Advocacy by Janelle Kono

“How Do We Do Better?”
I sat captivated by our monthly member meeting speaker, Deja Lynn Alvarez, a trans woman and trans advocate to the Philadelphia health community. She talked about the discrimination she experiences on a daily basis, and how this leaves her and others in the trans community constantly on high alert, even in situations as simple as going to the grocery store. Many in the trans community, she explained, would rather be suffer through incredible pain than seek medical treatment because of the inevitable discrimination encountered. As she spoke, I kept thinking, “This is not okay. We need to do better. How do we do better?”

“Black Lives Matter, But the Cops Still Shootin’ Us”
It was the middle of the monthly Community Advisory Committee meeting at my host site, 11th Street Family Health Services. During these meetings, we discuss with a board of patients from our center, all influential members of the Philadelphia community, about how we can better improve the health of the members at our center and of Philadelphia as a whole. We leaned closer to the outstretched iPhone, quietly listening to a recently viral video of Qidere Johnson rapping about the injustices in the Philadelphia Justice System:

They gave Meek 2-4 for a violation but gave a raper boy 6 months this s*** is getting crazy
See the s*** they do to us? Ain’t nothin new to us
Black lives matter but the cops still shootin’ us
A white man killed a black man, he was on his way home
But they kill a black man for pullin’ out his cellphone

Second chances? We ain’t never get ‘em, we ain’t good enough?
They don’t give a f*** about us dog cause we ain’t rich enough
Every week I talk that real shit I know y’all feelin me
Every month they build a new jail just to put us in
Every year I lose a close homie it’s ridiculous
How the f*** they give that man life when he was innocent?

At the next meeting, I found myself sitting a few chairs down from Qidere himself and his friend Jaquille Hodge. Qidere stood up and shared how he was using his new found fame to speak out on behalf of the Philadelphia youth experiencing the same challenges and injustices. We were riveted, unable to think about anything except how we could support the incredible vision this young man has for his community. (Youtube: Lgp Qua, Insta: lgp_qua)

As outsiders entering the communities we serve, we must first recognize that despite any prior training or experience we may possess, we are not the experts in the situation. These two resilient individuals reminded me that true advocacy comes through learning from those directly affected, and partnering with them to make a difference.