Beyond the Quo
Beyond the Quo is an advocacy and educational network for Black gay men who are infected and affected by HIV.
It has the following goals:
To accomplish these goals, BTQ utilizes a two pronged approach: online organizing and communication through social media, and ground level advocacy and engagement through a team of volunteers known as BTQ Officers.
It allows digital savvy Black gay men to utilize their understanding of and experiences in navigating through digital social media networks to disseminate information, connect to supportive networks, gain technical assistance in implementing community-based events and engage with peers around the country. It marries online engagement with ground level mobilization and advocacy giving Black gay men a space to connect, express, inform and affirm each other, while increasing the visibility and awareness of issues around the Black gay experience in the United States.
Through this initiative, participants are able to access and share health-related information and resources, gain peer support in managing cultural and social issues and get involved with reducing HIV infection rates in their local communities. Beyond the Quo puts the tools to ending the epidemic in the hands of Black gay men, encouraging diverse methods of digital communication along with creative opportunities for peer engagement.
Research reveals that increased rates of HIV among Black gay men are due, in part, to the unique and particular challenges they face, including stigma, fear, poverty, socioeconomic factors, higher rates of STDs and inadequate government funding. New usages of communication mechanisms like social media and modifying current language around HIV-related information is crucial to sustain current programmatic successes as well as maintaining momentum to an AIDS-free generation.
Black gay men utilize social media daily in methods of communication, socialization and entertainment. Their intuitive understanding of social navigation through online networks is key to effectively disseminating information -- in their own style and appropriate language -- around unmet HIV-related needs. This peer-led and supported educational effort is essential in combating HIV.
The splash page of Beyond the Quo houses stories, articles, videos and links that celebrate, affirm and empower the Black gay experience in America. It is designed in a manner in which participants access information, share their thoughts, engage with peers and get involved with national and local events. Visitors can also participate in online town hall forums where we discuss various topics and and themes highlighted on the splash page. Visit BeyondtheQuo.tumblr.com.
Ground level advocacy and engagement is conducted by Boosters, Advocates and Cabinet Members, who together comprise BTQ Officers. Their combined efforts consist of volunteering at community-based organizations by participating in health fairs, facilitating community forums or conducting discussions around social, medical and cultural issues relevant to Black gay men. They give personal testimony that sheds light on their HIV experiences, both as infected and affected by the virus. In addition, BTQ Officers produce the articles that are showcased online, conduct and facilitate online forums and discussions, and lead public webinars.
Black gay men become eligible to participate in BTQ at one of the three levels of engagement based on their performance on an online assessment tool. Each Officer is required to complete an assessment every three months.
Boosters act as volunteers at a local community service organization in their home city. They engage with community members, act as BTQ recruiters and spread the word about BTQ's online presence. They participate in two online community forums each month, volunteer at a community event and submit a monthly report on their activities.
Advocates are BTQ's speaker's bureau. They travel throughout their home city, giving public testimony and accounts about being HIV-infected. They engage with organizations and assist in normalizing an ongoing dialogue around HIV-related issues. They also promote BTQ's online presence. They participate in four online community forums each month and submit a monthly report on their activities.
Cabinet Members are responsible for generating online articles focused on one of seven topic areas. They provide their expertise and post the results of their research online both as a means to disseminate information as well as stimulate dialogue. They are also charged with facilitating monthly online community forums in the form of webinars. As with other BTQ Officers, they submit a monthly report on their activities.
BTQ's Assessment Tool evaluates potential BTQ Officers based on their knowledge, beliefs and feelings around HIV, openness about disclosure of HIV status and sexual orientation and abilities around engagement. The tool is given every three months to measure the engagement that each Officer has had within their community. The tool will track each participant's progression within BTQ as well as their increased capacity in mobilization and information dissemination.
To become a BTQ candidate, send your name, phone number, zip code and email address to rigr@BlackAIDS.org. You will complete the Assessment Tool and then be contacted by the engagement coordinator to discuss your performance and the next steps in the process.