Author Archives: Janice Fuller-Roberts

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: How Are You Celebrating JUNETEENTH 2020?

HAPPY JUNETEENTH!!

Juneteenth, celebrated on the 19th of June, commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas FINALLY learned they were free. Presumably, they were the last ones to learn of their freedom in the aftermath of the Civil War, a full three years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Celebrated by African Americans for 155 years, the holiday is finally getting the “mainstream” attention and respect it so richly deserves in the wake of worldwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism. Major companies now offer paid time off to their employees to celebrate. Virtual and socially distant parties have been planned all over the country. And there’s even a call for an international celebration where NO ONE spends a single dime.

Full disclosure: I was a full-grown adult when I learned about Juneteenth. I never learned about it at the PWI schools I attended; and my family, which is largely in Michigan where I was raised, didn’t celebrate it. Even after I learned about it, I never really “celebrated” it. My friends didn’t plan cookouts or parties around the holiday. I never bought or received a Juneteenth card. Other than a few social media posts, I never personally celebrated the holiday.

But, for me, all that changes this year. Why? Because as “down” and “woke” as I profess to be, I finally get it. Juneteenth starkly reminds us of a simple truth: none of us are free until ALL of us are free. Chattel slavery in the United States did not really end until the enslaved souls in Galveston, Texas were finally freed.

I get it now.

Here in the United States of America, that self-proclaimed bastion of liberty, justice, and equality, we’re in the midst of a reckoning with our white supremacist beginnings that’s been centuries in the making. As I write these words, cities, towns and communities clamor to remove the racist symbols and statues that dot our landscape. After three straight weeks of protests, people demand greater accountability from not only the police, but from institutions and individuals (see all the “Karens” and “Chads” loosing their jobs over racist behavior). On the surface, we have much to celebrate.

However, Black folks partying on June 19th doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten all that still needs to be done to dismantle the structures and institutions that uphold patriarchal white supremacy in this country. In what’s likely the most important election of our lifetimes, voter suppression efforts threaten our ability to exercise our hard-won right to vote. Anti-Black violence and hate crimes run as rampant as ever. Black unemployment continues to rise, while Black wealth continues to drop. And COVID-19 still threatens us all.

But we’re going to celebrate Juneteenth anyway, because we’re still here, and we’re still fighting. We’ve reached a critical moment in our history, as a nation and as a people. Whether we’re marching, donating, teaching, or organizing, we’re working hard to ensure that America lives up to it’s promises to all of her citizens. And for that reason alone, we deserve to celebrate.

I may be late to the party, but I plan to celebrate Juneteenth 2020 with bells on. Well, maybe not bells. More like with a mask on and from the safety of my socially distant home. But I will celebrate.

Because NONE of us are free until ALL of us are free.

Happy Juneteenth, everyone! Stay safe and healthy.

#Juneteenth2020 #BlackLivesMatter #AskJanice

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: How Ya Doin’, Sis?

How ya doin’, Sis?

It’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? It’s as though we’ve entered a weird, combination of 1918 (global pandemic), 1929 (economic crash), and 1968 (civil unrest) all at the same time. We opened with the untimely and tragic death of NBA star Kobe Bryant; saw the Republican-led Senate vote to acquit the current occupant of the White House on two counts of impeachment; became completely obsessed with the antics of Joe Exotic and his arch-nemesis, Carole Baskin (Netflix’s The Tiger King); and the ENTIRE world caught a deadly virus which shut down EVERYTHING.

As a result of the COVID-19 virus, the economy tanked, causing millions to lose their livelihoods; states issued “stay-at-home” orders to stem the spread of the deadly virus, forcing us all indoors; then, armed civilian militias stormed state capitols to protest the stay-at-home orders; murder hornets are headed to the U.S. and a giant asteroid is headed towards earth; and the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of racists and George Floyd at the hands of (under the knee of) racist police officers sparked massive protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality WORLDWIDE.

And it’s only June! I mean, really, 2020 has been a wild ride!

So, I ask you again: how ya doin’, Sis?

Because we all know that Black women, in particular often bear the brunt of all the craziness going on in the world. For example, the racial disparities in health care alone make us more vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19. We all know Black women who either couldn’t get tested or were denied quality care during this pandemic. And don’t even get me started on the covert and overt racism we experience on a daily basis. From the irritating microaggressions we grin and bear from our white colleagues to the “Karens” who want to call the manager/police/anyone-in-charge on us for simply existing in our Black skin, we catch Hell even during the good times. And these are not good times, are they, Sis?

So how are you? Are you taking care of yourself? Are you drinking enough water? Are you exercising and eating healthy? How are YOU?

I ask because I know you, Sis. I know how hard you work for your family and your people. I see you out there at these protests making sure people have enough water and masks, keeping track of everyone’s kids, putting yourself between the police and your husband, brother, son. I see YOU!

I see you driving around making sure your elderly relatives and friends have enough food, water, and toilet paper when they can’t go to the stores because of the virus. I know you’re helping the kids keep up with their schoolwork so that they don’t fall behind during the pandemic. I see you using what little spare time you have left to sew masks for your friends and to donate.  I see you out there taking care of everybody.

But, Sisters! If ever there was a time to make your own well-being a priority, it’s NOW! Because this is a marathon, not a sprint. We Black women already know that without us, this entire society that’s really a house of cards built on a shaky foundation would crumble. Or get burned to the ground. So we have to stay strong and be ready for the long haul.

That means you MUST take care of yourself. Drink more water. Exercise. Meditate and pray. Eat right. Laugh with friends. Make love. And take time out of every single day to center yourself and YOUR needs.

You can’t pour from an empty vessel, Sister. You’ll be no good to the people you love if you don’t take good care of yourself. So, if that means you have to skip the next march, then so be it. Let others march in your place. If you need to unplug from cable news and social media for a while, then do it. I promise, it’ll all be there when you get back. If you have to turn off your phone for a few hours every evening, then do so. Give yourself permission to stop, be still, and find some peace.

We’re only halfway through 2020, and there’s still so much work to do. Here in the U.S., we have an election coming that will determine what our country will look like for decades to come. We don’t know if our kids will be learning online or returning to the classroom. We have an economy to repair, deaths to properly mourn and funeralize, and a lot of healing to do. We’ve also got to keep the momentum from these protests going and set about making real and lasting policy changes. And that’s just a partial list.

So please take care of yourself, Sis. Put yourself first for a while. Take a break. Take a nap. Take a bath. Take a breath. Take care of you so that you can be battle-ready for the days, weeks, and months ahead.

I know 2020 has been a lot … but we got this. We will win.

Stay healthy and safe.

#BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForBreonna #SayHerName #BlackWomenMatter #BlackGirlMagic

 

SOPHIA’S INSPIRATION: Self Forgiveness by Sophia Ned-James

Ladies! Let’s talk about Self Forgiveness!

For many of us, the forgiveness of others and the forgiveness of our God are the cornerstones of our belief systems. We’re taught from a very young age that to forgive is divine, and that we should forgive others as God forgives us.

But what about forgiving ourselves? What about showing ourselves a little grace for our stumbles? I’ve noticed that, for women especially, self forgiveness is a lot easier said than done.

Why is that, though? Why is it so hard for us to forgive ourselves? Why do we, as Black women, spend so much time beating up on ourselves for the mistakes we made in the past?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, though I’m pretty sure the reasons are layered and deeply rooted in the perpetuation of white supremacy and patriarchy. Because everything seems to be layered and deeply rooted in the perpetuation of white supremacy and patriarchy. But that’s a discussion for another day and another column.

The point I’m trying to make is that whatever our reasons for holding these forever grudges against ourselves, we need to stop! Black women especially need to learn to forgive ourselves as readily as we forgive others, and as completely as God forgives us. Period!

Sisters, it’s so important that you make peace with your past, and then let it go. You are so much more than whatever awful things you did back then. Your mistakes don’t have to define you, so stop giving them so much space in your head.

Listen. Everyone messes up, sometimes! So stop being so hard on yourself! Learn from your errors, do better next time, and move on with your life. Focus on where you’re going, and leave where you’ve been in the rear window.

2020 has been hard enough, already. A global pandemic is wreaking havoc on humanity and you’re doing the absolute best that you can. So show yourself a little grace and let those past mistakes and stumbles go. You’re not the same person you were, so love and forgive yourself for who you are in this moment. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Stay safe and healthy. And be kind to yourself!

Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

ASK JANICE CORONAVIRUS SPECIAL: Black Women Already Understand Racial Bias In Medicine, Why Don’t You?

I just had a brief Facebook exchange with a white woman (a friend of a friend) that perfectly shows why Black women must always fight to keep our voices and experiences from being erased. Our mutual friend had posted yet another article about a Black woman who was denied COVID-19 testing THREE times, and ultimately died from the virus. These stories have been popping up all over the place, especially in the hardest hit areas. And they clearly show the rampant racial bias that has always existed in our health care system.

The conversation that followed the article was mostly about how this current pandemic has truly highlighted the huge disparities between the medical treatment of Black people, and Black women, in particular, and everyone else. We all lamented the fact that too often, Black women’s pain and symptoms are ignored because of the implicit bias of medical professionals; and how this happens to Black women regardless of their education levels or socioeconomic status.

In fact the original poster is one of my best friends, and is a highly educated physician who lives in a wealthy neighborhood. But when her COVID-19 symptoms became life-threatening and she had to call an ambulance, the EMTs tried their hardest to talk her out of going. They repeatedly dismissed her symptoms and kept telling her that the hospital would probably send her home. It took another physician friend who was on speakerphone to convince them to take my friend to the hospital, where she was admitted, after all. Thankfully, she was released after a few days, and is recovering comfortably home. Praise God.

Anyway, I pointed out how frustrating it is for Black women to basically have to submit a resume and bank statement when recounting these experiences. It’s as if, for the benefit of the white sympathy, we have to prove our “worth” as humans to get them to understand that we get discriminated against because we are Black and female, regardless of our backgrounds and income. As if it’s okay to discriminate against poor and uneducated Black women. Which, of course, it isn’t. No one should face discrimination when seeking medical care.

It’s the same thing that happens when a young Black, unarmed person is murdered by the police. We always feel compelled to point out that he was a good student with a promising future. In reality, no one deserves to be gunned down, regardless of how they do in school, or where they live, or how much money they have.

But I digress.

Where my doctor friend’s white friend (whom I’d met years ago when they were in medical school together – she’s very nice, btw) made me grit my teeth was when she said,”I think that women, in general, are often dismissed and being a woman of color magnifies that”.

Y’all.

She just “All Lives Mattered” the very specific discrimination that Black women face in health care! Not only that, but she lumped Black women in with all women of color, which is another HUGE pet peeve of mine (more on that in a second).

Listen. I will be the first to admit that all women face discrimination. Full stop. How-some-ever (as the aunties used to say) … there is absolutely no scenario, situation, or circumstance where white women face the same level of discrimination as Black women. Not here in the good ol’ U. S. of A., and not ANYWHERE else on this planet!! I don’t care how much Becky and Karen have to deal with, it pales (see what I did there?) in comparison to what Black women face EVERY SINGLE DAY.

(In fact, have y’all seen how, all across the internet, white women have been claiming that them being called Karen is the same as a Black person being called the n-word? Whew! The nerve! But that’s worthy of a whole separate post, because there is so much to unpack and discuss. Again, I digress.)

And people really need to stop saying “women of color” when they mean Black women. Because again, Black women face way more discrimination than women from any other racial or ethnic group. And more often than not, those other groups treat Black women like shit, too. All while appropriating our vernacular, our style, our swagger, and everything else that’s glorious about us.

That is why I never refer to myself as a woman of color, anymore. Not when those other colors treat me just as badly as some white folks do. No thank you. I am a Black woman. Period. And when you are referring to any kind of statistics, trends, studies, or whatever that measure how women are treated, you need to make sure you separate the experiences of Black women from every other category. Because our experiences are not that same.

That’s not to say that I don’t believe in solidarity with ALL women on many issues, like equal pay, reproductive freedom, and any number of important things. I’m all for gender solidarity as long as Black women’s voices are heard and heeded. But what I won’t do is allow for the erasure or dilution of Black women’s experiences. Nor will I let ANY comment, turn of phrase, or post that attempts to do so go unchallenged.

I’ll close with a quote from the late Malcolm X: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” He said that in 1962, and it has never been more true than today.

