CABWHP interviewed four graduates of the Advocate Training Program - Karen Anthony, Adesuwa Ogiamien, Gina Raymond- Embry and Lois Newell about their experience.
CABWHP: What made you want to be a part of the Advocate Training Program?
Karen: I was interested in learning more about policy issues.
Gina: Well, it.s funny how life evolves and unfolds like you need it to. I had been looking previously for opportunities to work with people who are committed to the issues in under served communities. So when I received the information on the Advocate Training Program it was ideal. I thought, .Wow this is interesting. . Since I have been studying psychology and have been involved in the social sciences, I thought .how does one become involved in public policy issues?. This was the ideal opportunity for me to gain additional knowledge to enable me to apply my social studies background in a way that was going to influence public policy.
CABWHP: Has the training helped you? If yes how?
K: I learned how to advocate.
Adesuwa: The training has definitely helped me... By exposing me to legislative processes that exist in California and what you can do if you were interested or passionate about pursuing bills and legislation that affect the health of Black women and the delivery of healthcare for Black women. The different trainings and the different speakers who came in showed us what the legislative process was and what to do if we wanted to get a bill passed. G: The way it helped me most is by validating my observation, that there are other people out there that are interested and committed and concerned about the same things that concern me. Another way that it has been helpful is that it has successfully connected me and has provided me with a support group and additional resources. I know how to go about writing a press release now. I can actually sit down and generate goals and know how to go about achieving them. Lois: Yes, I know how to reach policy makers. to gather and read background information and learn how to approach policymakers.
CABWHP: Do you think you will be able to use what you learned in the Advocate Training Program in a real way?
A: Yes, I believe so, and in fact I'm already doing that. I am working with someone who was also in the training program and we're going to be collecting some data from women who are HIV positive and we are going to try and determine the psychological impact of being HIV positive on their daily lives and on them. Hopefully we'll be able to write a policy brief at the end to ensure that these women have access to free or low cost mental healthcare.
G: Absolutely. For the past 6 months I have been trying to build on the culminating project that I chose during the ATP: a grass roots advocacy program that addresses the education of African American Women about HIV and AIDS. I created a Sister Circle. We address a variety of health related issues that impact African American women. The women themselves were able to dictate what would be meaningful to them and what they wanted to learn about.
L: During our Sacramento trips, we talked with policy makers about women's issues. I had a chance to use the information I learned.
CABWHP: How would you describe the Advocate Training Program experience?
K: Good.. Rewarding. speakers provided insight about many different topics.
A: I would describe it as extremely helpful. I am always talking about it. I've just referred someone else to the program. I think it was mind opening and eye-opening for me because I was exposed to just how bad the healthcare system is in regards to what it offers to Black women and also just how we Black women don't really think about certain things; we just sort of struggle along with life. The openness and honesty of everyone involved was very, very helpful to me. And it was very good for me.
G: Empowering, validating, necessary, essential...
L: Great. professional. Participants were open to guest speakers. Speakers were open to participants.
CABWHP: What did you find most beneficial about the Advocate Training Program?
A: Everything. I think probably what I would think as the most beneficial was the fact that we could all sit and talk about these different issues. And also I think the speakers that came in were very beneficial for me in learning about the legislative process and just things that I could do to process and just things that I could do to get involved in this activist process. I feel I've learned a lot and I feel privileged to have been able to participate.
K: The new relationships and networking.
G: Meeting a variety of fascinating African American women who were doing all kinds of things on a daily basis in the community to try to make things better for other people lives. It was the diversity of age, educational background. every one brought something very important and vital to the table. We were able to learn from each other. The openness and expressiveness of all the women towards each other and the positive energy was great.
L: Learning about community organizing... Every aspect of the program was conducted in a professional manner.
CABWHP: What is the most significant personal victory you've had since graduating from the ATP? How (if at all) did the skills/relationships you gained during your ATP experience impact you in that situation?
A: I would say it's the fact that our abstract got accepted by the Sister Song Women of Color Reproductive Health Conference. Working with Gina Raymond-Embry and Erica Browne, this is the first time that I have submitted an abstract where we're going to be using original data and that was a major personal victory for me. Major. And so, how did the ATP impact me? First, I met Erica and Gina there. Second, the abstract w worked on was derived from the group project that we did for the ATP. Therefore it is directly because of my experience with the ATP that I will be presenting at the Sister Song Conference.
G: When I was thinking about moving from the strategic planning aspect from our project to actually generating a women's group, one of the challenges I faced was that many, many of the women weren't really orientated towards advocacy or towards social issues or social changes. So, one of the questions I had to ask myself was how I am going to bring this very diverse group of women together to collaborate with each other because the reality is that among women we can be very competitive. So, one of the challenges I faced was trying to recreate that communal spirit like we had at the ATP. This new group of women didn't necessarily see things the same way, and so being able to consult with Crystal of the CABWHP and getting some ideas on how to address some of my concerns was helpful. I was actually able to bring these women together so that we could work in a proactive way to support one another. I think that was my biggest challenge. But, I would say we have gotten a very positive response and we have been able to generate a sense of cohesion in the group.
L: For me achieving a better awareness of community issues and learning how to perform legislative research on the internet was a victory.
CABWHP: What advocacy activities have you participated in since graduating from the ATP?
A: My church has started something with Q Nurse Affair to provide free nutrition and dieting classes to the women who attend the church for them just to know how to eat well, why you should exercise, what that does to the body and things like that. So, we're still in the beginning stages but we've been having all these planning meetings and we've done two focus groups with the women in the church to figure out how we're going to lay it out, and we're supposed to start in October. So, we've just been planning everything right now, but it was a major thing that I would have just never thought of doing before. I probably would have just been like, .OK, let's write a paper about it. And now I'm like, .OK, you have to be proactive and let's see if we can get some results and things. so that's what we're still doing and we're in the process of adding other things to it too. So, it will be a holistic approach to health and not just nutrition and dieting, but that's just where we're starting from.
G: We went to .Women in Action Lobby Day. at the State Capitol and that was very interesting because we actually got to sit down and talk to lawmakers and to lobby on behalf of women's health issues. We actually got to speak with lawmakers and to advocate on the behalf of various of bills. Each one of us was assigned a different bill, we were briefed on it and then we went in there and we actually got to use some of the skills we were taught in ATP. It was interesting to see how others advocate on behalf of a variety of issues and to see what works and what doesn't. (Gina, Erica, & Adesuwa plan to present their group project in November 2003 in Atlanta.)