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Treatment Action Group Commemorates Juneteenth through Solidarity Actions, Reflection, and Transparency

“[N]othing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin[1]

June 18, 2020 Tomorrow, Treatment Action Group (TAG) will be observing and honoring Juneteenth—a commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States—through a day of solidarity, actions, and reflection. Amidst a pandemic that continues to take a disproportionate toll on communities of color and especially Black people, and righteous outrage over systemic and chronic racism, we are taking this time to think and act.

A commitment to health equity, social justice, and human rights underpins TAG’s work to end HIV, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and now, COVID-19. This commitment includes advocating and working alongside communities so that people of color—particularly all Black people—are equal beneficiaries in progress against these diseases, are active leaders in decision-making on policies and research that affect their health, and are free from systemic oppression and physical and structural violence by shifting power and transforming systems.

As we call for change in the broader world, it is equally important to look inwards at ourselves and our organization. While we strive for an equitable society both externally and within TAG, we recognize that our Board and staff composition has notable shortfalls in diversity, inclusion, and representation of people of color. Troubled by this problematic makeup, we have been taking a hard look at our own systems, composition, and practices to ensure we embody within TAG the equity and justice we demand outside of TAG.

In February 2020, we contracted the brilliant and dedicated activist Jason Lamar Walker to conduct a thorough assessment of diversity/equity/inclusion/representation at TAG, assist TAG in formulating a plan for closing gaps, and help disseminate lessons learned and key resources to partners. When complete, this assessment will inform our way forward organizationally as Board and staff, and we will share our assessment materials, findings, and action plans widely as soon as possible, to help other organizations in need of change.

We know that just as we demand accountability from larger institutions, we ourselves also need to be accountable. We cannot change unless we face our shortcomings, and we must change to put meaning to the words, “Black lives matter.” We take the occasion of Juneteenth to act, reflect, and participate in protest—as well as to publicly state our commitment to concretely improving diversity, equity, inclusion, and representation on TAG’s board and staff. We’ll report back periodically on how we’re doing. We welcome any questions, ideas, or feedback, which can be sent to erica.lessem@treatmentactiongroup.org.

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[1] Baldwin J. “As Much Truth As One Can Bear.” The New York Times Book Review. 1962 Jan 14.

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