Bringing a Racial Justice Lens to our work: Addressing Pushback 
Connect to Protect: a remarkable HIV/AIDS Prevention coalition with a brave commitment to social justice

The C2P Boston coalition engaged in trainings in Health Equity and the Impact of Racism on Health and Racial Justice Framing. Following these trainings, the coalition engaged in a re-evaluation of their strategic plan and mission through a racial justice lens. Working off the following definition of racial justice: “the creation and proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment and outcomes for all,” they devised a new mission which now reads: 

The mission of C2P Boston is to identify, develop, and catalyze prevention strategies that will reduce HIV infection rates among young Black men who have sex with men and transgender-identified young people in the City of Boston. Racism (a system of advantage based on race that benefits White people) has a direct impact on these issues. We will ensure these strategies are always deliberate, inclusive, and in pursuit of racial justice through partnerships with organizations and individuals committed to our shared values and goals. 

Using a racial justice framework, our goal is to ultimately reduce HIV incidence and prevalence among Black youth and young adults in Boston, ages 12-24, through community mobilization and structural change. 

Since completion of their racial justice trainings, C2P Boston’s Stigma, Sex Ed and Linkage to Care subcommittees have been working to ensure that all of the coalition’s structural change efforts are clearly informed by a racial justice lens.  

Pushback - The struggles that you encounter when you go beyond the jargon and really address the issues of structural racism 

C2P was the only Federally funded project in the Adolescent Trails Network to intentionally address the needs of its community from a racial justice perspective. Now this is pretty remarkable statement when you understand the world of HIV/AIDS in 2016 where populations of color are the dominant groups being affected by HIV in the US. As noted above, when C2P Boston did its initial assessment it became very clear that the majority of the youth (aged 12-24) infected and/or affected by HIV in their city were youth of color in this case LGBTQ youth of color – most particularly young men and transgender youth who have sex with men. Historically, HIV/AIDS activism and intervention in the US began as predominantly focused on the white dominant culture, yet as the epidemic has evolved activism, prevention, and intervention has also changed to have a more clear focus on communities of color in the US. Yet many of the institutions delivering care, including Fenway Health in Boston, C2P’s host organization, have historically been predominantly white institutions of privilege – thus making access to, engagement in and retention in care a particularly difficult challenge for those most in need.  And many of the interventions being offered often focus on individual or community level change. Recognizing that many of the issues challenging LGBTQ youth of color are structural and, in particular, due to the impact of structural racism (and homophobia, transphobia, etc.), C2P Boston decided to take a racial justice and health equity approach to catalyzing structural change through its coalition’s efforts.  
Adopting C2P Boston’s strong racial justice mission was a challenge for some coalition members as well as the host organization and many of the other coalition member organizations. This led to significant pushback from organizational administrations in both subtle and overt manners, but also provided a unique opportunity for coalition members to take on the challenge of advocating for change not only outside of but also within their own institutions. This is where the incredible integrity and grit of the two coalition coordinators, Liz Salomon and Ben Perkins, as well as many coalition members, was really tested as they led the coalition in sticking with the racial justice focus that had become the clear commitment of the group. By the end of the five year funding from the ATN grant C2P Boston’s coalition members were so bought in that when they talked about sustainability of the coalition they talked predominantly about their commitment to maintaining the overt racial justice agenda. Pretty remarkable!

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spring 2016 Issue

  • My recent editorial in the Global Journal of Community Psychology

  • Sustainability Revisited with Avenir D’Enfants in Quebec

  • New Opportunities for Collaborative Solutions with Hospitals and Health Care Systems Emerging from Obama’s Affordable Care Act

  • Key Informant Interviews

  • Connect to Protect

  • New Resources

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