El Paso: Strong Means Healing

August 3 marks the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting that occurred at an El Paso Walmart. During this tragic event, 23 people lost their lives and 23 others were injured. The shooting has been described as the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern American history.

In response to the tragedy, El Paso Strong continues to connect community members to services to help them heal. The multi-media campaign encourages victims, families, first responders and the community at-large to seek support when coping with the psychological and emotional effects associated with the shooting.

Specially produced videos, such as the one below, feature local residents encouraging members of the community to reach out and seek help when they need it.

El Paso Strong – Strength Means Seeking Help from EHN on Vimeo.

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The events held in El Paso to commemorate the anniversary of the shooting are expected to focus on healing and kindness. Groundbreaking for the Healing Garden, a reflective memorial honoring the victims, took place on August 2. For “Act of Kindness Day” on August 3, people are invited to help overcome hate by doing a good deed for someone else. Participants are asked to wear white and use the social media hashtag #loveforelpaso and tag @elpasounitedfrc.

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Achieving Together is dedicated to social justice. In our quest to end the HIV epidemic in Texas, there is no room for the hateful and xenophobic rhetoric that motivated this tragic event. Horrific acts of violence such as this are likely “to incite fear in anyone, but especially in Hispanic communities on the border, who are facing additional forms of structural violence.” 

We want to recognize those who lost their lives or were impacted by the shooting and also honor the healing that has occurred during the past year. If we work together, we can dismantle oppressive systems and provide opportunities and freedoms so that people from all communities – including Black, Latino, and LGBTQ communities – can thrive and achieve optimal health and wellness. Will you join us?

Juneteenth


Image credit: Dallas Morning News

When many Americans think about the abolition of slavery in the United States, they think of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863; however, for enslaved people living in the Confederacy at the time, this declaration did not grant them freedom. In Texas, it was almost two and half years later that enslaved people gained freedom upon the defeat of the Confederacy in the spring of 1865 at the end of the Civil War. On June 19, 1865 Major General Gordon Granger from the Union Army arrived in Galveston and proclaimed that all enslaved people in Texas would henceforth be free individuals. This date became known as Juneteenth and has been celebrated ever since with festivals, parades, picnics, and other celebrations throughout Texas, the South, and even the rest of the United States.


Juneteenth Celebration in Austin, 1900, photo courtesy of the Austin History Center

Juneteenth buggy in Galveston, Image courtesy of Houston Press

Despite the proclamation of freedom made on June 19th by Major General Granger, he did note that “The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages…they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” This addendum provided a preview of the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws that came to reign in Texas and the rest of the South that sought to control and restrict the lives of African-Americans after Reconstruction.

After Reconstruction, states in the south passed a number of vagrancy laws that “allowed local courts to arrest individuals deemed idle, to fine them, and force them to work if they could not pay the fines.” These policies created a large increase in the number of imprisoned African-Americans, many of whom were leased out to work on former plantations with the prisons using their wages to run the system. Eventually, as plantation owners died or sold their plantations, a number of these properties were purchased by the state as the site of state prisons and farms (many of which are still in existence today in southeast Texas, including the Jester, Wayne Scott, Clemens, and Darrington units) to create a self-sufficient prison system where prisoners lived and worked in often brutal conditions to grow crops and raise livestock to feed the prison system. In addition to the disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans during the 20th century in Texas, Jim Crow laws and policies such as segregation, voter suppression, and “red lining,” along with terrorism by white supremacist organizations, continued to make Texas a hostile and oppressive place for African-Americans to live. Redlining and segregation, the effects of which are still in place today, forced African-Americans to live in undesirable neighborhoods and did not allow them access to credit, thus inhibiting wealth-building. Additionally, these neighborhoods were underserved in terms of transportation, adequate housing, education, healthcare, food, and recreation, and were often near environmentally-hazardous industries. You can learn more about this policy and see maps of the different redlining policies from many Texas cities by clicking here.

Despite the successes of the Civil Rights’ movement of the 50s and 60s at ending state-sponsored segregation and expanding voting rights, challenges still remain. You might hear people claiming that we just need to “get over it” or leave “history in the past” or “that happened before I was born.” We at Achieving Together acknowledge that as the author William Faulker wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” and that past inequities have not been resolved and continue to negatively affect the African-American community in Texas. Issues such as over-policing of neighborhoods and police brutality along with the War on Drugs/Crime and the school to prison pipeline, health disparities, continued institutional and personal discrimination, and the lack of educational and work opportunities have led to inequities that have created the current environment which have seen Americans across the country of all races in the streets protesting and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Achieving Together recognizes that these inequities persist today and negatively affect the health outcomes of African-Americans in Texas; therefore, the guiding principles, the goals, and the focus areas of the Achieving Together Plan to end HIV in Texas support the elimination of barriers to equity and equality. You can read more about these different aspects of the plan here: https://achievingtogethertx.org/achieving-together-plan/. Achieving Together emphasizes our commitment to equity and our need to engage in the difficult work to end racism and fight for an equitable world for all Texans.


Protestors in Houston on 6/2/20 ride in the Black Lives Matters march in support of George Floyd who was suffocated to death by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020, Courtesy of Reuters

Despite these obstacles and challenges throughout history, Juneteenth celebrations have continued in earnest and June 19th was declared an official state holiday in Texas in 1979 by Governor Clements. Presently, many Texas communities celebrate with festivals, parades, picnics, marching band competitions, and other celebrations of African-American culture in Texas. A quick internet search will reveal many Juneteenth plans in your area.

We’d like to offer up this Audre Lorde quote as a reflection on how we can all celebrate Juneteenth this year and stand together to fight inequity past, present, and future. “You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other. I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same. What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order for us to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.” Finally, in closing, we’d like to share our fellow Texan, Beyoncé, singing a traditional Juneteenth hymn, also known as the “Black National Anthem,” Lift Every Voice during her historic Coachella 2018 Homecoming performance here:

International Transgender Day of Visibility

The International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) is an annual holiday celebrated around the world. This day is dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of transgender and gender non-conforming people, while raising awareness of the work that is still needed to save trans lives. We were inspired by this great list of 10 Things You Can Do for Transgender Day of Visibility compiled by the Trans Student Education Resources group and wanted to add some Texas specific things you can do to lift up and support trans voices today!

Continue reading “International Transgender Day of Visibility”

Racial Discrimination and HIV

In recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, we’re highlighting the relationship between racial discrimination and HIV. This year, the United Nations is focusing on a review of the International Decade for People of African Descent undertaken by the Human Rights Council in Geneva. In line with Achieving Together’s mission, we’re focusing specifically on the impact of racial discrimination on health and HIV.

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National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Data fatigue. Do you have it? In the field of HIV, where numbers drive much of the conversation, it’s all too easy to become numb to figures. Globally, 18.8 million women (over half of the total number of people) live with HIV. Young girls age 10-24 are two times more likely to contract HIV than young boys of similar age.In the U.S., 19% of new diagnoses are women and adolescent girls. Here in Texas, more than half of women living with HIV are Black women.

Continue reading “National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day”