Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stripped: Tripple Consciousness

During the process of writing "Stripped" (which is a fictional one woman show based on the real life experiences of Dr. Mehret Mandefro), I was able to translate the powerful relationship between a doctor and two of her patients in the spirit of sisterhood. Although the doctor herself was not infected with HIV, her unrelenting quest to heal her patients became a very conflicting mental struggle. As she was searching to understand the voice of her patients, she was haunted by their memory and cries that went unheard. The line "one voice, one choice, one body to reclaim" clearly expresses the idea of sisterhood. When one of us is suffering, we all are. If one of us is drying of a disease that can be prevented, we all need to evaluate how we can begin making a collective preventative effort to heal our wounds and consciously make healthier choices.

Doctor Mandefro's movent through TruthAids touches my heart to the core because she understands the issue of women's struggles and oppression as being a universal problem. However, there is hope!!! The hope begins in unleashing power of sisterhood. After my first conversation with Mehret, I was left with a feeling of power and hope. By simply sharing our experiences as women, we immediately developed a common bond and sisterly connection. Half of the comfort came from knowing that we weren't alone in our desire to heal ourselves and each other. Sisterhood is contagious! As women, we all share the same spirit of nurturing, love, and strength. By sharing our stories of pain and triumph, our tears turn into laughter and begin to water the garden of healing and restoration!! Sisterhood already exists we just have to reach out and grab it, hug it and listen to it with our hearts!

It is an honor to be apart of the TruthAids movement. I look foward to using the arts as a way to tell the truth about women's struggles and the power of truth, love and sisterhood!!! God Bless!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

TruthAIDS Salutes 41 Million Strong Campaign

TruthAIDS is part of the Women of Color United (WOCU) advocacy coalition which started the 41 Million Strong Election Campaign. The following is WOCU's official statement for the campaign:

The pandemics of HIV & AIDS and Violence Against Women (VAW) affect women in the Global South at alarming rates and disproportionately affect women of color in the Global North. There is both the need and the opportunity during the US 2008 election cycle for a campaign that seeks to educate constituencies and candidates on the issues of VAW and HIV & AIDS.

Women of Color United (WOCU) is implementing the 41 Million Strong Campaign, a campaign that seeks to mobilize the 41 million women of color in the U.S. to vote in the 2008 elections and to advocate for policies on behalf of women affected by VAW and HIV & AIDS domestically and worldwide. WOCU is a network of individuals and organizations that brings together grassroots constituencies of over 50,000 women voters nationwide. WOCU member organizations include survivors of violence, women living with HIV&AIDS, violence against women (VAW) survivor groups and service agencies, HIV & AIDS service and advocacy organizations, immigrant and diaspora groups, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, sororities, and other women’s groups.


Our goal is to increase involvement of women of color in the 2008 elections and to heighten public interest and engagement on Violence against Women (VAW) and HIV & AIDS in order to advocate for policies on behalf of women affected by these pandemics in the U.S. and globally.

Objectives/Intended Outcomes

The four main pillars of the campaign are as follows:

1. Increase voter registration among women of color
2. Increase voting among women of color
3. Increase awareness of the general public, and specifically among women of color, about two key issues that are at stake in the coming elections and that disproportionately affect women of color globally, VAW and HIV & AIDS.
4. Hold elected officials accountable to the commitments they have made around VAW and HIV & AIDS once the new administration is installed


1. Education of general public through direct action such as teach-ins and issue-based voter education at key events.
2. Dissemination of voter guide on candidates’ positions on VAW and HIV & AIDS for voter education purposes.
3. Dissemination of “I am a Woman of Color and I Vote” buttons, bumper stickers, pens, and T-shirts at various voter registration, Get-Out-The-Vote, and voter education activities.
4. Campaign-sponsored events including film series, speaker’s tours, and panel discussions where dynamics linking geopolitical inequity, feminist/womynist discourse, and racism in relation to VAW and HIV & AIDS can be explored and discussed.
5. Guidance on legal issues on allowable Election/Campaign work for 501(c)(3) organizations.
6. Toolkits for Women of Color United members and others to engage in voter registration, voter mobilization, and issue-based advocacy activities for the elections.
7. Monthly conference calls to provide technical assistance to Women of Color United members and others on voter registration, mobilization, and education efforts.
8. Web-based promotion of the activities of Women of Color United members and others participating in the 41 Million Strong Campaign.
9. Opportunities for dialogue and solidarity-building between domestic grassroots constituency groups and sisters in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa.
10. Presentation of policy platform/slate of demands on VAW, HIV&AIDS, and the driving factors of the pandemics, to Presidential, congressional, and local candidates
11. Attendance at various candidate appearances and events to obtain commitments from candidates on VAW and HIV & AIDS.
12. Engaging Congressional Caucuses of Color – Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander, Congressional Black Caucus, and other Caucuses such as Human Rights Caucus and Women’s Caucus.
13. Educating politicians and subsequently holding them accountable to the commitments they have made through meetings with key individuals on their staff, grassroots organizing and advocacy, candidate questionnaires and publication of voter guide, and dissemination of information through various media outl

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Nonconverted: The Village Voice All of Us Review

Telling the truth is tough business, and we you enter the public space, it gets tougher. The recent review in the Village Voice about All of Us asks:

"How effective are social-activist docs that don't entertain enough to captivate the non-converted? Brooklyn filmmaker Emily Abt's well-meaning, pro-feminist doc offers little new insight in seeking to raise awareness that black women are disproportionately at high risk for HIV infection (the leading cause of death among those 25 to 34)..." (Click here for full Village Voice review).

One thing about truth-telling is that there is often nothing entertaining about it. That is what makes it tough. The whole point of truth-telling is about the act of listening and creating safe spaces where people can listen to views that may be radically different from their own. This is what the Truth Circle is about. Creating a safe space where you can begin to have the converted and non-converted actually listen to one another in a respectful way without judgement, condemnation or attacks.

