One of the reasons that the Young Black Gay Men's Leadership Initiative exists is to find new ways of ensuring that the voices of black gay men are at the table when it comes to discussing HIV, stigma, access, and health care. These critical discussions about our health as a community must be held with us sitting at the table, knowledgeable and informed about the decisions that are being made that affect us and the options being offered to us. As the paradigm of health care begins to shift and a new generation of black gay men is ushered in, we recognize the need to take a different approach in regard to the sharing and dissemination of information that is ultimately going to be consumed by young black gay, bisexual, and same-gender-loving (SGL) men, otherwise designated as "men who have sex with men" (MSM).
We have spent countless days wrestling with the same question that many other professionals in the health care field, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the Office of National AIDS Policy, have wrestled with: How do we engage black gay men, our community, around the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? To some extent, it's been business as usual, with the production of the traditional items such as fact sheets and webinars with a focus on our community, making sure that groups that are talking about the ACA do it in a culturally sensitive manner and in a way that includes our brothers in the dialogue.
That being said, for the last few years the discussion about health care reform has rippled across this country. Countless individuals have worked hard to produce materials that break down this massive law into a more manageable and understandable document. Thus far, nothing has really been able to simply convey the importance of having health care or the ease with which it can be attained through the new health insurance marketplaces. As a number of us sat around a table discussing strategies that might engage young black gay men around the ACA and the overall conversation on health care, a colleague mentioned GIFs, or animated memes. So often we witnessed agencies creating or discussing the creation of yet another white paper on the ACA. While those have their place, especially with a law as massive as this one, someone had to create something easily digestible and easy to disseminate.
We are the generation that grew up understanding the meaning of "FUBU" -- "for us, by us" -- and not as a means of exclusion but as an indigenous response to community-level concerns. It is our connection to a much larger black narrative that has echoed across the arc of history, calling for the black community to be part of the solution to its problems and concerns. We must create initiatives and products for us, by us, initiatives and products that express a collective understanding of the community because they come from the community, from people who have occupied the same places and spaces, who have walked the same streets, confronted the same stares, and emerged stronger because of the struggle that we continue to endure.
As the conversation about health care continues, we refuse to leave young black gay men behind. We intend to continue to create tools and products for our community that will hopefully aid in the understanding of the avalanche of information about their health, allowing them to make informed decisions about their lives. We hope to turn the tide on the epidemic, in regard to not just HIV but, at the end of the day, black gay men's health, by re-translating information into something that speaks more to our experiences. But in doing that, we must also continue to acknowledge our own cultural diversity, because we know that our brothers, as diverse as they come, both fluid and dynamic, cannot be penned into a simple archetype. Material created by us and others must be reflective of that if we are truly going to do our best to help them realize that the lives of young black gay, bi, and SGL men matter.
The end result was "How to Make the ACA T'Werk for You," YBGLI's answer to the question of what health care reform is and why you should care. It is a tool intended to speak to a new generation of health care consumers on the benefits and importance of the ACA.
So let us know your thoughts. Love it? Hate it? Want more? Whatever it is, take an active and positive stance by being involved in the creation and dissemination of information designed for you. We have to continue to be creative, innovative, collaborative, passionate, determined, and driven, because if we don't attempt to help ourselves, no one else is going to.