October 27, 2010
The Board and staff of the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) have made the difficult decision to end CHAMP's operations as an independent non-profit and to shift our existing active networks -- the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance (HIV PJA) and Project UNSHACKLE -- to other institutional homes.
The reasons for this decision are many and varied, and reflect the challenges faced by many small grassroots organizations working for social justice.
Over the last seven years, CHAMP has made a significant impact on the framing of HIV prevention in the U.S. and has pursued the goal of building a movement that bridges HIV prevention and other struggles for economic, social and racial justice. However, in the process, we were not able to build a sustainable organization in the current economic climate that could overcome the challenges of balancing movement building and leadership development with organizational administration and operations.
We are enormously proud of CHAMP's record of pushing for progressive HIV/AIDS policies that address the demands of communities most affected by the human rights abuses and structural inequalities in our country that continue to fuel the epidemic.
In the coming months, we will invite you to actively participate as we document these and other battles, along with successes, failures and major unsolved problems, with and for our supporters and members. We hope this record of our achievements and the lessons we have learned will serve as a tool for current and future activists who have and will take up the cause of HIV prevention justice.
While this marks an end to CHAMP as we have known and loved it for the last seven years, it also marks the beginning of a new phase in the development of the two networks that CHAMP carefully built and fostered.
The CHAMP Board and the broader HIV/AIDS community have recognized the critical importance of the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance (HIV PJA) and Project UNSHACKLE in pushing the HIV prevention justice vision forward, and we have already identified two organizations that are eager to provide them with the institutional support necessary to further their work.
The HIV PJA will be housed by one of its co-founding organizations, AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC). Founded by community activists and physicians in 1985, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) is a catalyst for local, national, and international action on HIV/AIDS. In 2007, AFC was a key partner in CHAMP's HIV Prevention Justice Mobilization. One year later, AFC, CHAMP and SisterLove co-founded the HIV PJA as a coalition of organizations and individuals advocating for effective and just HIV prevention policies in the United States. Julie Davids will continue to coordinate the HIV PJA as a decentralized network under the auspices of AFC.
Project UNSHACKLE will continue as a project of the New York City AIDS Housing Network/Voices of Community Activists and Leaders (NYCAHN/VOCAL), a powerful model of grassroots community organizing and PWA leadership development. NYCAHN/VOCAL was CHAMP's fiscal sponsor for our first several years, and throughout CHAMP's existence, many NYCAHN/VOCAL members and staff have been involved as staff, members and Board members. Project UNSHACKLE fits well into their current work on healthcare in jails and prisons, and in the experiences of many of their members with imprisonment, probation, parole and re-entry.
The Board would also like to recognize the enduring contribution of two individual CHAMP leaders in particular -- Julie Davids, CHAMP's visionary founder and current Director, and Waheedah Shabazz-El, CHAMP's long-term, volunteer Community Organizer/Trainer and powerful organizer on behalf of women and all people living with HIV. Julie has contributed inspirational leadership not only to CHAMP, but to the struggle against the epidemic in this country. We are very pleased that she plans to continue her role as a leader in the HIV PJA in its new home. Waheedah began as a CHAMP member, took on an increasing variety of organizing and leadership tasks and is the newest member of the CHAMP Board of Directors, helping to shape the concrete future of the prevention justice vision.
Board members Hadiyah Charles and Charles Long have also taken leadership in this transition and voiced their determination to sustain the vision and history of CHAMP through both local and national organizing. In addition, we thank board member and former co-chair Ben Maulbeck for his wise counsel throughout this difficult process. As a collective, the CHAMP Board is committed to do all that we can to support the transition of these and other leaders within CHAMP to new roles and homes.
Finally, we reach out with much respect and appreciation to the broad, diverse CHAMP Network across the United States. Together, we have reframed how HIV prevention is understood in this country. We have learned continuously from all of you and hope that we will be able to maintain the platforms through which we educate, agitate, inspire each other and amplify our voices. We are enormously grateful and we look forward to being in touch about the future of the HIV PJA and Project UNSHACKLE.
Julia Greenberg and Walt Senterfitt are board co-chairs at CHAMP.