PHAN’s Commitment to Engaging the Black Community

By Julie Schultz, January 30th, 2017 in

Through its African, Caribbean, Black (ACB) Health Promotion program, Peel HIV/AIDS Network  (PHAN) keeps an ongoing engagement with the Black communities in Peel about HIV and other related health issues.  In furthering this engagement, PHAN is committed to creating spaces for the discussion even of ‘taboo topics.’

In March 2016, PHAN organized a forum to discuss sexual health in the Black community.  Attended by 26 participants from diverse sectors including non-profits and public health as well as members from the Black community in Peel, the forum explored how the community’s understanding of sex and sexual health are affected by factors like history, hyper-sexualization of Black bodies, the culture of silence, and sexual violence.  The forum called for more workshops and greater community consultations and collaborations on issues of sex and sexuality.

Recognizing the low turnout of young Black women at the March 16 event, and the apparently limited spaces in the Region of Peel for Black women to discuss issues relating to sexuality, PHAN organized another event  specifically for young Black women—“Black Women Lovin’: Race, Sex and Relationships”.  The event formed part of the Young Black Women’s Sexual Health Project. When the young women met on November 19, 2016, they drew attention to how Black women’s bodies are sexualized early in their lives through traumatic sexual experiences.  They also pointed out that in certain spaces, the Black girl’s sexuality is “erased” while she is also confronted with a moral binary. The participants also discussed how religion, culture and the media complicate Black women’s sexualities and, in the process, create misconceptions about Black women’s sexual health.

Participants argued for Black women to be political and intentional in the way they choose to share love; they must resist seeing themselves as victims; they must conceptualize sex as a pleasurable act and as a tool for emotional growth.  Finally, they must be bold in owning their journeys and their “sexual selves”.