This is tough work. But sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. TruthAIDS is committed to communicating across all of these divides and taking the lessons learned to the next level. If we don't build on these lessons, we cannot connect the dots towards a movement

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Truth Circle at International AIDS Conference about transnational solidarity

Regional Dialogue for Women of Color in the Global North
Women’s Networking Zone—International AIDS Conference
August 4th, 9:30am-10:30am

(notes courtesy of Jacqui Patterson)

I. Introductions --Name, Country, Work in the Cause, Expectations/Motivations in coming to this session
II. Discussion Questions:
• Is it useful to have this space?
• What is your experience with race/ethnicity/indigeneity in relation to HIV&AIDS? How does race/ethnicity/indigeneity play out in your work? What is the relationship of these issues to advocacy? Does working on these issues present a unique challenge?
• What are the challenges across the groups, within and across diasporas?
• How do we expand transnational solidarity?

• 33 participants at peak.
• Countries represented: Mozambique, Guatemala, Uganda, Canada, South Africa, USA, Mexico, Swaziland.
• All female participants.


Country Specific Commentary
A. Canada: The government has identified key populations and countries where HIV is endemic. What about immigrant populations and populations that have been settled for generations? This is a whole other set of impacts, especially with women in those communities. These groups are always a bit separated, funding wise. African Caribbean Council on Education in Canada has done a documentary. Canada has a National AIDS Strategy. Since it is institutionalized, it will be difficult to change. There were no WLWHIV groups involved in its development.

B. Guatemala: In Guatemala, a sister shared how women, indigenous women, women living with HIV&AIDS, link with national women’s movements and have been working together for 2 years. Women are empowered by turning private/community space into national spaces. Groups have organized and created a women’s secretariat as part of the first ladies’ office. Policy was developed in a participatory way with women from cities. They developed a national plan for women’s opportunities. Laws against femicide and VAW were developed which provided opportunities to make complaints and seek justice. There was the problem of impunity. Women who speak indigenous/languages not same language as the judge. The court has to speak the native language of communities. Women’s groups have been successful in advocacy. They are now reviewing global fund proposals through a women’s rights lens.

C. South Africa: Issues in South Africa include poverty, WR, women’s security, rural areas, land ownership, income, home based care, etc. In South Africa, large HIV orgs and women with HIV orgs don’t do much on violence. Violence groups don’t do much on HIV. Women with HIV are not being heard/recognized. The discourse and decision making on HIV continues to be very male dominated. People Opposing Women’s Abuse has been invited to participate in strategic planning processes on women and HIV. POWA then sought funding to help them to do work with women with HIV. However, they then had to cut back funding on WLWHIV issues. People talk about what women should do and how they should do it, but they don’t provide money to support. In South Africa, one study found that 80% of women living with HIV are positive due to violence.

D. USA: Women in the US are 30% of the epidemic, but are not 30% of those making decisions about policies and funding. Globally our common experience as women of color is being ignored/trampled by imperialists. The network of positive women is seeking to facilitate dialogue and organize leadership and action. Nationally we are moving forward. A lot of women are making decisions. However, we have a long way to go. Having a National AIDS Strategy would create more government accountability that we don’t have currently, yet we demand the same from other countries. People of color are 35% of the US population country, but 50% of the epidemic. 83-85% of the women who are HIV positive are women of color. African Americans are the hardest hit. We as WOC in the US are not as accountable as we should be. We must examine how we can be accountable to our sisters in the rest of the world? How can we work with and support each other? US individualism is a barrier to collaboration. The US has an opportunity, but not everyone sees it as such.

More Unites Us than Divides Us
A. What is common between countries? People think there is too much difference, so lessons and models are not transferrable.

B. One challenge is division within groups, as there is the issue of internalized racism which causes us to hate ourselves and distracts groups from working together. La lucha es la misma.

C. As members of various Diasporas, we move around from different countries and work in different lands. We have a lot to learn from each other.

D. There is a range of structural/institutional issues differentially impacting women of color globally that are not examined by those leading the discourse on HIV&AIDS

E. On a global level, as well as nationally (within countries) women tend to be less empowered and don’t know what’s going on at a broader scale.

Towards a Joint Action Agenda
A. This sort of dialogue doesn’t happen a lot/enough.
B. We have to create a movement to support women which is linked nationally, regionally, and globally.
C. We need to examine how policy issues play out on the ground and how do we integrate gender into policy. We need to change how policy is done. Currently policies are disconnected. Policy must be inclusive of women to make them feel a part of it. We need to help women to engage. We need women to understand policy spaces or politicians won’t know because we won’t be there to tell them. How are we using policy to ensure the claiming of our rights. Are we using the policy spaces enough?
D. We need to figure out jointly how to create public policies for rights defense.
E. Women from the global north should go and see how women from the global south work on their NAS.
F. Immigrants in the US with ties to various countries need to the shift dialogue.
G. We should hold a workshop to unify strategies. We must make efforts to forge relationships and create alliance as sisters working together globally. If we work together we can achieve greater results.
H. We must begin communication and sharing amongst us. Cultures have many similarities and we need exchanges to understand how people function. There is so much in common in India, South Africa, etc. We as women of color look at research differently. We need to document what women are saying.

Next Steps:
• As a concrete next step, a participant issued an invitation to participants in the Latin American region to join the Women Won’t Wait Coalition which is active in Brazil, Guatemala, and Chile in particular.
• Notes from the Regional Dialogue will be shared with all, including a Spanish translation version.
• At the same time as the notes are shared, all will be invited to join the Women of Color United listserv for sharing and joint strategizing for moving forward with a common agenda