REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE: A CONVERSATION WITH MARSHA JONES

The CDC reports that African American and other Black women continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. In addition, Black people living with HIV continue to face inequalities in HIV care.

The Black Women’s Affinity Group, in collaboration with Achieving Together, is comprised of community members working to address disproportionate transmission rates, addressing health disparities for Black women, and increasing access to care. The focus of the Black Women’s Affinity Group is to address gaps in connecting with clients, providers, and community through culturally responsive and affirming messaging, provide culturally affirming and empowering self-care, and to ensure Black women are included as decision-makers in regard to prevention and care programming from a planning, financing, and implementation standpoint.  

The Black Women’s Affinity group is excited to have Marsha Jones, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Afiya Center, as the group’s inaugural speaker for Achieving Together.  Marsha is a nationally known women-focused supporter of gender and racial equity who works to eliminate health disparities for Black women.  On November 16, 2020, at 11:00am Central, Marsha will be speaking on Reproductive Justice and the Intersection of HIV. 

Will you join us? Please register for the webinar here.

Art, Healing Justice & HIV with Tarik Daniels

At the end of August, we were fortunate to have Tarik Daniels, founder and executive director of Whatsinthemirror?, join us for a conversation called, “Art, Healing Justice and HIV.”

This presentation explored how “Healing Justice” is understood as a broader framework that aims to describe the relationship between social justice work and spirit by focusing both on the consequences of systemic oppression on the hope and agency of persons living with HIV, as well as how communities can heal and be restored to vibrant ways of living.

Cultural, systemic, historical, and institutional disparities have had substantial impacts on black queer people’s quality of life This webinar helps us understand healing justice and how it could be used to heal at the intersections of HIV through art. It also helps us outline the mental impact of society in navigating this world as queer people of color.

We acknowledge the “isms” of the world.

We have to start by listening.

We have to start honoring people’s experiences.

We have to be an ally.

We have to work through an anti-oppression framework that seeks to transform and heal.

What are the steps we need to overcome the past?

1. Awareness: Recognize that racism, sexism, and homophobia do exist, at no fault of your own. There is power in awareness.

2. Prepare: Recognize that our experiences of inequality and discrimination causes trauma within us. What we consider as normal has dormant effect on us wholly. Triggers are what keeps the cycle of social depression alive, generational.

3. Create: Recognize that there is a need to create tools and coping skills to endure social influences. Art is an incredible tool. You never know when you will need it to avoid falling victim to social depression.

We all have unconscious biases. As you watch the video below, take a moment to get in touch with yourself. Understand that unconscious bias is not who we are, instead it is what we’ve learned. Instead of asking, “Am I racist, sexist, or transphobic?” ask, “Where is racism, sexism, and transphobia I learned showing up in my life?” Again, there is power in awareness.

To learn more about Tarik Daniels and his work, read the blog post that Tarik wrote for Achieving Together: Whatsinthemirror? Addressing Mental Health Among the Queer Community of Color in Central Texas Through the Arts.

Black Women Rock! Black Girl Magic! Writing our own narrative…

Texas Black Women’s Health Initiative 10 Year Anniversary Virtual Conference

Join us on November 10th for the Texas Black Women’s Health Initiative 10 Year Anniversary Virtual Conference! This conference will commemorate 10 years of educating people and working to reduce stigma and the disparity of HIV/AIDS among Black identified women in Texas.

Who we are?

Texas Black Women’s Health Initiative (TxBWHI) is a collective, regionally-located team created to mobilize with a focus on HIV education, prevention, and care retention by influencing: policy, systems, programs, projects, cultures, and practices to reduce HIV-related disparities in communities of Black women. 

What is the Texas Black Women’s Health Initiative (TxBWHI)?

It is a unique initiative supporting Black-identified women and their communities from a woman’s perspective by elevating their power of visibility, addressing stigma and increasing wholeness for a healthier life.  We accomplish our goals through many unique initiatives such as tea parties, hair and health shows and “rock the red carpet” events, as well as leadership development projects; engaging students at historically black colleges and universities to build capacity for peer-to-peer education and faith-based outreach and education.

Why should I attend the conference?

Knowledge is Power! This conference is for anyone wanting to learn about TxBWHI initiatives and join us as we continue to be intentional about building on current knowledge to support Black women, Trans women, their families, and their communities in reducing health disparities. 

AND DID WE MENTION FUN? We’ll have interactive sessions, music, and engaging presenters!

This year’s mini conference will focus on:

  • HIV/AIDS Reproductive Justice in the world of COVID 19, including domestic violence.
  • The impact on COVID 19 in the Black community, navigating health care systems and what we can do to help.
  • Connecting with young leaders and planning for success.
  • Testing your knowledge of data and more.
  • Protecting your mental health, signs of depressions, and how to cope.
  • How to get moving at all levels of fitness and mobility and how to eat for health.
  • How you can partner with us to make all of our communities stronger and healthier.

Join Us! For more information and to register for the Texas Black Women’s Health Initiative 10 Year Anniversary Virtual Conference go to: https://achievingtogethertx.org/txbwhi-conference/.

Vote Your Values

While it is difficult to ignore that it is voting season, it is important to remember that voting takes time and we all need to make a voting plan, particularly this year with COVID-19 changing the voting landscape and limiting the number of polling locations and number of people allowed inside of polling locations. While Election Day is Tuesday November 3, luckily in Texas we have almost two weeks of early voting, giving us all space and time to vote safely and conveniently. Did you know that early voting started in Texas on October 13 and runs through Friday October 30?

