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In Search of Health Care In America - Solutions & Dialogue, Part 4
by Sherri Jackson
2003-01-03

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"We don't fight for anything anymore; we live in a microwave society." -- Comedian Bernie Mac

It's 1992, the economy is staggering and financial scandals are in the headlines, and George Herbert Walker Bush is the President. Sound familiar? It's 2002 and G.W. the selected cowboy seems to be repeating the past of family history!

G.W. wrestles with the financial fallout from Enron, among others. We appear to be in a recession, and we the people wait while the cowboy wages WAR. In Illinois, cussing publicly gets you a fine of $300, and City Council gives itself a raise. Our priorities seem to be backwards. While all this takes place, the real issues of LBGTs, education, healthcare, affirmative action, and housing are on the backburner. We continue to mislead the young generations as if BLING-BLING (materialism) is more important to follow. While the rich get richer, middle class gets too comfortable, and the poor remain poor!

We now are going into 2003 with the possibility of repeated drama of firings, cutbacks, and, the possibility of a bomb dropping. If this takes place, we the LBGT community will have to face media drama and have agencies answer questions once again to the public. Maybe next time we the public will get a chance to speak via a public forum.

When the coverage broke out of firings and cutbacks at Horizons, Howard Brown Health Center, and Minority Outreach Intervention Project, we the public waited so the agencies could hear our take on the situation. It never happened, with the exception of MOIP, great spokespersons from the community, and great media coverage. It was hard to watch this take place, but it has not been forgotten--we just became hushed and docile.

I was a volunteer at Horizons and then was selected a board member from 1996-2000. I too once was in the position of helping to decide who do we fire, cutback, etc.

We will always have fallouts and struggles revolving around racism, sexism, ageism, classism, and, gender issues. So how do we move on and be proactive and less reactive? How do we find the balance and be brutally honest and continue to serve the community? I hope we all are searching for better solutions in the community and healthcare locally and globally. While some speak of diversity, others practice it. Diversity is good ethics, good sense, and good business. Most agencies and large corporate institutions look diverse, but positions in coordinator/management are rare with faces of color unless in low or middle management. It seems like women and folks of color have always been second-class citizens in society when it comes to healthcare, and issues that effect us.

I would love to see more men support women's issues such as we are expected to support their issues. I recall being saddened when Stacey Long left Howard Brown Health Center; she returned to Chicago with much enthusiasm in serving the women's community. Stacey is a friend, community organizer, and lawyer (J.D.). It must have been hard for her being an African-American female working in a predominately white male institution that has a rumored history of catering only to white males, and being the director of the Women's Program.

White homosexual men have access to a cohesive cultural network and support systems that include advocacy and service-oriented groups. Homosexuality is often viewed as taboo in Black and Latino communities. This may be a result of cultural barriers, and limited access to medical care including systemic barriers, patient beliefs, and behaviors, and unclear provider communication.

It would be a dishonor not to see the Women's Program carry on at HBHC. But, finding the balance and paying homage to Stacey is what I hope some of us continue to strive for if nothing else! I struggle along with other African Americans when it comes to sitting on any predominately European board. Some Europeans may treat us as though we are special, different from other African-Americans whom they may perceive in stereotypical ways. On the flip side some African Americans send the shout outs of labeling you being newly selected Negro, "Uncle Tom" and sell-out! When, where, and how will we find the balance and just all get along?

In 1999 Liz Huesemann was leaving Horizons--she was executive director. Liz is a License Clinical Social Worker. I admired Liz along with others, respected the fact she was not perceived as some pretentious European individual trying to do outreach with communities of color. She did it with sincerity and passion. She wasn't afraid to come to the South or West side like some cater to you their $200 and above dinners and never show their face for our $50 and less events! It's a little harsh? It's real. We as African Americans need to ask ourselves, will we do more than our ancestors did with less? Will we collectively, individually, financially, ethically, raise each other up in empowerment? We were once together, kinder, and happier with each other before we became educated, materialistic, perpetrating, and carrying the oppressors' oppression on to each other! In communities of color, some are living in zones around toxic waste that lead to health hazards and mass destruction. Most African Americans have been subjugated to these war zones of living. Think about the sell-out individual and what that means?

Maybe it is the individual that does nothing to help and improve a community or reach back for others. In all of these statistics there is someone LBGT waiting for assistance. In Illinois, rates of incarceration per 100,000 women age 18-64; 54 white, 553 Black, Hispanic 69. In Illinois 82.5% of women incarcerated are mothers affecting at least 25,000 children annually, nationally 1.5 million children have parents in jail. As you sleep there is an African American or Latino individual being racially profiled. There are an estimated 53 million disabled individuals. It is estimated 43 million people are without health insurance! In 2001,there were 249,000 victims of rape or sexual assault. A total of 17.7 million women have been victims of these crimes. About 3% of men have experienced rape in their lifetime. About 44% of rapes victims are under 18. Blacks are about 10% more likely to be attacked than whites. (www.rainn.org/statistics)

In South Africa 4.7 million are HIV positive, and India is also facing devastating losses. There is a woman who will not get the same treatment in HIV/AIDS because of her gender. This is reflected in the need to negotiate a dominant culture that devalues women of color and lesbians. Between 1998-2000, African-American women accounted for 79% of all female AIDS cases, while they made up only 39% of the metropolitan area's population. (www.idph.il.us/health/aids/aidsscht0001). Approximately 339,000 individuals are currently living with AIDS in the United States (www.cdc.gov .hiv.stats/hasr).

Somewhere laying beside the road, a transgender individual has been found dead due to a HATE CRIME, but we will have to debate with larger society what constitutes it in being a hate crime. Across the country a female of color is being portrayed as ex-drug addict user/ho/slut/aggressive/and hard. Why aren't we speaking out against this, and why do we choose at times to partake? It is all hype!

There is a young mother worried her child will be taken away as she catches public transportation to her suburban job of minimum wage; she cannot afford a babysitter and wants to get off welfare. The color of her skin may be white, or of color! There is a Black-on-Black homicide taking place. Can you be a role model and teach someone to read? There is an elderly individual who will have to choose between medication and food for the month, while a drug company shakes hands with a politician!

The young want leaders who will speak the truth and take them with him or her. The scholar Cornel West has said "African-Americans need visionary leaders that can pass the ideas and thought on to future generations and speak the truth and not be afraid! Do we want to hear the truth?" Will we continue to suffer mentally, emotionally, physically and then have the breakdown wondering what we could have done?

In life I have heard there are three types of individuals--those that make things happen, those that wait to see what will happen, and those that say 'when did that happen'? What individual are you?

As we approach 2003, I hope we embrace the idea of being educated in health issues locally, nationally, and internationally. What takes place across the seas will affect us here on our own soil. We together need to get busy--we still have lots of work to do! I will continue to search for healthcare in this so-called America the beautiful. We must not become tired now. Will we as African-Americans do more than our ancestors did with less? We must continue to liberate so together we may celebrate!

This health series is dedicated to my elder sister friend/mentor Jackie Anderson, who unconditionally shares her wisdom, time, friendship with all colors, ages, and genders. We love you.

"To Whom Much has been given much will be expected."


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