explosion of HIV among Black communities but also the struggling attempts to address the epidemic.  As individuals, organizations, and communities dedicated to ending the HIV epidemic in Texas, we must reframe our organizations and programs to become centered on the struggle for social justice put forward by organizations like Black Lives Matter.  We cannot fight HIV without also fighting the effects of racism on Black communities.  That fight requires that we also acknowledge, identify, and address the ways that white supremacy has shaped our organizations, systems, and responses to the HIV epidemic.

In 2016, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) rolled out their commitment to embracing anti-racism and social justice as a core principle of their work.

“Through ongoing dialogue between staff, NASTAD continues to “wake ourselves”, by engaging in extended explorations of White supremacy and imperialism, linking these centuries old social structural frameworks to modern examples of poor health outcomes in Black communities. As our Black lives work continues, NASTAD staff is reimagining our approaches, messaging, everyday work, functions, and activities, including core trainings to examine and undo racism, and all other inequalities tethered to poor health outcomes.” (Why Black Lives Must Matter to End the HIV and Viral Hepatitis Epidemics)

As we move forward into our commitment to ending the HIV epidemic in Texas, we must commit ourselves to an ongoing and constant dialogue at all levels of our organizations and systems. We must commit to identifying, examining, and dismantling the conscious and unconscious racism and bias that continues to drive the HIV epidemic and our responses to it.

Achieving Together values community—in person and online. When you comment on Achieving Together please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.