When reflecting on the importance of voting this year, it is important to honor our past and vote for the future we want. One hundred years ago, Congress ratified the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Fifty-five years ago, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law prohibiting racial discrimination in the voting process. This year, we at Achieving Together are honoring the struggles of our forebearers and heeding their call to fully participate in our democracy, demanding that our voices and values are heard. We encourage everyone to do the same.

While it is easy to say we’re going to vote, it can often be confusing and time-consuming, not only waiting in line, but figuring out where to vote, determining the best candidates for the job, and getting to the polls. Officials are expecting record turnout this year, so we at Achieving Together are encouraging everyone to make a voting plan and vote early.

Looking for resources to help you make a voting plan?

  • Vote411.org by the League of Women Voters can help you determine your voter registration and can create a personalized ballot for you based on your street address. You can make all of your selections and then either write them down or print it out and take it to the polls with you.
  • Concerned about transportation to the polls? Many major cities in Texas are offering free rides to the polls through local public transit systems, including Houston, Austin, Dallas, Ft Worth, San Antonio, and more. Rideshare services are also offering free rides to the polls this year as well, including Uber and Lyft.
  • Concerned about taking time off of work to vote? Did you know that Texas law allows employees to take a “reasonable” amount of paid time off to vote? While “reasonable” is not defined, it is intended to not punish employees who cannot vote outside of working hours. Learn more here: https://www.texasemployerhandbook.com/2015/10/voting-rights/
  • Other questions? Votetexas.gov addresses a wide array of issues related to voting in Texas.

Now that you’ve got your voting plan in place, what are you waiting for? Put on a mask, grab a photo ID,  and tag us with your “I Voted/Yo Voté” selfies on social media so we can inspire each other to vote our values!

Facebook: @AchievingTogetherTx

Twitter: @achievetgthrtx

Instagram: @achievingtogethertx

If you know of additional voting resources from your area, put them in the comments or send them to us at joinus@achievingtogethertx.org and we can add them to this post.

Breaking the Invisibility: Our Health, Our Future

National Hispanic/Latinx Health Policy Agenda 2020-2024

Hispanics/Latinx represent the nation’s fastest-growing minority and ethnic population, as well as the fastest-growing aging population in the U.S. Despite the growing population, Hispanics/Latinx are disproportionately affected by health disparities. Hispanics/Latinx experience a lack of access to health services, fueled by high uninsured rates, as well as stigma, structural and social barriers, and lack of income and education, in addition to other risk factors such as racial, cultural, linguistic, and immigration status. These health disparities are often invisible and need to be addressed by sound federal policy and a comprehensive health policy agenda designed for the Hispanic/Latinx population through an inclusive process and participation of Hispanic/Latinx leaders.

Throughout a two-year process, national Hispanic/Latinx steering and planning committees convened work groups charged with communicating their perspectives on national issues, analyzing challenges, and providing recommendations on topics such as prevention, access to health care, stigma, and immigration and migration.

In March of 2020, The Hispanic/Latinx Health Leadership Network, which is a collaborative effort of health community leaders, held a two-day National Hispanic/Latinx Leadership Summit focused on HIV, viral hepatitis, STIs, stigma, and other health disparities impacting Hispanics/Latinx. This was the first ever community driven health policy agenda-setting summit of the National Hispanic/Latinx Health Leadership Network, convening over 150 Hispanic/Latinx serving organizations, public health leaders, elected and appointed officials, researchers, and community members. Summit participants included:

  • Maria Roman, VP, Translatin@ Coalition, Los Angeles, CA
  • Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, U.S. House of Representatives, 26th District
  • Harold J. Phillips, Senior HIV Advisor and Chief Operating Office of Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Dr. Eugene McCray, Director, Division on HIV/AIDS Prevention, (DHAP), Centers for Disease Control
  • Dr. Elena Rios, President, National Hispanic Medical Association
  • Arianna Lint, CEO & Founder, Arianna’s Center/Translatina FL

The summit was a call to action for unity to develop a national health policy agenda and community actions to address the health challenges of Hispanic/Latinx communities. The agenda focused on health policy and encouraged broad community engagement to address national health issues affecting Hispanic/Latinx communities. The process of setting the national health policy agenda and identifying national key issues consisted of providing summit participants the opportunity to take part in roundtable conversations focused on issues impacting Hispanics/Latinx such as HIV, viral hepatitis, substance use, social stigma, and other health disparities. One of the overarching goals is to create visibility during the U.S. Presidential election process and in the nation.

In September of 2020, after approximately 2-years of work from over 200 organizations and about 400 community leaders from throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, the National Hispanic/Latinx Health Leadership Network announced the release of the first ever community driven federal health policy agenda titled Breaking the Invisibility: Our Health, Our Future.

Breaking the Invisibility: Our Health, Our Future, outlines federal recommendations focused on eleven national issues impacting Hispanic/Latinx communities:

  1. Prevention
  2. Research and Data
  3. Access to Care
  4. Migration/Immigration
  5. Puerto Rico
  6. Stigma
  7. Substance Use
  8. Mental Health
  9. Plan to End HIV in America by 2030
  10. Challenges in the South of the United States
  11. Leadership

In order to break the invisibility of the health challenges faced by Hispanic/Latinx communities, an action plan must be developed and implemented at the federal level. In addition, the summit leadership encourages the development of local level agendas (state, county, city-level) and action steps that increase awareness, improve access to services, improve equity in resources, and improve the overall health of the Hispanic/Latinx community.

For more information on Breaking the Invisibility: Our Health, Our Future: