People of Faith Must Fight Against All Injustice

Shawanda Jackson

When I think about my time at the 2016 International AIDS Conference there are three words that summarize my experience – Faith, Justice and Action. As a young adult leader who lives and works daily towards the fight against injustice, I was extremely excited and anxious to learn from other movers and shakers who are advocating for human right and freedom for all people. I was excited to go to an unfamiliar place and grow and learn about such an epidemic that is not discussed in the many communities that I am apart of.

The week started with the EAA Interfaith Pre-Conference. At the interfaith conference there were conversations led by people who were living with the disease, people who were researchers, advocators and individuals who in some shape or form are affected by this disease. We discussed the roles that faith leaders and individuals have in the conversations about faith and sexuality. There was discussion about global prevention, treatment targets, new research, global responses to the AIDS response and funding. There was discussion about who are most affected by HIV & AIDS – the vulnerable, transgenders, gays, women between the ages of 15-25,sex workers, drug users, lesbians and youth.  All of these conversations ended with charging us to respect the human rights of all people and  to continue to fight for equality and continuing to respect and always live in love.   Continue reading “People of Faith Must Fight Against All Injustice”

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Supporting Adolescents Through Early Disclosure: A Call To Justice

Victoria Mumbula, Youth Advocate and Activist; Lusaka, Zambia

I’ve been inspired to write this after attending a session on Tuesday  19th July. I have been  living with HIV for 22 years now and it took me until 2012 for me to disclose my  status. It happened when I was given an opportunity by the ELCA and LWF to attend the 19th IAC in Washington D.C.

When I arrived, I didn’t know to expect. It was my first time being in an environment where HIV/AIDS  was the key subject.Since that time, I have taken every  opportunity that I am given because I want to be an instrument to friends, family, church and community. I want people to use me and learn from my life experiences as a person living with HIV and a person with hope for a better  tomorrow!

It wasn’t until  Tuesday, 19th  July that I stopped blaming my auntie, whom I call my  mother, because she’s the only women I have  known and is the best. I have always blamed her for allowing me to have so many friends and live a normal childhood like  all  the normal  kids. I have a best friend who does not know about my status. I have known  her since we were in the 3rd grade. I have not told her because when I bring up the topic  of  HIV, she says, “I swear that one day I will test HIV  positive and I will die.” I know understand my mother’s reasons for note telling me. Continue reading “Supporting Adolescents Through Early Disclosure: A Call To Justice”

Stepping Back, Leaning In

Gabrielle Horton (Twitter: @gabhorton); Incoming Master’s in Public Policy Candidate, University of Michigan

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July 5th: Alton Sterling.

July 6th: Philando Castile.

July 7th: Five members of the Dallas Police Department.

And on July 8th, I served my last day with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office, where I oversaw our Public Engagement efforts in South Los Angeles. The timing of these brutal murders, two of which were documented on smartphone video cameras, and subsequent protests –  including in Los Angeles (where Black Lives Matter protesters continue to occupy City Hall for a second week in a row) – have continued to weigh heavily on my heart and mind.

As the departure date for South Africa drew near, I found myself relieved to be free from work duties, which would have surely kept me buried sky high with briefing papers and emails ensuring our office’s proper response and presence in this ongoing narrative around law enforcement, communities of color, and violence. I even started to mentally frame the 21st International AIDS Conference as a vacation of some sorts, where I would simply join the rest of the ELCA Young Adult Cohort for a week of HIV/AIDS workshops and then return back to “reality” when I got back to America. I figured that 11,000 miles away with complete strangers could in no way match the horror I witnessed on my iPhone screen just days before; and could in no way compare to the haunting dreams of gun shots and bloodshed that I had to shake loose night after night. I was convinced that this experience would finally allow me the peace of mind – even if for just eight days – to box up and shelve away my American Blackness, and check back in once the wheels touched down at LAX the following week. And while I generally understood the racialization – and even the Africanization – of the HIV/AIDS epidemic to a certain degree, I was in no ways prepared for the level of intersectionality of this epidemic, which has so profoundly shed light on my identify as an advocate for urban communities of color, and a tireless advocate in the pursuit of justice, access and equity for all. Continue reading “Stepping Back, Leaning In”

Invisibility: A Super-Power to Some, Lived Experience for Others

Ryan Muralt, Program Development Associate
ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation (@reconcilingwrks)

Invisibility is often a desired “super-power” to be used against enemies or to light-heartedly spook your friends and family. However, there are those in our society who are forced into their invisibility; they do not get the choice to become invisible. Marginalized people like sex workers, transgender people, men who have sex with men, lesbian, gay, bisexual people and children with HIV are often forced to the margins and out of sight only illuminated for the split second mention in a high level speech.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Pause for a moment and think about how this phrase lands on your ears and then continue reading.

Continue reading “Invisibility: A Super-Power to Some, Lived Experience for Others”

Act Justly, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly

Aaron Geringer, Graduate Student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Minnesota State University, Mankato

When I first got into AIDS advocacy, my mentors gave me a shirt with a Dr. Seuss quotation I will never forget. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing will get better. It’s not.” Being in Durban at the 21st International AIDS Conference has been an emotionally infectious experience. Partially because of the pain, anger, and despair that AIDS has unleashed within our communities; but mostly infectious because of just how deeply these 18,000 individuals care about this cause. This has truly been the most diverse event I have been to, with people from all races, nationalities, occupations, ages, abilities, faiths, sexual orientations, and gender identifications. Despite our differences, we all share a profound desire to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. Continue reading “Act Justly, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly”

The Deification of Maleness & Masculinity

A Call to Confession for the Sin of Idolatry

Rev. Andrea Roske-Metcalfe, Associate Pastor at Grace Lutheran Church of Apple Valley, MN

Long afterward, Oedipus, old and blinded, walked the roads. He smelled a familiar smell. It was the Sphinx. Oedipus said, “I want to ask one question. Why didn’t I recognize my mother?”        

“You gave the wrong answer,” said the Sphinx.      

“But that was what made everything possible,” said Oedipus.    

“No,” she said. “When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered, Man. You didn’t say anything about woman.”

“When you say Man,” said Oedipus, “you include women too. Everyone knows that.”      

She said, “That’s what you think.”[i]

13405667_10153438242250728_1392988140_oWe always begin with confession. During worship in the church where I’m a pastor, we first welcome the people, point out that everyone is invited to the table for communion; maybe mention the reason behind the flowers on the altar. It’s light, sometimes we crack a joke…we’re just gathering, you know? But we’re also not messing around. We begin worship, just after that, by confessing our sins. We do this, not because we are defined by our sins or because our tradition lays the guilt on thick, but rather because it centers us. It reminds us, corporately, of the work we have left to do in bringing about the kin-dom of God, and of the work we will never be able to do on our own, which leaves God an awful lot to work with. Confessing our sins, and then hearing words of forgiveness and absolution, centers us for worship, which is where we rehearse the kin-dom of God.

We always begin with confession. Dear friends, today is no different. Today, we confess the sin of idolatry, in particular the ways in which we deify maleness and masculinity. Continue reading “The Deification of Maleness & Masculinity”

From Theory to Imagination and Action

Gina Tonn, Reunion Program Manager, The St. Olaf Fund at St. Olaf College

Twitter

Just over a year ago I was in New York, and then I went home to Chicago where I was living and serving with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and I wrote a blog post called “No more business as usual.” Since then, I have spoken about the concept too, including at my current place of work, St. Olaf College.

One year later in New York and I wonder, do I practice what I preached? Have I carried out the commitment I proclaimed?

Worship

On Saturday morning, Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, told the Ecumenical Women delegation that it’s time for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and said verbatim that we cannot do business as usual. I hear this and I realize, no, I haven’t really carried out my commitment. I am human and I fall short of expectations. The institutions I participate in fall short.

The pace of change is slow and bureaucracy is complex, but that is no excuse not to listen, not to do what can be done.

What can be done? Continue reading “From Theory to Imagination and Action”