Wash your hands and stay healthy!

 

ASK JANICE CORONAVIRUS SPECIAL: Have You Cyber-Partied With Your Girlfriends, Yet?

As we wrap up another Women’s History Month amidst a global pandemic that has us all doing some form of “social distancing”, I want to celebrate the tenacity and ingenuity of friendships between Black women. Even in the face of “shelter in place” and mandatory quarantines, sistas are gonna find a way to celebrate each other … together.

That’s because Black women have a long and storied history of “making a way out of no way”. So if we decide to co-opt various teleconferencing apps to have cocktails and dance parties with each other in the face of impending doom, then that’s what we’re gonna do!

Listen. We’re all stressed these days. This latest coronavirus, COVID-19 (or “the Rona”), has changed everything. Every single day, we’re losing our loved ones to this insidious disease. Here in the U.S., thanks to the abysmal response of the current occupant of the White House, we’re seeing our death toll rise exponentially every day. Of course it’s hitting Black communities especially hard. You know that old saying, “When America gets a cold, Black people get pneumonia?” Well, that’s never been more true than now.

At this point, I don’t even know anyone who hasn’t been personally touched by this virus. It’s bad, y’all. Really bad. And the fact that we haven’t even peaked yet is terrifying! So it’s more critical than ever that we all abide by the “shelter in place” rules so that we can stop the spread. Which means no Happy Hour meetups, no brunches, no in-person socializing with our favorite friends.

But … what that Rona NOT gone do is stop a sista from getting that all-important, rejuvenating, re-charging, gut-busting-laughter-filled time with her girlfriends! We have the technology to stay connected, even as we responsibly “social distance” ourselves from each other. And Black women everywhere are taking full advantage of it!

This past weekend, my social media was absolutely buzzing with women sharing pictures of their Zoom cocktail parties, their Skype brunches, and other online group events. Also, thanks to a few famous DJs going viral with hours-long Instagram and Facebook Live parties, folks were having full-blown dance parties with their friends, all from the safety of their own homes!

And boy, do we need some fun, right now! I mean, there’s only so much gloom and doom we can take. It’s been a relief to turn off the president’s lies and cyber-party with my girls. We’ve shared cocktails, danced, laughed, and cried together … even though we’re forced to be apart. These virtual get-togethers have given me LIFE, and I can’t imagine doing this quarantine thing without them.

So if you haven’t done so yet, check out platforms like Zoom or other web conferencing options, and gather your girls for a cyber-party! They’re easy to use and totally worth the effort. We need our girlfriends, ladies! Remember … in today’s world, sometimes “we all we got”!

Stay home, stay safe, and stay healthy!

#datrona #COVID19 #sistafriends #girlfriends #cyberparty #getyourgrooveon #blackwomen

ASK JANICE: Reflections on Black History Month 2020

It’s the last day of Black History Month 2020, and what a month it’s been! We started the month with the much debated Gayle King/Snoop Dogg kerfuffle following the untimely death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant in late January. I won’t rehash the whole thing here, but suffice it to say, “misogynoir” was in full effect, as were the ongoing debates about celebrity, legacy, and redemption.

We’re ending the month facing a global pandemic in the form of a deadly new coronavirus which, if it spreads as fast as some experts predict, may prove to be the end of us all. Countries are issuing travel bans, Japan has closed all its schools for a month, they’re talking about postponing the 2020 Olympics, and even the stock market is freaking out. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, folks!

Amidst all the drama and fear, the looming U.S. Presidential election is on everyone’s mind. Despite what the current occupant of the White House’s propagandists and minions would have us believe, the majority of African Americans fear another four years of this Administration almost as much as the coronavirus. Except for a few outliers like Diamond and Silk (or as I like to call them: Cubic Zirconia and Polyester), and the 14% of self-hating Black dudes who voted for him, most African Americans want to send that orange menace back to the swamp from whence he came.

Which brings me to the point of this Black History Month reflection: the right and responsibility to VOTE.

It’s fitting that this year’s Black History Month theme is “African Americans and the Vote”, which recognizes the struggle for voting rights among Black men and women throughout American history. I know we say this during every election cycle, but the 2020 Presidential election really is one of the most important elections in our nation’s history. Especially for Black people.

