A Call to Action: Solidarity in a Time of Islamophobia

The views expressed below reflect only those of the author.

Like many members of my community, I woke up the morning after the election feeling scared and abandoned by my countrymen. How could so many have voted for someone actively preaching hatred against my community? Against Muslims, and someone well known for taking advantage of women? I was crushed not by the thought of the bigots and their hatred but of the many who were not compelled by their hate but by their indifference. These voters voted for Trump based on his economic policy and the change they felt it promised them, but that choice meant overlooking his divisive, hateful rhetoric, and its potential for terrible consequences. Not even a week after the election, there have been reports across the country of fear and intimidation being spread across college campuses.1

Living with Islamophobia is hard. Each reported incident of a shooting of a religious leader, a sister whose hijab is ripped off, a child who is bullied in school and called a terrorist, sends shock waves through our community. These are the strongest, most obvious threats against us. But the underlying, insidious current that runs beneath this is the sense that no matter what we do, we will never belong here. Many of us are immigrants or refugees, or the children of immigrants and refugees; our parents left their homes and uprooted their lives to find something better, only to have settled in a new land to realize that we are not wanted here. Many of us are descendants of slaves, who can trace our lineage back generation after generation, further back than most Americans. And yet, we will always be seen as the “other,” an alien threat to the lives of “ordinary” Americans.

Columbus is a city called home by thousands of Muslims, many of whom are refugees. Last week, the Columbus City Council passed a resolution against Islamophobia, announcing support of the Muslim community in Columbus. The Columbus Muslim community is grateful to the Jewish Voice for Peace, the sponsors of the resolution, and the CCC for getting this resolution passed, as many communities call Columbus home. This gesture was a good first step to addressing that sense of exclusion — but this resolution is not enough, it must be catalyzed into action to make this city a safer, more welcoming place for all who live here. The only way for us to move forward and above the divisive language of Islamophobia, and every other form of discrimination, is to recognize that the good in this city (and this country) will be in acknowledging that the Muslim community, the black community, the LGBT community, the disabled community — that every community is OUR community, that their struggles are ours and their fears are ours.

The question now is what are we going to do to ensure that Muslim sisters wearing headscarves feel safe walking in its streets? What are we going to do to ensure that workplace discrimination does not occur in this city simply because of a person’s hairstyle? What other measures will we take to protect those in this city who may become targets of the hate crimes being reported across the nation? What kind of example are we going to set, especially in this post-election environment, that bigotry and divisiveness will not be accepted?

We must condemn bigotry yes, but even more, we must be allies to each other’s “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.”

1. See “Reports of Hate Crimes Rise After Donald Trump Victory”.
2. See “New York Imam Shooting”
3. See “Woman Wearing Hijab attacked at San Jose State”.
4. See “Seven-year Old Boy Beaten on North Carolina School Bus for being Muslim”
5. See “Donald Trump has unleashed a new wave of bullying in schools”


Adeeba Arastu is a Muslim- and Indian-American student at the Ohio State University, studying architecture and geography. She is the Editor of the Muslim Students’ Association blog, IQRA, as well as an active member of Unchained, an organization that works to raise awareness for human trafficking. She can be contacted at arastu.2@osu.edu.

Imagine Not Knowing…

Imagine Not Knowing … that there are 1.2 million people in the United States that are living with HIV.

Imagine Not Knowing …that 1 in 8 people living with HIV do not know their status.

Imagine Not Knowing…that YOU can make a difference in these numbers.


Project INK, or “Project: Imagine Not Knowing…” is a comprehensive HIV prevention program designed to educate, and provide access to care for the community. Project INK strives to enable the community through opportunities to receive testing, counseling, linkage to care services, and other resources for health. We use a peer advocacy strategy, in which community members are empowered to take charge of their status, their lives, and their health by sharing “role model stories”. These stories are disbursed through members of the focus community that we serve and through our various pages. Our specific focus is on testing men who have sex with other men between the ages of 17-39, as this community has the highest rates of HIV transmission disparities throughout the nation.

