Reverand Forbes Speaking to Local Leaders
Oakland's Faith-Based leaders have been invited to a series of monthly events put together by the The Metropolitan Interdenominational Church Technical Assistance Network (MICTAN). So far, outreach has taken place through informal social networks. HIV/AIDS Community Organizations, Government Agencies, and Church Pastors. But attendees acknowledged that more outreach needs to be done in order to increase attendance numbers. For the first two trainings, less than 10 clergy were present.
"We are here because we desire to make a difference in our communities."
- Invocation given by Pastor Donna Allen.
"We've Come to Far to Turn Back Now" is a regional capacity building symposium and series of seminars funded by the Centers for Disease Control. Each month features a nationally renowned HIV/AIDS scholar and local speakers. The goal is to bring community members, community based organizations, church/synagogue/temple leaders, and practitioners together.
In January, Dr. Damon Francis from East Bay AIDS Center presented current data on local rates of infection and most impacted communities. HIs presentation was followed by psychologist and author Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove who spoke eloquently about how neighborhood dynamics, including redlining, impact HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. Known as the "preachers preacher, The Rev. Dr. James Alexander Forbes took everyone to church, speaking on misinterpretations of Biblical verse that have divided the African-American community. After his inspiring words, a panel of persons living with HIV told their personal stories and spoke of the importance of both faith and family.
"We often start to stigmatize those with HIV. Make them pariahs. The situation is much more complicated." Dr. Robert Fullilove
In February, Post-Doc Fellow at the Center For AIDS Prevention Studies Hyman M. Scott led an open discussion about both the state of the epidemic and the public health response. This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Robert Fullilove about the connection between Prison and HIV in the African-American community. According to his research, the War on Drugs not only decimated African-American families, but it made the community an environment where risky behavior became easier and healthy behavior is discouraged. In order to fight HIV (and other problems) he gave concrete advice on how Ministers can help to rebuild families torn apart by the "New Jim Crow" : incarceration.
"My father was a Black Panther and I remember being at the meetings and there was always a plan of action. We talk and we talk and we talk. What are we going to do?" Rosa Davis, East Oakland Community Project
Motivated by the MICTAN training, New Revelation Community Church near MacArthur and Coolidge in East Oakland is beginning an HIV/AIDS Ministry. KT Barnes used to work as a HIV Case Manger and Advocate. Now she oversees the Health Ministry for the church. She says "People haven't fully embraced the whole fact that HIV is present. Clergy are afraid of it." She wants both church members and leaders to come to the trainings, get accurate information, and then build from there. "It's more than just prayer. Prayer is dynamite, but people need to learn and grow. Embrace these people that are infected."
"The idea of doing this in Oakland is to start a conversation that lasts a lot longer than 4 months." Rev. Terry Terrell, MICTAN Program Director
Clergy and practitioners of all religious backgrounds are invited to get involved. Interested parties should email email@example.com or call (855) 213-0917 to sign up. There is a weekly strategy phone meeting on Fridays at 9am. The next seminar will take place on Friday, March 22, 2013.
"As many churches as we have in Oakland, we shouldn't even be able to move in this place." Darice Bridges, Alameda County 211 Helpline / Eden I & R, Inc.
This winter Oakland Local is featuring a series of in-depth stories by reporter C.B. Smith-Dahl on the state of HIV/AIDS in Oakland. This article is the sixth in the series. Although the percentage of HIV infections in Oakland is comparable to San Francisco, the city's issues receive much less media coverage. Oakland Local's series on HIV/AIDS in Oakland focuses on local responses to challenges unique to the city.
This series of articles is created in partnership with HealthyCal.org.
Articles in the series include:
• Feb. 7: What's Your HIV IQ?
• Feb. 7: Black AIDS Awareness Day - Young Black Men in Oakland
• Mar. 6 : HIV/AIDS Survey Results