Today is December 1, the annual observance of World AIDS Day. Every year, on this day, we are surrounded by messages from organizations and individuals, asking us to remember those we have lost, encouraging us to stay strong as we continue to move through this epidemic and to be hopeful about the medical breakthroughs that look so promising. And every year I add my voice to those messages, sharing with other Black women the importance of loving our bodies, being able to protect our sexual health and understanding our personal risk factors for HIV infection. And I have always uplifted the opportunities we have right at our fingertips to help stop HIV in our communities.
But this year feels different…and I have struggled with finding the right voice and the right message for this World AIDS Day observance. We are faced with so many unknown challenges as a nation at this time and, rather than deciding if we are looking at the glass as half full or half empty, many are not able to see the glass at all.
The theme for World AIDS Day 2016 is three simple words…Leadership. Commitment. Impact. There has never been a better time for us to look at these words and figure out how we as Black women, individually and collectively, can embrace each of these words and make them part of our lived experiences.
Leadership. Black women have always been leaders in our families, our communities and, now more than ever, in positions of power. We all have leadership ability – and we owe it to ourselves to figure out what that leadership skill is and how best to use it. Leadership comes in different shapes and forms, but on this day, it all starts with sharing your voice and making sure others know the HIV struggle continues and that we all play a part in bringing it to an end.
Commitment simply means we decide to do something and stick with it. We have a strong legacy of Black women that has shown us how to be strong, resilient, determined and committed. On this day, our commitment starts with a commitment to ourselves and taking care of our health and wellness. If we are to be leaders, we not only have to handle our own stuff when it comes to our health, but we also have to show others how it is done.
Impact. There is nothing more powerful than the united voices and actions of Black women when we come together and join together for a cause. Whether it is Black mothers who have lost a child to police violence, or Black women fighting for the right to have safe, affordable abortion services, the impact of their images and their voices have been powerful enough to move us to action and demand that changes be made. On this day and moving forward, regardless of the unknown challenges we face as a nation, be thoughtful and intentional in the type of impact you want to have in life and in the lives of others…and remember that it starts with those first two words….Leadership and Commitment. With these words and actions, we can begin to see that glass again!