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February 17, 2020

So, I’ve Been Thinking: Helping Each Other Through

Ceg Jan Newsletter Toni Young 768x922 1, Community Education Group

So, I’ve been thinking about the work that we do in social justice movements and in areas like HIV and reproductive health. It’s not easy work. It’s work that requires a lot of stamina, and it’s often very emotional work. For instance,
right now Community Education Group is focused on three distinct areas:

• Working to eliminate HIV and Hepatitis C in the state of West Virginia, by raising awareness and educating people about risk, prevention, and treatment;

• Working to protect black women from HIV by raising awareness and educating people about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis);

• Working to include people of color in community-based participatory HIV research, both domestic and global.

Now, these are big challenges requiring a lot of work, but I think these are the areas where women, young people, and people of color need us to advocate, to open doors and improve access. It’s where I see a need, and that is what guides me and guides CEG: working in areas where we see a need and where we can add value.

What helps us keep going as we take on these challenges? Obviously we need investment, and we’ve been very fortunate with some recent support from Gilead for our work in West Virginia. But we need more support in the other areas: black women and PrEP, and including people of color in HIV research.

Even beyond financial support, however, is something equally or even more important. To accomplish our goals, we have to work together, collaboratively. Unity is especially important in these troubling times, and if we’re going to do this together then we have to take care of one another. We have to help each other remain healthy emotionally.

That starts with being aware and cognizant of our own emotional state. For me, and I know also for a lot of my colleagues, this isn’t just a job. It’s my passion and I feel like it’s what I was put on the planet to do. But even in the midst of fighting for what you believe in, it’s also very important to find the joy in what we do. I try to find the joy in each day, in my work, in the things that I do.

This doesn’t just make me feel better; it also enables me to take the next step: working to bring joy into other people’s lives as well. I want to support my colleagues, my friends, my sister and brother warriors out there fighting HIV, fighting for reproductive justice, social justice, racial justice. And in these times that we’re in, it gets harder. It wears on us. These fights take a toll on us and often we are not sufficiently kind to one another. I am looking for ways to be kinder and more supportive of my colleagues, as well as being kinder to myself. I am looking
at how I may have failed to do that in the past, and how I can do a better job of being kind today.

Those things are important, when you’re engaged in intensely emotional work, like so many of us are. It’s important that we support one another, that when we see an ally who may be hurting, that we take a moment and ask if they’re okay. I will try to do that for you, and I hope you’ll do that same thing for me.

That’s what I’ve been thinking.

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