Health GAP is excited to welcome Jason Walker, the newest member of our team and a powerful grassroots organizer and activist. Jason is well known in the U.S. for building community and fighting for justice. You can read Jason’s bio here, but read on to get to know a little bit more about them and they’re vision for U.S. grassroots organizing and advocacy.
You’ve been an organizer for a number of years. Can you tell us more about your journey as an organizer?
My first time organizing was a student at the University of Louisville when I led a walkout of over 300 students and faculty members joining in solidarity with the Jena Six – six African American high school students who were egregiously charged for a school yard fight with a white classmate who had hung a noose on a tree. From then on, I started advocating and organizing primarily on racial justice issues on campus and in the community of Louisville. Later, in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s murder, I was the lead organizer of a citywide march and rally which birthed the #Louisville4Trayvon collective, now the Louisville Chapter of Black Lives Matter.
After my diagnosis, I moved to New York City and began organizing at VOCAL New York as their HIV Campaign Coordinator. There I worked to pass two pieces of key legislation that expanded and secured affordable housing for homeless and very low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. From that work and recognizing the need to support LGBTQ and transgender, gender nonconforming and nonbinary (TGNCNB) young people who are homeless, I began organizing young people to ensure that they had access to housing to reduce their risk of contracting the virus.
What do you think is the role of U.S.-based activists fighting for HIV treatment access and global health justice right now?
Right now, we are in a moment where we are seeing and experiencing the shortcomings of systems that allege that they are designed to keep us all healthy and safe. From healthcare to policing, our systems are currently under serious evaluation. During this unique time of observation, the role of activists is to optimize this current socio-political moment to speak greater truth to power to ensure that systems are redesigned in a fashion that is equitable, healing, and restorative to communities that have been historically and systemically harmed by injustice and inequalities found in our healthcare systems.
How do you envision U.S.-based people connecting with the global movement, particularly in this moment?
First, people must learn the truth of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and understand the systemic barriers to treatment access that undermine global health justice. This learning and understanding is necessary to confidently move into the global space and to do so without doing harm to communities directly impacted by global health injustice.
We must also learn and identify with the values and the vision of the members of the global community who are meaningfully invested in restorative health equity and justice.
Lastly, we must unite through community building, civic engagement, and direct action. There is no town that is too small nor a city that is too big to have a global impact in the global movement. We must always “think globally and act locally.” Technology and social media also provide us with an opportunity to connect with the global movement. Digital and virtual platforms should be used to develop and strengthen communities that are united by our shared interest in putting people’s healthcare and our planet’s wellbeing first.
What are your goals as an organizer with Health GAP? Is there anything specific you hope to accomplish this year? Further down the line?
My main goal and focus as an organizer is to support the development and growth of an intersectional movement that works to resolve systemic public health injustices. This year, alongside my amazing colleague Emily, I hope to develop an effective membership training series that will increase and expand the reach of Health GAP’s base of activists who will lead in key states throughout the country.
We hope this radically energized base will guide and lead with us in impacting both local and federal laws to support the health and wellbeing of the HIV/AIDS community.
How do you recharge? Do you have any hobbies?
I love dancing and going to see live art and musical performances. Particularly jazz and neo-soul. I love a good groove. I enjoy going to the beach, dinner with friends, and traveling. Lately, I am relearning how to garden and working on being a good plant dad. Gardening has been a major part of my self care and wellness. I also love a good Epsom salt bath with wine, music, and chocolates. Mediation and yoga and qi-gong are very helpful to me. My favorite way to recharge is by being with loved ones.