Project INK is a CDC funded and evidence-based program, which means these strategies have been proven to improve health outcomes for those who are HIV negative by increasing testing, linking to PrEP (the once daily pill that is over 90% effective at preventing HIV transmission), and has been proven to have positive, powerful impacts for those living with HIV by linking them to care, and increasing medical adherence.

Our program is just one of many avenues that people in Columbus can navigate to learn more about HIV and advocate for their health, and the health of those around them. Programs like this, make the end of HIV a foreseeable and realistic goal. However, in order to end HIV transmission we must continue to advocate for those who are living with HIV and continue to provide education and preventative measures to those most at risk. Even if you find yourself outside of the “high –risk” population there are still ways to support the movement; learning about HIV and HIV transmission helps reduce stigma, which plays a large part in the way our society interacts with HIV, and ending the stigma surrounding the virus plays an essential part in us finding a cure.

If you couldn’t “Imagine Not Knowing… the feeling of making a difference,” then help support Project INK. Showing support can be as simple as liking us on Facebook and Instagram. Or if you or anyone you know are interested in getting involved then email: projectinkcolumbus@equitashealth.com for more information.

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Facebook: www.facebook.com/projectinkcolumbus

IG: project_ink_columbus

 

Breaking Barriers for Latino Children

 

From our country to our community, we are experiencing demographic changes that will alter how we serve our people and how we relate to each other. It is projected that by 2035, one in three children will be Latino. Currently, 51% of Latino children in Franklin County live in distressed (low-opportunity) neighborhoods. Therefore, we chose to acknowledge these changes by focusing the 2016 Champion of Children Report: Voices of Latino Boys on their experiences here in central Ohio. How we respond to these changes today will determine how many opportunities lie ahead and how successful these boys are tomorrow.

Key challenges noted in the report include:

  • Limited time and resources available to help parents prepare for the future;
  • Language barriers at home and in the community; and
  • Documentation status and the stress that goes with it.

Parents want more for their children than they themselves had. Many are working multiple jobs and long hours to support their family. Ironically, it was the boys that we spoke with that called for more resources and support for their parents. Additionally, the boys described how having positive influences, mentors, would help their peers “make better choices and not go down the wrong path.”

Language barriers present several challenges. Boys noted the difficulty in switching back and forth from one language at home to another at school. We heard about long appointment wait times for translators to become available. Additionally, overcoming the assumption that Spanish is the universal language of Latinos is a barrier for those needing to access their native language.

The fear of deportation can be subtle but powerful, regardless of actual legal status. Latino boys in our community are acutely aware of how delicate this situation could be. Many expressed anxiety over deportation and immigration issues for their family and friends. Estimating a number of immigrants in central Ohio, or even the U.S., without documentation is challenging for several reasons. However, we do know that in 2009, nearly 60% of Latino children in the U.S. lived in families in which at least one parent is an immigrant.

While describing challenges faced by our Latino boys the report simultaneously showcases their resilience and determination. They described great cultural pride and many credit their parents for their achievements. Latinos show strength in social ties to faith, family and friends and leverage each to support one another.

As a community, we can contribute to the future success our Latino boys. These recommendations are your call to action.

  • Create a diverse teacher pipeline to match the demographic pipeline.
  • Promote emotionally and culturally intelligent practices within the classroom.
  • Support dedicated advocates. From guides to help parents better navigate our systems to mentors to provide a positive influence in these boys’ lives.
  • Provide a dedicated place where affordable resources are available for parents and children. For children, the space would a safe place with educational and constructive activities. Resources for parents include job assistance, legal assistance, English classes, etc.

