By Taroue Brooks
Photo Provided by C. Virginia Fields
C. Virginia Fields is a change agent. A breast cancer survivor, she has spent the past 11 years at the helm of a leading HIV/AIDS advocacy organization, which recently announced a major development – an organizational evolution to become a comprehensive advocacy, action and policy group that is moving beyond HIV/AIDS to address multiple health issues and disparities affecting African Americans.
“Championing Black health through advocacy, policy and action is the main goal of our newly-expanded organization,” says Fields. “As NBLCA, we have had great success in helping to educate, mobilize and empower communities around HIV/AIDS, and are now taking on the mantle of broader services to move beyond health disparity to achieve health equity for African Americans across the country.”
What is the general state of health for African Americans and what propelled you to move forward with the rebrand of National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA) the National Black Leadership Commission on Health (NBLCH), or as you sometimes refer to it as simply, Black Health?
African Americans are impacted disproportionately by a number of diseases: cardiovascular, breast cancer, prostate cancer, sickle cell, diabetes and mental health. What we’ve found is that African Americans are affected by these diseases and health challenges much more than any other racial or ethnic group of people. Because of our work in HIV, where we have affiliates around the country, and partner with a number of other organizations, we see or hear the connection or intersectionality between HIV/AIDS and these other diseases. We have to focus on them [and] provide resources and information. Our scope of work has expanded over the last five years, we decided that we needed to be more inclusive in these areas programmatically, through policy, advocacy and to try to get changes in terms of focus in these areas. We went through an intensive year and a half process working with communications and marketing firms, doing focus groups, working with our board of directors and experts in various areas of health where we’re focused to get perspective as well as our colleagues in the field of HIV/AIDS and community people.
What are the plans to engage millennials? What types of outreach efforts and live activations can we expect?
Millennials are so very important in this areas. One of the things that we will be doing is reaching them where they are – on social media.
We are going to our HBCUs to do educational forums, summits, and partnerships so that the work around education and awareness will continue.
We will work the sororities and fraternities, as well as civic and community groups — the NAACP and the Urban League because they have youth groups looking into the next leadership within these organizations and we want to tap into that. They also have health committees that are being led by youth.
Winning At Living – Debunking Mental Health Stigmas
NBLCH champions the promotion of health and prevention of diseases to reduce disparities and achieve equity within the black community.
Our vision is to reduce disparities and achieve equity to promote the health and well-being of Black communities through advocacy, policy, and action.
The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA) was founded by Debra Frazer-Howze in 1987 where she lead the organization for 21 years, as President and CEO. Building on the strong and solid foundation of NBLCA – the nation’s oldest nonprofit organization of 32 years dedicated to educating, mobilizing and empowering Black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS – it has evolved to become a comprehensive advocacy, policy and action organization to address multiple health issues and disparities affecting African Americans. With a new Mission and Vision, NBLCA will now be known as the National Black Leadership Commission on Health (NBLCH) with an expanded focus to include HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostrate cancer, sickle cell, diabetes and mental health. Championing black health through advocacy, policy and action is the main goal of our newly expanded organization.
The branding for NBLCH includes a new logo and key communication elements across several areas including the website. The new logo is in keeping with the tradition of the beloved NBLCA Kente cloth ribbon and wording that positions the organization as a health group that continues the fight against HIV/AIDS as well as embrace black health overall.
The change comes after an intensive year long review and research efforts by NBLCA’s Board of Directors, staff, partners, funders, external advisors and community focus groups to delve into the health needs of African Americans as our culture and society continue to shift away from the issue. The results compelled NBLCA to re-evaluate its programs and mission to include expanded focused areas of health and levels of service that address the overall health and well-being of African Americans. Thus, NBLCH was formed.