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.

Everyday Leadership

Achieving Together believes in empowering community and individuals. We believe that lasting change happens at the local level among people who are working together, without a partisan frame, to create a healthy community.

You don’t have to be the CEO or boss to make a difference. Each of us, no matter our title or role, has the power to make a big impact.

In this 6-minute TED talk, Drew Dudley shares a personal story about a “lollipop moment,” a moment where his small action had a significant impact on someone’s life. He concludes with a powerful call to action to transform leadership from something that is someone else’s responsibility to something that every person can embody, every day.

My call to action today is that we need to get over our fear of how extraordinarily powerful we can be in each other’s lives. We need to get over it so we can move beyond it, and our little brothers and sisters and one day our kids — or our kids right now — can watch and start to value the impact we can have on each other’s lives, more than money and power and titles and influence. We need to redefine leadership as being about lollipop moments — how many of them we create, how many we acknowledge, how many of them we pay forward and how many we say thank you for. Because we’ve made leadership about changing the world, and there is no world. There’s only six billion understandings of it. And if you change one person’s understanding of it, understanding of what they’re capable of, understanding of how much people care about them, understanding of how powerful an agent for change they can be in this world, you’ve changed the whole thing.

-Drew Dudley

The Achieving Together movement is guided by the idea that small actions can have a big impact when focused on a clear vision and goals. Just like many small drops of water form together into a stream, grow into a river, and eventually flow into the ocean, each person who contributes to this movement is essential to creating a sea of change.


Who are the people who have had a big impact on your life?

How can you create “lollipop moments” for the people in your community?

This is Our Outcry

By Ian L. Haddock, Executive Director of The Normal Anomaly Initiative

For a long time, I found it as hard to say I was Christian in LGBTQIA+ spaces as I did to say I was Gay in Christian spaces. Two different kinds of fear, but all sparking from the same trauma. When you are considered “othered” there is a fear of further “other-ing” yourself while trying to control your narrative and be uniquely you. So, for me, being a Gay Christian was a double-edged anomaly amongst my peers.

That was until I realized that it didn’t take church as an edifice to say that I was connected to some of the most powerful and prolific healers and spiritual warriors the world had ever seen. See, the community I was engulfed within has withstood and overcame some of the highest levels of oppression and disparity the modern world has ever seen with dignity, valor and resiliency. In that, there is no greater personification of a Christ follower and what His message in the Bible stood for. Indeed, the last has become the first.

Still, for a large group of the LGBTQIA+ community, we still stand in the shadows and chains of oppression of religious dogma and practices. For this, a great majority of millennials-42% percent—have left the church and 37% of them give some credit of this massive departure of the suppression of oppressed folx. Then, as you start layering on health, social and racial disparities, it makes more folx began to question the existence of God.

Even with all this, there is still a great number of folx who sit under leadership that will never accept their “lifestyle” nor give them the minimal level of humanity that promotes true and unconditional love. Those were the people that our hearts went out to; they were trying to find the love so freely given to them from Christ by people who gave mandates to how to attain that love. For this reason, The Normal Anomaly Initiative began the creation of the Outcry Project.

Outcry is a multi-level project focused on changing the narrative between Black folx living with HIV and/or identifying as LGBTQIA+ and the Black Christian Church. To date, through funding from AIDS United, we have created Outcry the Mini Documentary that looks at conversations between family members, HIV+ Support Groups, political figures and churches around sexuality and HIV. It has been shown at Saving Ourselves Symposium, at the National HIV Prevention Conference, as a Faith SYNC Session at the Synchronicity Conference and at the Reel Pride Pride Houston Film Festival where it received the Critic’s Choice Award. It is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video and is a part of the All Voices Film Festival.

As a follow-up, we are currently filming the 5-part Outcry the Docu-Series. This is through funding from AIDS United, Gilead Compass Initiative, and University of Texas at Austin Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. This series will look at HIV, substance use, rape, transitioning, general mental health and healing for LGBTQIA+ and/or folx living with HIV in the church. This series can be used within organizations to help build capacity, focus on culture awareness, and spark discussions.

Our reception to this project has been phenomenal for a grassroots organization and growing exponentially by the day. This is life changing work we are attempting to do that we believe will move the needle on the traumas that our communities have faced for generations after us. We believe in our slogan: “We are more alike than different,” and use it in our daily work because we recognize that showing the humanity in humans is the first step in changing the world’s approach.

In closing, we are who we’ve always been waiting for. Use your gifts, do your work, be the change you wish to see.

National HIV Testing Day

June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. In Texas, roughly 17,000 people living with HIV are unaware of their positive status. Each year in Texas, an estimated 4,500 people acquire HIV. 

One of the primary steps to ending the HIV epidemic in Texas, and one of the goals of the Achieving Together Plan, is to increase the number people living with HIV who know their status to 90%.  In Texas we estimate that approximately 83% of people living with HIV are aware of their status.  To achieve our goal we must increase awareness of the importance of HIV testing and continue to implement innovative strategies to provide people with testing opportunities.

Testing is often the first step for people to access HIV prevention or treatment services.  With support in place:

  • People who test negative can be offered resources like PrEP and other strategies to stay negative.
  • People who test positive can access care and treatment to ensure that they live a long, healthy life. They can also prevent possible HIV transmission by taking medication to achieve viral suppression.

Every year, National HIV Testing Day is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of knowing your HIV status.  This year’s theme is “Doing it My Way” and focuses on the importance of testing while also recognizing that individuals have different preferences for how, when, and where they want to get tested. 

“Doing It My Way” encourages people to share their personal stories of why testing is important, what motivates them to get tested and stay healthy, and how they choose to get tested – be it at home, at the clinic, or in the company of a friend or loved one. Use #DoingItMyWay to share why you get tested.

You can use the HIV Testing Sites & Care Services Locator to find HIV testing and care services locations near you.

Juneteenth

In 1865, enslaved Africans in Galveston Texas did not know about the Emancipation Proclamation or that they had been freed two years earlier. On June 19th, 1865 Union soldiers finally worked their way south to Texas where the last remaining slaves in America were declared free. June 19th, or Juneteenth, has become America’s “other Independence Day,” an official state holiday in Texas, celebrated around the country, and officially observed in 43 additional states.

Learn more about the history of Juneteenth and why Juneteenth is important for America in this video from The Root: