Bebashi - Celebrating Community Healthcare
Celebrating Black History is a way for all Americans to acknowledge the power that communities have to empower people and to provide a support system when no adequate resources are in place. In 1985, a community in Philadelphia saw the plight that the HIV epidemic was causing and responded to it.
A need in their community
Rashidah Abdul-Khabeer, Wesley Anderson Jr., and their community founded the Bebashi - Transition to Hope organization to respond to this need. It started off with no paid staff and a loaned office space.
Starting with the most basic means and a strong vision, Bebashi became the first Black organization to address the AIDS crisis and continues to provide healthcare support to the community to this day.1
The purpose of Bebashi is:1
To empower people to enhance the quality of their health and overall well-being by providing access to culturally sensitive high-quality healthcare, HIV/AIDS services, health education, and social services.
In their mission, the commitment to overall health and well-being goes beyond the car mechanic model of healthcare and focuses on the entire individual. There is an underlying ethic that a healthy individual is one that also is provided with education and access to basic social services in addition to the medical treatment that they receive.
How Bebashi came together
From an interview with Ms. Abdul-Khabeer, she remarks about her experiences in the 1980s with a homeless youth that was diagnosed with kidney failure and AIDS. She recognized how unjust it was for someone to be diagnosed with this disease and how the lack of medical and sexual health knowledge and adequate financial stability would most likely be the cause of the virus' spread to others.
Because of this, she created health education materials, guidelines, and policies to better inform staff members and patients in the clinic where she was working.
Focus on the Black community
As she got more involved, she realized that this epidemic was getting very little attention or resources in the Black community. She began a partnership with Wesley Anderson Jr., a respected public health educator and activist, to begin this work.
In coming up with a name for this organization, they strategized about what they were planning to do: Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues. And that is how BEBASHI came to be.
35 years of community-centered care
This organization, for over thirty years, regularly conducts outreach at festivals and events in the Philadelphia area, sponsors and organizes wellness events for the wider community, including yoga classes, ‘Ball parties’ that includes the foundations of drag competitions, exercise classes, holiday parties and other events that are important to the overall wellness of those living with HIV. They provide healthcare services to the larger community with STI and pregnancy testing, breast cancer screenings, and more.
Commitment to community-led intiatives
Their commitment to community-led health endeavors is a model that should be replicated in urban environments. It is striving to meet the changing needs of the community. With a mission to uplift and empower, organizations like Bebashi - Transition to Hope should be celebrated every month.
Do you know any local organization that should be celebrated? Comment below.
At what age were you diagnosed with HIV?