BLACK SURVIVAL POLITICS: ORGANIZED MOBILIZATION STRATEGIES IN AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITIES TO END THE HIV/AIDS EPIDEMIC
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The purpose of this study is to examine organizational patterns of African American activism in response the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Given their political, economic, and social disenfranchisement, African Americans have historically developed protest and survival strategies to respond to the devaluation of their lives, health, and well-being. While Black protest strategies are typically regarded as oppositional and transformative, Black survival strategies have generally been conceptualized as accepting inequality. In the case of HIV/AIDS, African American religious and non-religious organizations were less likely to deploy protest strategies to ensure the survival and well-being of groups most at risk for HIV/AIDS—such as African American gay men and substance abusers.
This study employs a multiple qualitative case study analysis of four African American organizations that were among the early mobilizers to respond to HIV/AIDS in Washington D.C. These organizations include two secular or community-based organizations and two Black churches or faith-based organizations. Given the association of HIV/AIDS with sexual sin and social deviance, I postulated that Black community-based organizations would be more responsive to the HIV/AIDS-related needs and interests of African Americans than their religious counterparts. More specifically, I expected that Black churches would be more conservative (i.e. maintain paternalistic heteronormative sexual standards) than the community-based organizations. Yet findings indicate that the Black churches in this study were more similar than different than the community-based organizations in their strategic responses to HIV/AIDS.
Both the community-based organizations and Black churches drew upon three main strategies in ways that politicalize the struggle for Black survival—or what I regard as Black survival politics. First, Black survival strategies for HIV/AIDS include coalition building at the intersection of multiple systems of inequality, as well as on the levels of identity and community. Second, Black survival politics include altering aspects of religious norms and practices related to sex and sexuality. Third, Black survival politics relies on the resources of the government to provide HIV/AIDS related programs and initiatives that are, in large part, based on the gains made from collective action.