The Life of A Social Media Fellow of USCA15

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAK2AAAAJDM2OGFlNGJlLTM0NDAtNGRhNy04ODM4LTBkYzMyOTI3MTAxNwLast week, I was able to attend my first United States Conference on AIDS in Washington, D.C as a Social Media Fellow. Aside from waking up early in the morning, it was a great learning experience. I began to realize even more that social media is a powerful tool when it comes to disseminating a message. So many voices, such as my own or an organization’s, can be heard and shared almost instantly.

Each morning, I was surrounded by bloggers, poets, ambassadors, journalists, and directors. The fellowship was spearheaded by Phil Wilson of The Black AIDS Institute who did an excellent job! One of the awesome moments that happened, was that some of the Fellows stayed after Friday or Saturday morning and had conversations on…well…everything. The conversations ranged from gender roles in a relationship and different terms that a lesbian or a gay male might use to describe their sexual position, to sexual health and misconceptions. We streamed the conversation live so others were able to view and comment and even chime in with video from their location. See, how awesome is that?

We talked about a variety of ways to create and inspire new and innovative ways to use social media and how to impact those that have any relations to HIV/AIDS. Some sessions included: Using Social Media at #USCA2015, 5 Tips for Getting Started On Instagram, Making The Most of Twitter, and Positive Spin Roundtable (Using the power of digital storytelling to raise awareness of the stages of the HIV care continuum). All of the Social Media Fellows (including myself) were broken up into different groups. Each day individuals in the groups reported back from a session they attended the day before and what was taken from that seminar/workshop. The importance of this, in my opinion, was to make sure that we are getting the most out of USCA and it seemed as if a lot of us did.

Aside from the Social Media Fellows Program, I had a chance to network with other advocates, researchers, doctors, and executive directors from all across the country. The crazy thing about this experience was that I felt comfortable. Usually when I am at conference I am pretty nervous and let that side get the best of me. I engaged with individuals in line waiting for my vanilla latte at Starbucks (sounds silly but the line was really long), after sessions, and I stayed in for extra conversation with other bright minds.

Overall, I left USCA 2015 feeling very motivated and confident in my ability, as a Communications Coordinator, to take things to the next level.

Ronnie McCrea

USCA 2015: Enlightening

xaeIf I had to describe USCA 2015 (#USCA2015) in one word, it would be enlightening! The conference presented an array of subject matter experts to yield knowledge and insight on means of mobilizing communities to remain engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS. I was able to engage in conversation with the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) and had the pleasure of meeting Atlanta’s own Vanessa Sharp. Ms. Sharp’s expertise poured into the atmosphere as she offered gentle words of encouragement and expressed her support in advocating against social injustice while building the next generation of advocates.

We were able to hear words from amazing individuals, like Valerie Spencer who spoke out in regards to the importance of transgender rights (#blacktranslivesmatter). She expressed the NEED for cultural competency and proper pronoun placement, the importance of recognizing the skills and gifts of transgender people and the need to employ these individuals and allow them a safe space to grow and build upon those skills. “We are not gay men” was the rally slogan Ms. Spencer used to elucidate that transgender women suffer from their own complexities and require specialized research and approaches and should not be placed in the box of “men who sleep with men”.

One of the most impactful messages came from Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama. Mr. Stevenson graced the audience with compelling dialogue. His empathy genuinely was seen as he equipped us with the tools needed to combat social inequities. He made four suggestions to keep us encouraged in our fight towards justice; Be Proximate, change the narrative, stay hopeful, and do something uncomfortable. He informed us, “We’re programed to do what’s comfortable. If we want to end the HIV epidemic, or change the world or create more justice, we sometimes have to do uncomfortable things. Sometimes choose to do an uncomfortable thing because it’s the necessary thing.” As a result, I am equipped to get “uncomfortable” and do what it takes to make an impact in reducing the number of people contracting the virus, as well as identifying those who have and encourage them to engage in care and speak out against stigma and discrimination. The change begins with us.

 

Marxavian Jones