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I’ve been around a long time, but I’ll admit, I’ve never seen such huge divisions and divisiveness between people based on race, culture, gender, ethnicity, mental health, body type – and that’s just to name a few. Moreover, looking through my lens of growing up in the Jim Crow South, I am appalled at the divides within races, families, communities, and institutions. I trained as a researcher/ immunologist, which means I’m always looking at the root cause of the problem. During my tenure as a young researcher, I looked at diseases to find out if it was caused by bacteria, a virus or a parasite. I worked to determine how diseases were transmitted. For years, I traveled across America and the world educating people that HIV/AIDS was not transmitted by touching someone with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
Now, I’m spending my time educating people about how to tackle the fear and shame of stigmas of all kinds. I am the child of stigma, shame and fear. I grew up a colored child with congressional rulings that mandated that I drink from dirty, “Colored Only” water fountains. I was also an obese child. Yes, that was many years ago, but the affect of those stigmas on my life as a child remains real in my adult life today. By examining the trauma of my own issues and experiences of stigma, I am now working to inspire individuals and communities around our nation to stand up to stigma. Today, we live in communities, where so many children and adults are violently targeted by those perpetuating stigmas. These individuals are often living in fear, silences and are unable to get any help.
Although in my wildest dreams, I think of myself as Super Woman. I am keenly aware that I need your help standing up to stigma. I believe if I can get you to join me, we can begin to stamp out stigma and not pass down to our children and grandchildren the spirit of hate toward people who are different. Each of us can make a difference — starting in our homes, places of worship, work, school, and recreational centers.
Join me in sharing the many lessons you’ve learned over the years about how you have faced and dealt with stigma in your life. Write a blog, or post or simply send me and your network an email. My email address is email@example.com. If you have felt the anger – and shame – of being stereotyped or ridiculed, speak out when you see it happening to others. Exposing the issues of stigmatization is critical to self-awareness and recovery. Let’s call out those who are doing the shaming and stigmatizing. Let’s educate people on how to engage in a civil conversation with someone about their concerns. Let’s our help individuals within our circles learn how not to stigmatize others whom they may not know or understand.
I am determined to Stand up to stigma and not pass along the burden of the disease of stigma to the next generation of children and babies in my family, communities, and organization. Join me. Together, I know we can make a difference. #Standuptostigma.