Solidarity Workshop: Understanding Oppression Across Communities

November 2007 • Issue 7

AIDS thrives on injustice, inequality, and oppression. The epidemic disproportionately affects those who are marginalized and relatively powerless, including communities of color (most disproportionately African Americans), women, young people, trans and gender non-conforming people, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and drug users. Oppressed and stigmatized communities are not only marginalized from the centers of power in society, but we are typically isolated from each other. We’re often distrustful of each other because we haven’t had the experience of working together toward common goals and because of the psychological and social consequences of oppression – things like racism, sexism, and homophobia. We also often feel that we need to compete and sometimes fight with each other for a share of already scarce resources to meet our community’s needs. As a larger community, it’s important that we prioritize the most impacted groups so that everyone’s needs are met. Conflict can sometimes emerge from this important dialogue, and that may be necessary for us to build unity based on honesty and trust. But it is not the same thing as allowing our adversaries to divide us, which is always harmful.

“Divide and conquer” is an age-old strategy that the wealthy and powerful few use to maintain control over everyone else. As long as we’re divided and fighting among ourselves, those in power keep shrinking our share of society’s total resources and give more and more of it to wars overseas and tax breaks and subsidies for the rich here at home. When we build bridges across our divisions on the road to unity in action, we become stronger. We build real power that can win real gains.

These divisions are deeply rooted. Most of us have little practice in bridging and overcoming them, in turning our diversity of experience into strength as a coalition. So it takes a lot of work. This workshop, which is outlined in detail in the World AIDS Day & Affiliated Events Action Kit at, is a start. Conducting the Solidarity Workshop with your activist group, AIDS service organization staff, support group or anywhere can be an opportunity to start framing the issue and the tasks ahead while taking concrete steps to build the Prevention Justice Mobilization.

This workshop will allow you to:

1. Identify and analyze the barriers to solidarity among folks in the AIDS community, with a focus on differences and issues that create tensions and divisiveness;

2. Examine how power and privilege operate in the AIDS community based on HIV status, race, gender, sexual orientation and gender expression, class, nationality, age, and religion;

3. Understand the importance and strengths of diversity in the AIDS community to become a stronger ally to other marginalized communities; and

4. See Prevention Justice as a way to work across differences and rise up out of competition with one another in order to build a stronger, more effective movement to end AIDS – and to link up and build alliances with other social justice movements.

Download the workshop materials (in PDF format).

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Filed under economic justice, people with AIDS in leadership, revolutionary strategies, Solidarity Project, stigma

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