Especially for Black people.

From the time the first stolen Africans were brought to the U.S. in 1619 to now, any rights and privilege of citizenship have had to be violently wrestled from the hands of the white supremacists who’ve ruled. This is especially true when it comes to voting rights. Following the Civil War and the emancipation of enslaved persons, Black men were constitutionally given the right to vote by the 15th Amendment in 1870. The Amendment stated that “voting rights could not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Of course, we know that even though Black men could vote legally, there were violent forces in place that suppressed their votes, effectively silencing their voices.

It would be another 50 years before women were allowed to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. However that Amendment did not initially include any women of color, and most certainly not Black women. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act was passed 45 years later in 1965 that Black women were officially allowed to vote in the U.S., a full 95 years after Black men got the vote. NINETY-FIVE YEARS!

1965 wasn’t that long ago, y’all.

Anyway, that brings me back to this very important 2020 Presidential election, and how it’s more critical than ever for Black people to exercise their hard-won right to vote. I know Black women will turn out in droves to vote, because we always do. And when we do vote, we tend to vote in our best interests (96% of us voted for 45’s opponent in 2016 – a statistic that is forever burned into my brain).

What I’m worried about is voter suppression. Several states have been purging their rolls of legitimate, eligible voters in record numbers. Deliberate misinformation and propaganda from everyone from Russian bots to Republican operatives are being fed to Black and brown communities via social media, television, and radio. And I fear we’ll see the same slippery and violent tactics used during Reconstruction come election day.

So we must remain vigilant, watchful, and deliberate in making our voices heard. We need to double and triple check our voter registration status, and encourage our friends and families to do the same. We need to keep up our voter registration efforts and educate as many young people as we can, so that they will become engaged and participate.

And most importantly, we cannot forget our history when it comes to having the legal right to vote. Black women were only officially allowed to vote in 1965. Think about how hard our foremothers had to fight so that you and I could have a say in how we’re governed. Think about the voter intimidation, literacy tests, and other obstacles our foremothers faced even after the the Voting Rights Act was passed. And think about how even in the 21st century, there are strong forces out there seeking to take this fundamental right away from us.

Think about it and VOTE.

And wash your hands.

 

 

ASK JANICE: Have You Fully Embraced the New Year or Decade, Yet?

So, we’re about a month into the new year and the new decade … how are y’all doing? If you’re anything like me, you were really looking forward to making BIG changes in this new decade: better health, greater wealth, and a whole lot of happiness. After all, it’s the 20s again, the second decade of the 21st century! Anything’s possible, right?

Meh.

I’ll be honest. I’ve gotten off to a pretty slow start when it comes to making those BIG changes.  For me, this brand new decade feels eerily like the last one, and that’s a bit of a letdown.

I can only blame myself, though. I just haven’t fully embraced this new year or this new decade. I’ve been stuck in a twenty-tens mentality, looking at things through 2019 lenses.  All that’s about to change, though. I’m ready to start looking at the world with 2020 vision! (See what I did there?)

Making BIG changes in your life always starts with perspective and attitude, and adjusting those are up to you (or me, in my case). It all starts with being open to change and being ready to try new things. Then you set your goals, make concrete plans to achieve those goals, and off you go to a newer and better version of YOU!

Being open to change is important because a new attitude and new ideas can help you heal from past hurts. And it’s usually our past that keeps us from embracing our future. We get so mired in our same old ways of seeing and doing things, we get stuck. And being stuck ain’t no place to be when you’re looking to change. Opening yourself up to new possibilities and embracing a new attitude will start you on your new journey. And your new journey will get you past that old pain and lead you to the BIG changes you seek.

A new journey doesn’t have to be something radical like a new career or relocating to a new state. It can be as simple as discovering a new park near your home, so that you get out and walk more. This can help you achieve your goal of getting healthier.

Or you can set out to find 5 Black businesses to support and promote, which will help you reach your goal of keeping more Black dollars circulating within the Black community. Speaking of dollars, if your goal is greater wealth, you can start researching investment opportunities, open a new savings account, or look for a part-time job.

Maybe your goal is to give back, so you start volunteering a couple days a month at a local shelter or soup kitchen. Or you can join the one of the dozens of other organizations doing good work in the community, and lend them your time and talents. The possibilities are endless!