To download a copy of the report, go here

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Delilah Lopez is the Director of Champion of Children for United Way of Central Ohio (UWCO). She develops and executes funding strategies to expand public awareness and education around issues impacting children in our community. Through branded events and communication, she engages and mobilizes the community around these critical issues. Throughout her 15-year career, Delilah has successfully demonstrated her ability to educate, mobilize and raise funds that have been invested in strategies to reduce poverty in the community, protect the environment, and fund medical research. Delilah’s UWCO career began in April 2011 as a member of the Corporate Resource Development team. During this time she raised more than $40 million by managing external year-round relationships with current and prospective donors, volunteers and advocates through community engagement, education, and workplace campaigns. She continues to co-lead United Way’s strategy for engaging the central Ohio Latino community. Delilah’s community involvement includes membership in the Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) and E3 Initiative mentor. She also volunteers for and attends events benefiting women’s and children’s issues, animal welfare, and the environment. Delilah attended Bowling Green State University, majoring in Recreation and Tourism, with a focus in Commercial Tourism.  A native of Toledo, Ohio, Delilah has resided in Columbus since 2003.

 

Know Your Biases: Behavioral Health across Cultures

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July is recognized as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and provides an opportunity to highlight the critical need to ensure diverse populations receive equitable behavioral health services. There is much improvement to be made in Ohio to reduce pervasive health disparities. Social determinants are crucial contributing factors, but an overall lack of cultural competence in the field is also to blame.

With innovative approaches such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aimed at improving access to care, the focus has now shifted to ensuring services are cognizant and respectful of cultural beliefs and practices. This is the foundation of providing culturally competent care. The catalyst for this change was the realization that disparities exist beyond socioeconomic status and are directly linked to racial, ethnic, and cultural background. For example, a child born to an African American woman in Ohio with a PhD is less likely to reach their first birthday than a child born to a Caucasian woman with no high school diploma.

Oftentimes it is assumed that a one size fits all approach is the most impartial; research on implicit bias has disproven this as it relates to health. Providers retain biases that impact their delivery of care resulting in disparate outcomes. In behavioral health, many providers have a higher propensity to diagnose diverse consumers as being schizophrenic or bipolar while their counterparts are thought to have a less severe anxiety disorders. Frequent misdiagnoses are also tied to prevalent over-prescribing tendencies that have afflicted minority communities.

Behavioral health services in Ohio must be tailored to meet the needs of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Franklin County continues to see significant growth in immigrant communities, namely the Somali and Bhutanese/Nepalese populations. Similarly, the Latino population is increasing in Northeast Ohio. New Americans face unique challenges related to behavioral health; many suffer disproportionately with trauma related disorders. The rapid diversification of the state underscores the urgency needed to implement practices rooted in cultural competence.

What are some actionable next steps? Conducting cultural audits and other self-assessments of systems and agencies must be the first step to improving the delivery of care to diverse communities. Implementation of the National Enhanced CLAS (Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Service) Standards is also essential as they provide much needed framework. Standards listed under Theme II, Communication and Language Assistance, are federally mandated.

The Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence (MACC) remains committed to providing the support necessary for behavioral health providers, agencies and systems to successfully incorporate best practices. Together with our partners and members across the state, MACC remains steadfast in the fruition of our mission- “Enhance the quality of care in Ohio’s health care system and incorporate culturally competent models of practice into the systems and organizations that provide services to Ohio’s diverse populations”.

Editor’s Note:  We encourage our readers to check out MACC’s upcoming 2016 Statewide Training Conference taking place October 6th and October 7th at the Columbus State Community College’s Center for Workforce Development.  For more information, please click here.


Simone Crawley currently serves as the Executive Director for the Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence, Inc. (MACC). Throughout her career at The Ohio State University, Simone served as a Page in the Ohio House of Representatives. She earned her degree in Political Science. Expanding her public policy background, she served as an aide to Assistant Minority Leader Charleta B. Tavares for three years. During her time at the Ohio Senate, Simone was also elected President of the Ohio Young Black Democrats where she aided in the successful campaigns of several legislative candidates. In January 2015, Simone began working to ensure cultural proficiency and improved health outcomes in Ohio as the Program Coordinator for the Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence, Inc (MACC). She has served as the Executive Director since March 2016.