I was recently on a panel about HIV and got asked a tough question about empowerment. The question was: “What does empowerment mean to you? What does it look like?” I gave an answer about jobs and economic security because those were the issues coming up over and over again in my work in Philadelphia. But I left the panel very unsatisfied with my response. My dissatisfaction was less at my ability to respond than at the limited constructs we have to understand the true meaning of empowerment.
Empowerment is an expansive topic. There is a totality about the phenomenon that is bigger than what any individual can see or say. That’s why it’s hard to explain. To understand empowerment we have to think collectively for the idea to fit in our world. I think ultimately it’s about freedom and having whatever you need to be free. In my case, my friends and family are critical.
An important aspect of staying free are supportive relationships. I just got a video from a kindred soul that prompted this blog entry. People can help keep you free. So part of what empowerment looks like to me is a web of nurturing relationships. Relationships that find you at the right time and at the right place. A lot of people don’t have this web. I would be lost without mine.
On that note, I have attached the video that inspired the lesson. Not surprisingly it is none other than Nina Simone. Enjoy and stay free…