The point is to open your mind, set some goals, and start planning. We can do this, y’all! We may have gotten off to a slow start, but with renewed energy and open minds, it’s not too late to take this new decade by storm. Here’s to living better and happier going forward.

Here’s to a great decade!

#newdecadewhodis #2020vision #2020 #newyearnewyou #ASKJanice #SuzyNew

Photo Source: Pixabay

The Grace To Fail By Sophia Ned-James

The recent demise of Senator Kamala Harris’ U.S. presidential bid got me thinking about how Black women and other women of color are rarely ever allowed to “fail up”. White men do it all the time! You need look no further than the current occupant of the White House for the most glaring example of this.

Even Black men are allowed to “fail up”, or at the very least, are afforded enough redemption to make money. Yes, Black men have it a lot harder than white men, because of white supremacy. But for every Colin Kaepernick that can’t catch a break, there are 10 Chris Browns out here flourishing. Yes, the same Chris Brown who has a nasty habit of beating up women is still out here selling out shows. That’s how patriarchy works.

Black women and other WOC don’t have it like that. Senator Harris, the only Black woman in a ridiculously large field of Democratic presidential candidates, certainly didn’t get to “fail up”. Hers wasn’t the only campaign with organizational and money issues. Yet she still suspended her run for the presidency way sooner than many of her lower polling, lesser known white male counterparts. Even if, as some hope and predict, she ends up on the ticket as the vice presidential nominee, that she “had to” quit so soon is telling.

Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking about how Black women and other WOC don’t get to “fail up” the way that men do. And I realized that a big part of the reason for this is that we don’t allow ourselves to do so. We’re our own harshest critics, and are often the loudest voices telling us what we can’t or shouldn’t do.

I really wish that Black women, in particular, gave ourselves the number of chances that mediocre white men give themselves. After all, we’ve proven time and time again that, when it comes to beating the odds, Black women truly are undefeated. By the time most of us reach adulthood, we’ve learned how to make a way out of no way and overcome obstacles that would have flattened anyone else.

Yet, when we make mistakes in our careers, our families, or in life itself, we beat up on ourselves harder than anyone else. Sure, we pick ourselves back up and keep it moving, but we often carry the baggage of those mistakes with us, limiting how far we allow ourselves to go.

I just think we need to get better at forgiving ourselves for the stumbles we make in life. I mean, aren’t we supposed to learn and grow from our mistakes? Aren’t we often better people for them? So why are we so hard on ourselves?

Today I implore you to allow yourself the grace and freedom to make mistakes and grow. You are the sum total of your experiences, both positive and negative. You wouldn’t even be YOU without the tears you’ve shed, the pain you’ve felt, or the stupid stuff you’ve done.

Mistakes and pitfalls are part of the process and integral to your journey. You’re stronger because of them. You’re better equipped to take on even tougher challenges because of them. Now you only need to believe that you’ll ultimately win because of them.

So when you fall, pick yourself back up and reach higher. Don’t just keep it moving, keep it moving on up (cue The Jeffersons’ theme song here). When you reach one goal, aim even higher for your next one. And when you reflect on your life, be sure to celebrate the fullness of your journey, because you couldn’t have gotten where you are without being where you’ve been.

We all fail sometimes. That’s just how life goes. But as Black women and other WOC, we have to realize that we can “fail up”, too. We can falter and then climb higher. Because we really are that amazing.

ASK JANICE SPECIAL: It’s World AIDS Day 2019 – Do You Know Your Status?

December 1st is World AIDS Day – do you know your status? If you don’t, you really should get tested, especially if you’re a Black woman. No, really. You should!

This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Community by Community”. This couldn’t be a more fitting theme, because as a community of Black women, we still have much work to do.

The good news is, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), between 2010 and 2016, new HIV diagnoses have declined by 25% for African American women. This is a better decline than seen globally, where new HIV diagnoses overall have declined by 16% since 2010.

But, like I said, we still have work to do. Consider that while HIV diagnoses have declined, in 2017 (the most recent year statistics are available), women in the U.S. made up 19% of the new HIV diagnoses. Of that number, 86% were infected by heterosexual contact, compared to only 14% infected by injection drug use. Half of the women infected that year were 25-44 years of age. What’s especially troubling for our community is that 59% of the newly infected women were African American. That’s more than half!

