How BBE is Serving the Black Community
In the midst of the pandemic and social unrest, Black Brothers Esteem (BBE), a program of San Francisco AIDS Foundation, continues to serve its members virtually. Staff who manage the program plan to host more digital events and partner with community organizations to amplify Black voices.
Last year when the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order took effect, the program moved everything online: Its book club, “Brothers Who Read,” and social connection events became Zoom meetings. Seeking to overcome socio-economic barriers to staying connected in a socially-distant world, the program sought to provide smartphones to members who didn’t have Internet access. Now they can attend events, like game nights, where they can maintain a connection in a time of social isolation.
“We shifted to online services primarily, so it was imperative that our members had the needed equipment,” Traye Turner, BBE program assistant, said. “This way we can make sure no one slips through the cracks, or that people aren’t left behind.”
For outreach volunteers, the staff provided iPads and training around video conferencing and social media best practices.
Health and wellness is a large part of the program. Outreach volunteers provide regular wellness checks by calling members to stay connected.
The program also provides options for food security. Members can access monthly shelter-in-place resource packages. These packages include gift cards to Safeway. Alongside the packages, members can receive gift cards to local restaurants.
“I think that continuing to do this work in a way that really centers Black people, Black voices, and the Black perspective is important,” Turner said. “It’s like [we have these] teams that are specialized and work within these communities. And these decisions are being made by members of the community and by external factors.”
To start Black History Month, Associate Director of Community Events & Engagement Tony Bradford, Director of Black Health Preston Vargas, and Turner are co-hosting an event with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, San Francisco Human Rights Commission, San Francisco Community Health Center, PRC, Shanti, and LYRIC Center for LGBTQQ Youth. The event, “UMOJA: Honoring and Preserving Black Lives through Unity, Mobilization, Outreach, Justice, and Action,” is built around the first principle of Kwanzaa, Umoja. This event takes place on Friday, February 5, 2021, from 5 pm to 7 pm on Zoom.
On Feb. 7, BBE will release a statement along with community partners to commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
Established in 1996, Black Brothers Esteem supports and empowers African American men vulnerable to or living with HIV through community events and social support. To see the impact of our program, watch members describe how BBE changed their lives. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZusAkVGk0A&feature=youtu.be. To get more information, visit https://www.sfaf.org/programs/bbe-black-brothers-esteem/.