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February 05, 2013

A Rallying Call for Scholar Activism; going deep & wide.

“Sound your voices”, well alrighty then, “Sista” Dr. Fay :>) On this snowy Friday morning in Blacksburg, Virginia, I truly needed to hear that call to action found in your January 24, 2013 myHIN blog entry.

I concur; OUR voices, specifically OUR scholarly voices, are needed if we are to make continued headway in addressing the health challenges facing OUR communities of color.  As reflected in the HIV crises in the black community, the often-incongruous nature and overall complexity of these challenges is daunting.  The latest CDC Fact Sheet on HIV infections [1], for example, states that while from 2008 to 2010, black women experienced a 21 percent decrease in new HIV infections, the rates among black men you have sex with men (MSM) have dramatically increased. I would offer that understanding the whys and discerning appropriate strategies, tactics and solutions to understand and address this and like multifaceted dilemmas will require a greater breadth and depth in scholarly engagement. 

This is not easy and these types of engagements are not going to happen by themselves.  It will require US actively engaging OUR talents, as scholars (see Jeremy Currence’s October 30, 2012 and Khalia Braswell’s October 22, 2012 myHIN’s blog posts), and OUR voices, as activist (see Khalia Braswell’s December 10, 2012 myHIN’s blog post), in driving the scholarly conversations in addressing OUR challenges.   As Dr. Payton states and is demonstrating through, WE can change the conversation around health in OUR communities.  I would also offer that WE have significant opportunity in being more active, day to day, in OUR specific academic disciplines. 

In influencing the conversations as scholar activist, WE must go wide (offering breadth) and not be afraid to discuss issues, challenges, and concerns that are impacting OUR communities within OUR disciplinary discussions.  Not only does this elucidate and motivate the application of differing lenses of academic inquiry in offering solutions to OUR problems; but, it demonstrates and furthers the case for the power of diversity and inclusion in voice and perspective within the academy that could lead to the ground breaking discoveries and insights that advance OUR disciplines (see [2] for a great example in human-computer interaction (HCI)).

WE must also go deep (offering depth).  Specific to HIV transmission rates, what are the proactive and/or protective strategies being employed within OUR communities that could be leveraged and/or possibly scaled?  Using the referenced CDC report’s findings as an example, what are black women doing that are resulting in a decrease in transmission rates?  Are there approaches (e.g. sexual risk reduction strategies) employed by black women that could be used, tailored, and/or appropriated to address the increase in HIV transmission among black MSM? 

WE, as scholar activists, should be advocating for the sorts of scholarly engagements to answers these types of questions.  WE offer a perspective and viewpoint, a VOICE, in essence, that is empathetic and sensitive to OUR constituents and the associated contextual considerations needed to motivate and facilitate those deeper and more holistic scholarly engagements.  These are the type of engagements that could frame and offer the solutions and innovations so desperately needed in meeting OUR health challenges.

Okay, Sista Dr. Payton, I have sounded my voice.  Now, to put my money where my mouth is!!!

Yours in the cause,



  1. CDC -- HIV Infections (2007-10)
  2. Parker, Andrea G., et al., “Health Promotion as Activism:  Building Community Capacity to Effect Social Change,” CHI’12, ACM (2012), 99-108.


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