Celebrating our identities & our liberation

Summer’s celebrations of Queer love, Black identity & liberation, Latin culture, and activism.

Our community engagement teams are gearing up for a busy festival season this spring and summer, with celebrations and activism around Pride, Juneteenth, TransMarch, Carnaval, and more. 

Summer festival season kicks off with Carnaval, which was held in the Mission May 27-28. For our Latinx Health team and volunteers, community events like Carnaval are not only a chance to come together in community celebration–they present important opportunities for increasing awareness around health issues disproportionately affecting Latinx communities. 

“We know that Latinx community members are overrepresented in overdose deaths, hepatitis C, and HIV infections,” said Jorge Zepeda, director of Latinx Health. “And we also know our community is interested in overdose prevention and reversals, substance use services, PrEP, and PEP. We have so many people who come through the event, it’s an important way that we share information and connect people to services.”

Volunteers are an important bridge to bring education to the Latinx community. Photo: SFAF’s Latinx Health team & volunteers at Carnaval, 2023.

Eduardo Siqueiros, with Latinx Health, said that the team trained a cohort of community volunteers on how to engage with festival attendees, talk about some of these priority issues, and also connect people to in-person services. Volunteers made referrals and handed out resources at Carnaval, and will do the same at the Latinx Health Pavilion on Polk Street during Pride. 

“We’re excited to create a fun, safe, and welcoming event,” said Siqueiros. “And also to talk to people, and let them know that SFAF is providing a sanctuary space in downtown San Francisco. We end up meeting a lot of younger people who may not be able to easily get information about things like PrEP and overdose prevention in Spanish. They have questions, and we’re able to talk with them and also give them prevention resources like condoms.” 

Mid-June brings Juneteenth, a day when we commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. Our Black Health team will hold a Juneteenth event for the community at San Francisco AIDS Foundation on June 15, with food, performances, and holistic health services including acupuncture, reiki, and body movement. The team will also be present at the San Francisco Juneteenth Freedom Celebration in the Fillmore on June 17. 

“This is an opportunity for us to lift up and celebrate Black identity and liberation,” said Brian Ragas, Black Health director. “And this intersects with our celebrations around LGBTQ+ liberation and identity. It’s an interesting time in San Francisco–there’s a lot of discussion around identity, representation, and reparations. These celebrations are important for our team, our clients, and our community members as a way to affirm our identities, build camaraderie, build self-empowerment, and offer a perspective on where we see ourselves in the world.”  

Bringing Black women together in celebration and community has been the focus of Ebony Gordon, who leads a community group for Black women named HUES. 

“We have to be very intentional in how we engage Black women,” said Gordon. “The majority of people in San Francisco who are living with HIV are white gay men–so we actively have to create spaces and events that honor the experiences and lives of the people we want to reach. Building relationships is absolutely essential when working with communities of color.” 

Recently, the group held a “Mothers of the Movement Day” to recognize women involved in the HIV movement for many years. HUES will celebrate Black liberation at the Juneteenth event, and is also engaged in an ongoing project to create mural art depicting stories of womanhood, some who have stories of HIV. 

“We’ve had a lot of intense, meaningful, and emotional conversations in preparation for the mural project. It’s going to be something really special,” said Gordon.  

Activism and visibility are at the forefront this Pride season for members of our Aging Services and Black Health teams. 

“Our 50-Plus Network is the ACT-UP Generation,” said Vince Crisostomo, Aging Services director. “Doing rallies, advocacy–that has been part of our experience as a community devastated by HIV. We are working with the HIV Advocacy Network (HAN), to advocate for a number of priorities to be included in the City Budget–everything from funding for mental health services for long-term survivors, to housing, to safe consumption services.”

“It’s incredibly important for long-term survivors, such as myself, to speak up and advocate for people living with HIV,” said Paul Aguilar, long-term survivor community liaison. “We are the first generation to age with HIV, so there are new things that come up all the time that we didn’t know and couldn’t have planned for. This advocacy affects us, but also the next generations coming behind us.” 

Jam Chen, Aging Services program coordinator, spoke about the importance of fighting for trans rights during this season of Pride–and always. 

“We continue to witness state violence enacted against trans people, from police brutality to a lack of accessible housing resources to policies restricting access to life-affirming health care,” said Chen. “The state violence parallels the interpersonal violence. Across the country we’re seeing proposals and enactments of policies that target trans youth. Even here in San Francisco, our partner organizations that work with youth are creating comprehensive safety plans and taking extra measures to protect youth in programming efforts.” 

For Pride, the team will be partnering with our Black Health and TransCare team to represent SFAF at the Trans March and resource fair, June 23, in Dolores Park. And, they are partnering with Black Health to hold an intergenerational trans brunch in honor of trans activist Felicia Elizondo, also known as Felicia Flames, at the Women’s Building on June 15.  

Leading up to the Trans March, the team is collaborating with the SF Poster Syndicate in a protest art build–harkening back to the history of Trans March’s roots in resistance and activism. 

“We’ll do a community brainstorm, looking to people’s feelings, visions, and inspirations for guidance, and  work with trans artists from SF Poster Syndicate to create protest signs for the Trans March,” said Chen. “It will be a big intergenerational art build where we’re using our voices and artwork to resist ongoing anti-trans terror and simultaneously build community and our movement.”  

The Aging Services and 50-Plus Network teams are reserving time for celebration and joy, as well, with their ongoing Salsa Sundays at El Rio, a Pride party with PRC, attending Frameline movies, and an upcoming celebration of Paul Aguilar who was selected as San Francisco Pride’s Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal.   

“With the Elizabeth Taylor 50-Plus network, we used to have large groups in Zoom meetings and smaller numbers of people in person at events like weekend coffee meet-ups, and now we’re starting to have big groups in person and smaller numbers of people on Zoom,” said Dusty Araujo, program manager for Aging Services. “We have new members coming, and we are working on getting some of the folks who stopped attending back into the community. I hope you can join us this summer!”

About the author

San Francisco AIDS Foundation

San Francisco AIDS Foundation promotes health, wellness and social justice for communities most impacted by HIV through sexual health and substance use services, advocacy, and community partnerships. Each year more than 21,000 people rely on SFAF programs and services, and millions more access SFAF health information online.