March 28, 2017 under Posts

Celebrating Women’s History Month

By Angelique Whitley-Allen, FPWA AIDS Advocate Intern

Angelique Whitley-Allen, FPWA AIDS Advocate InternIt’s National Women’s History Month, and before the month ends, I want to take this opportunity to celebrate all of the greatness that is women and can’t think of a better opportunity to acknowledge, center, and uplift all the amazing Black women and girls in this world. I’d also like to highlight the importance of quality sexual health education, services, and care for Black women and girls in recognition of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

This post could go on forever to discuss all of the amazing black women whom I love, admire, and that have touched my life in some shape or form. Michelle Obama, who gave her final commencement address as First Lady at my alma mater’s graduation ceremony, Dr. Alexa Canady, Dr. Angela Davis, and Angela Whitley too (Hi Mommy!), are just a few  of the women who inspire me every day to become a better person and advocate for a better society. I am forever inspired by the ways in which Black women show up, the ways we love and, as evidenced by the majority of social movements impacting our community, how we lead. It is for that reason that I need us to survive and continue the work that needs to be accomplished – creating change in our society.

In all that I am learning as I enter into adulthood, I know that it is time to be as selfless and caring as Mrs. Obama, as persistent and dedicated as Dr. Alexa Irene Canady, and as resilient and intelligent as Dr. Angela Davis. Because #BlackGirlMagic is real, these women and many more exist to make changes in everyone’s lives and continue to be role models for myself and those around me. We must continue to uplift and educate black women and girls so that we may reach our highest potential.

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change,” proclaimed Dr. Angela Davis. “I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

As an AIDS Advocate Intern at FPWA, I am constantly looking at HIV/AIDS preventative challenges for women of color in particular and the ways in which black women and girls are the most impacted throughout this epidemic. It is already disheartening that some of leading causes of death for black women are heart disease, cancer, and homicide for those ages 25 to 34, but to see that HIV is moving up the ranks as a leading cause of death is far more worrisome. It is quite depressing to see the statistics of black women and girls affected by this epidemic, and to know that at this increasing rate, 1 in every 30 black women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

As a young African American women living in New York State, one of the most at risk states in this country, and hailing from the Bronx which, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), is one of the two most STD filled boroughs in New York City[1], I and many of my close friends are “at risk.” I am actually a bit terrified that one day I will receive a call or text from someone I deeply love saying they are positive. Because of what I am learning and sharing as an advocate, I make sure they know what is necessary to remain HIV negative and the barriers many women of color face in regards to sexual health education and care.

It is imperative for young women like me to take advantage of every opportunity to educate ourselves and work to create change for the unheard and underrepresented.  Perhaps, if our middle and high schools efficiently and effectively taught sexual education classes, the Bronx and the entirety of the US would have seen suppression in STD and HIV rates. Sexual education is just a piece that contributes to an area being classified as “high risk.” Poverty, homelessness, high uninsured rates also seem to be a common factors in many areas of the Bronx.

Honestly, I want to spend my time researching what great attributes black women continue to make for this country, rather than the rates at which black women are being diagnosed with chronic illnesses. I am so fortunate to be given the opportunity to participate in AIDS Watch this week in Washington D.C. I will learn how to become an avid and efficient advocate for HIV/AIDS funding and programs and identify new strategies for gaining support within the legislature to end this epidemic. This is only one stop along my journey as an advocate for black women and girls. Next on my list – having June declared National Black Women’s History Month. Ya know cuz it’s hot in June and Black Women, We are Fire.

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2015. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2016