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New Taskforce Rallies Celebrities to Address HIV/AIDS Crisis in Black Community

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The national message that Black lives matter somehow has not translated to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Statistics show that Black and Brown people continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS nationally, and this demands a new creative response that is timely and effective.

 

Commemorating the annual National Black HIV/AIDS Day that was started in 1999, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation formed its Black AIDS Crisis Taskforce (ABACT) at a celebrity-filled private champagne brunch in Hollywood, California at H.O.M.E., a Black-owned live jazz supper club.

In collaboration with celebrities and prominent cultural influencers, ABACT will draw attention to national infection rates among African Americans, and the need for intensified efforts to connect African Americans living with HIV to medical care and support.

POST writer Jesse Brooks with actor Jussie Smollett, star of the smash television hit "Empire". Smollett says when a test audience saw an early scene of his character Jamal in a same-sex kiss with his television boyfriend, ratings plummeted. "They did not like the scene at all. I'm glad that show creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong refused to remove it. The show pushes buttons, but is dealing with real issues and rich topics that really resonate within our community."

POST writer Jesse Brooks with actor Jussie Smollett, star of the smash television hit “Empire”. Smollett says when a test audience saw an early scene of his character Jamal in a same-sex kiss with his television boyfriend, ratings plummeted.
“They did not like the scene at all. I’m glad that show creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong refused to remove it. The show pushes buttons, but is dealing with real issues and rich topics that really resonate within our community.”

Entertainers including Ledisi, B. Slade, Yolanda Adams, Jussie Smollett (plays Jamal on the new Fox show “Empire”) and many others came out to answer the call.

The ABACT event laid the foundation for slowing the rates of HIV/AIDS infections and deaths among Blacks by empowering and encouraging its members and partners to use their platforms to be a relatable voice of support for HIV testing and treatment.

“Whether people are afraid to get tested out of fear of the results or are in denial about their status, stigma and shame is literally killing thousands in our community each year,” said Christopher Johnson, AHF’s Associate Director of Communication and ABACT co-chair.

“The goal of ABACT is to form viable partnerships with cultural leaders in the Black community to create a true sense of urgency around the Black HIV/AIDS crisis, especially among young people who are largely unfamiliar with the early struggle,” Johnson said.

According to CDC reports, Black Americans account for almost half (44 percent) of all people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, yet they only account for 12 percent of the population.

Black Americans are the least likely of any other race or ethnicity to be retained in medical care to become virally suppressed through anti-retro viral drug therapy after becoming HIV positive.

By encouraging health advocates and cultural influencers to help combat stigma and shame in the African-American community, ABACT’S members believe the deep-seated fear that prevents people from knowing their status and consistently sticking to a treatment regimen can be removed.

Smollett, who portrays a gay character on the hit Fox series “Empire”, knows that addressing the subject of homophobia in the Black community as well as HIV/AIDS is a heavy lift. He was among a panel that discussed how stigma attitudes and silence equals death for African Americans.

Smollett said, “Art can change the world. My character is dealing with real issues, rich topics that really resonate with many.” He says he receives thousands of letters from young people saying they relate to his character Jamal.

Yolanda Adams said, “It’s time to rally the community, the church and the world to make them understand that we have to combat this.”

The taskforce is encouraging community leaders and influential members of the community to join ABACT in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS.

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Community

Building Bridges Beyond Bias in Marin

Registration is required. Sign-ups are available on the MCFL website. For more information and to register to this event, go to marinlibrary.org/blogs/post/building-bridges-beyond-bias/

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From left: Tahirah Dean, Jason Lau, Ph.D., Laura Eberly, Alejandro Lara

The Marin County Free Library (MCFL) and Age Forward Marin is presenting a four-part, on-line series “Building Bridges Beyond Bias” which is designed for Marin County residents from all backgrounds to gain understanding and foster awareness about each other through conversation and connection, and to confront and explore beyond our biases.

Tahirah Dean will be speaking on Wednesday, October 20, and Jason Lau, Ph.D. will be speaking on Wednesday, November 3, for the two remaining programs. The programs will be online via Zoom from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Dean is an Afro-Latina Muslim woman and a staff attorney at Legal Aid of Marin, pursuing her passion for housing justice, and has worked as an immigration attorney assisting asylum seekers and those seeking work visas. She holds a B.A. in English and Political Science from the University of North Texas, and a J.D. from Boston College Law School.

Lau traveled to the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1997 to further his education. Today, he is the interim associate dean and senior business officer for the School of Extended and International Education for Sonoma State University and chairs the Marin County Child Care Commission and the Marin YMCA Volunteer Board of Managers.

