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Interview

HIV Activists on Organizing and Self-Care in the Trump Era

March 20, 2017

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Marco Castro-Bojorquez

Marco Castro-Bojorquez (Credit: Tapatio Flores)

Marco Castro-Bojorquez

Filmmaker

What does your organizing look like?

I am a filmmaker and have been doing the distribution of my film El Canto del Colibri for the past year. My film is about immigration and family acceptance and my HIV/AIDS work with the United States People Living With HIV Caucus. I'm still trying to re-energize Venas Abiertas. My work as filmmaker has taken me to doing community advocacy and empowerment; in the last months I have been working with LGBT collaborations in rural California and, just two weeks ago, we had our first ever Latinx LGBT film festival in Salinas, and it open with my short Tres Gotas de Agua.

How do you practice self-care?

There's a lot of people in my communities suffering as we speak, and let me include myself and use 'I' statements: I am in pain; I feel pretty shitty; I am fearful; and I am angry and, at times, hungry. I know I am not the only one. If this is my picture with all my privileges, I wonder how are my sisters and brothers in the most marginalized communities: trans gender women of color, sex workers, undocumented immigrants, to mention a few.

My friends told me to take care of myself because no one was going to do it, and when I showed up at my family's home, my compadre told me -- you're very skinny and need to eat a quesadilla right now! And that's how my recovery began. So, my self-care looks like an afternoon with my familia on the border and eating pozole, talking a walk in Long Beach with my godson and proudly singing Justin Bieber songs, making the case to my family on why is better to fix the doggie than have a bunch of puppies around, or baking cupcakes with my nieces and, finally, interacting with the dog and the two cats!

The most effective self-care in an emergency moment that works like charm is to listen to a song by JuanGa (Juan Gabriel) -- the best tactic out there! :)


Nestor Rogel

Nestor Rogel (Courtesy of Nestor Rogel)

Nestor Rogel

Administrative clerk at Hyde Park Library, Los Angeles

What does your organizing look like?

These days, my organizing looks like individual outreach through case managers, trying to create and build more youth advocates and also trying to reach out to people about HIV criminalization, especially in California because this bill [to reduce HIV transmission from a felony to a misdemeanor] is something that we're trying to get pushed.

How do you practice self-care?

As far as self-care goes, I find comfort in taking the activist approach and [doing] advocacy. Doing something at least gives me comfort.

I like to run. I'm spending more time with my family, running with them, exercising. I keep going, and while I run, it helps me think about what's going on and helps me to sort it all out. Reading really helps me. I like to read historical fiction. I have no [preferred] period. Just any book really.


Rusti Miller-Hill

Rusti Miller-Hill (Credit: Linda Steele)

Rusti Miller-Hill

Positive Women's Network (PWN), NYC
Coalition for Women Prisoners
Member of National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls

What does your organizing look like?

I am the co-chair of the PWN NYC chapter. Our campaign for this year is reproductive health and criminalization of HIV. The intersection of the work that I do is around incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women. We look at how women are treated during incarceration [from] sanitary napkins to being able to see an infectious disease doctor, making sure that they have medications that are comparable to the medications received by individuals here in the community and that they're getting their proper follow-up care. We look at domestic violence and how HIV can be a weapon in a relationship for a woman, whether she's incarcerated or not. The intersection of the two plays out sometimes.

We [PWN NYC] meet on a monthly basis at GMHC. We have a core group of women that we work with. We're constantly looking to do outreach and bring women in from the community to join us on an advocacy level. We look for allies; we're looking for allies to be part of the conversation because those are the ones who are going to support you no matter what, whether it's HIV or women's rights at the forefront. You definitely want to build your membership with allies and those affected so that the voice becomes louder, bigger and more formidable as you move from level to level in your advocacy. Even with my work with the incarcerated women, that's a point that I talk about: HIV and women and the importance of women getting the medical assistance that they need while they're incarcerated and, then again, making the reconnection so that their rights are honored, their body is honored, and they're not in the position where that becomes the weapon of choice in a volatile relationship.

How do you practice self-care?

I'm still learning how to do that. Honestly. My husband complains, "You never slow down!" We do date nights; there are times when we don't talk about work. I love to read, I spent a lot of time diving into a book that can take me in a whole different direction. If it's a good read, I'm reading it. That's an escape -- sometimes it gives me ideas about something we can do, but oftentimes it's just to get away and to relax my mind, to breathe.

I do yoga breathing. I'm famous for telling people stop and breathe, but sometimes I have to remind myself to do that, as well. It's a work in progress. I don't have any set routine.

I have a friend who does skate-aerobics. My work schedule has changed, so I was thinking that I could carve out the time to go. That's something that I'm looking forward to. I used to roller skate all the time with my kids. Now they're big and don't want to do it anymore, and I'm like, "I can go back to it and have a good time." It's always good for some laughs, and it's good for the body, and so that's going to be my go-to.

The text has been lightly edited for clarity.

Victoria Law is a freelance writer and editor. Her work focuses on the intersections of incarceration, gender and resistance. She is the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women.

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