Even scarier, the CDC says that 1 in 9 women with HIV don’t even know they have it. That’s not surprising, considering HIV testing rates among women are alarmingly low. With 86% of new infections coming from heterosexual contact, that means that nearly 4 decades after HIV/AIDS was first discovered, there are still far too many Black women out here having unprotected sex with men!

The CDC says that in general, receptive sex is riskier than insertive sex. That means that women have a higher risk of getting HIV through vaginal and anal sex than their male partners. And, while we may not want to admit it, too many of us don’t know the risk factors of our male sex partners. When you then add the fact that women are less likely to get tested, it’s no wonder we’re still seeing so many new HIV diagnoses among Black women.

Here’s what I need you to do: GET TESTED AND LEARN YOUR STATUS! 1 in 9 of y’all are walking around out here infected and missing out on life-saving medications and treatments! If you’re 25-44 years of age and engage in heterosexual sex, then you’re at an even higher risk.

First thing tomorrow morning, make an appointment with your doctor or plan to visit a clinic. Consider it a form of self-care, if you will. And remember, an HIV diagnosis isn’t the death sentence it used to be. But you MUST get tested to get the treatment you need to prolong your life.

So get tested and know your status. Let’s end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in our community now!

HAPPY WORLD AIDS DAY 2019!

#WorldAIDSDay #GetTestedKnowYourStatus #GetTested #KnowYourStatus #WorldAIDSDay2019 #EndTheEpidemicNow

Sophia’s Sunday Uplift for December 1, 2019

SOPHIA’S SUNDAY UPLIFT

Well here we are: at the beginning of the last month of 2019 and the last month of the decade. If you’re anything like me, you may feel like you’re not where you want or need to be in life. You’re probably fretting about what you haven’t yet achieved and what you still need to do. You may even be comparing yourself to others, worrying that you’re being left behind in this race called life.

But my sister, please clear those negative, defeatist thoughts from your mind. You’re not in a race against anyone but yourself, and your own dreams and ambitions. So stop being so hard on yourself! You may not have reached all of your goals for 2019, but at least you’re still here and still fighting. You’ve made it this far, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

Think about it: so far, you’ve survived 100% of all the bad stuff that’s happened to you this year. 100%! So relax those shoulders and unclench that jaw. Take some deep, cleansing breaths, and as you do, inhale love and exhale all that negativity that’s rattling around in that brain of yours.

And remember that guy you just couldn’t live without? Well, you’ve survived every single day that’s passed without him. You may still be hurt … you may even still be heartbroken. That’s okay because it’s perfectly normal to mourn the end of a relationship, and the loss of love. But what’s not okay is allowing your mourning to keep you from moving forward in life.

If you find yourself stuck, unable to break free of that post-breakup, fugue-like, all encompassing funk, then please get some professional help. If you can afford it, or if your insurance covers it, get some therapy. If that’s not an option, talk to your pastor, imam, rabbi, minister, priest, or whomever you turn to for spiritual guidance. Find and join a local support group. Lean on your friends and family. Do something so that you can start your new year in a better place.

The fact of the matter is you have to go through it to get through it, and that includes heartbreak. Whether you need professional help or not, know that ultimately, you’re going to be okay. You will get past this. It just takes time, patience, and support.

In the meantime, try to focus on the good that’s happened. Turn your thoughts to the positive and remember that in 2019, you’ve conquered every single fear you’ve faced, and overcome every single obstacle that would’ve kept you from getting to where you are right now. So give yourself some credit, Girl! You did that!

Also remember that no matter how alone you may feel at times, you’ve got people: family, friends, and friends who’ve become family. They may not always be in your presence, but they’re always in your heart and you’re always in theirs. Someone is praying for you or thinking loving thoughts about you, even when you don’t realize it. Take comfort in that.

I guess what I’m trying to say as we approach a brand new decade is: you’ve done too much and come too damn far to give up now. You are a bad-ass warrior who’s faced down her fears, overcome insurmountable obstacles, and kept going when others would have faltered. As Lizzo says, you’re 100% That Bitch and you’re gonna be just fine.

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