The speakers for two previous programs in the series were Laura Eberly, who spoke on September 22 and Alejandro Lara, who spoke on October 6.

Eberly is the founding director of Mountaintop Coaching & Consulting, which provides diversity, equity, and inclusion services. She holds a B.A. and M.S.W. from the University of Chicago and is ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church. She is a proud alum of Catalyst Project’s Anne Braden Anti-Racist Organizing Training Program.

Lara is a first-generation Latino college graduate from UC Davis, and currently works as the communications coordinator for the Canal Alliance in San Rafael.

MCFL has supported equity measures in the county, offered enlightening educational programming, and has enthusiastically endorsed the Marin County Board of Supervisors’ prioritization of social equity and the creation of the County’s Office of Equity. County departments are working to dismantle inequities and transform systems inherited through centuries of racial, social, and political injustices.

The Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spearheaded the Age Forward Marin. It is a collective effort between County departments and local government, community leaders, and residents including in Marin’s unincorporated areas.

Gloria Dunn-Violin, a resident of Novato, approached HHS Director Benita McLarin with a concept that evolved into the special speaker series. Dunn-Violin teamed with the Corte Madera Library and the Age Forward initiative to design the Beyond Bias program’s purpose and format, to assist in finding speakers, and to share the event with community partners focused on diversity and inclusion.

Registration is required. Sign-ups are available on the MCFL website. For more information and to register to this event, go to marinlibrary.org/blogs/post/building-bridges-beyond-bias/

The Marin Post’s coverage of local news in Marin County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California

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Events

Ella Baker Center Turns 25

Community members will have the opportunity to join the celebration virtually or in person at Restore Oakland at 1419 34th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601.

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Michelle Alexander/Photo via pbs.org

Alicia Garza

Co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Alicia Garza and Michelle Alexander, acclaimed author of “The New Jim Crow,” will join youth justice leader Xochtil Larios to discuss a collective vision for liberation at the Ella Baker Center’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 27.

After 25 years of working to empower Black and Brown communities and fighting for a world without prisons and policing, the event will seek to inspire organizers, community members and changemakers to reflect on past victories in the movement for social justice and imagine how to continue moving toward a world based on justice.

The event will include entertainment by musicians, poets as well as comments by founders of the Ella Baker Center, Dianna Frappier and Van Jones. Community members will have the opportunity to join the celebration virtually or in person at Restore Oakland at 1419 34th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601.

The in-person event will be held outdoors and available to vaccinated guests only. 

To RSVP for the virtual event, please email ashley@ellabakercenter.org by Oct. 14 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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City Government

Policy Pathways Honors Former Mayor Elihu Harris and Six Youth Leaders

The recipients of the 2021 Youth Public Service Award are students from Virginia high schools.

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Policy Pathways Logo courtesy of Organization's Facebook

Policy Pathways has announced former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris as its 2021 Policy Leadership Award recipient, along with six youth who will receive 2021 Youth Public Service Awards.

The award winners will be recognized Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, at the Policy Pathways Third Annual Fall Celebration from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. The event will take place online and is open to the public.

Elihu Harris

Kayla Patrick

The keynote speaker will be Kayla Patrick, senior data  and policy analyst at the Education Trust. She has conducted several major reports on policy and data analysis on the education of girls, particularly those of color. She has been featured in The New York Times, MSNBC, and 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s education platform.

She will be receiving the Excellence in Public Policy and Administration Award.

Elihu Harris’s career in public service has spanned five decades. He is a former California assemblyman, executive director of the National Bar Association, mayor of Oakland, and chancellor of Peralta Community College District. Today, he is a private attorney and owner of the Harris Funeral Home in Berkeley.

Dr. Lenneal Henderson, visiting instructor at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, and board member and fellow of numerous humanitarian and cultural institutions, will introduce Harris.

The recipients of the 2021 Youth Public Service Award are students from Virginia high schools.

University students being honored include Virginia students who have proven themselves to be leaders in public service in academics, community involvement and vision of the future.

“During our Third Annual Fall Celebration, we celebrate the accomplishments of policy leaders and public servants who have inspired us through their work, courage, dedication, and sheer will to overcome the barriers they faced that could have easily derailed their dreams,” said Policy Pathways President and CEO, Dr. D. Pulane Lucas.

The Fall Celebration supports the operations and programs of Policy Pathways. To purchase tickets and sponsorships, go to https://policypathways.org/event/fall-celebration/. Contributions are tax-deductible. For more information about the event, contact info@policypathways.org or call (866)-465-6671.

Policy Pathways, Inc. is a nonprofit organization based in Richmond, Va., providing education, training, and leadership development to high school students, recent high school graduates, and community college and undergraduates students who desire to become leaders in the fields of public policy, public administration, and public service.

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