Transdiaspora Network’s Newsletter

Transdiaspora Network Newsletter

Issue XXVII – Summer 2013


As the 2013 mayoral election looms, many are taking stock of Michael Bloomberg’s three terms in office. Some may worry about the direction of the city in the post-Bloomberg years; others are ready for a change; the mayoral candidates are full of promises; and New York City continues to make significant progress in expanding opportunities for people of all backgrounds. But as we look at the data on poverty, high school dropouts, health, unemployment, and crime, one fact stands out: culturally diverse communities, especially youth, are still disproportionately affected.

And so Transdiaspora Network’s work in these communities continues. For the last 7 months, our team of young professionals has been busy creating a new Brooklyn health initiative, engaging more youth in our programs, and expanding our community outreach to new areas in the borough including Sheepshead Bay and Brownsville. We also forged new collaborations with the NYC Health Department and Columbia University as well as with Counseling in Schools and Community Health Network. But rest assured — as the city undergoes its leadership change in the next several months, one thing will remain the same: TDN’s agenda to motivate our youth to be the best they can be. Won’t you join us? To get updates, to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. And stay tuned for the launch of our new website, coming soon!

Ariel Rojas, MS, MA
TDN President/Founder


New Relevant Partnerships

TDN has formalized two relevant partnerships with Columbia University Center for Career Education’s Virtual Internship Program (VIP) and Community Health Network (CHN). The VIP provides students with a virtual internship based in cities across the globe in a variety of career fields. The VIP interns will be associated to the organization through our BOLD Initiative internship, starting in the Spring of 2014, and participants will learn about health promotion, youth development, civic engagement and community outreach.

Regarding the other collaboration, CHN will not only assist TDN in providing HIV testing and harm reduction counseling as well as referrals to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) and primary/family planning care services. This city-wide agency will also help us with educational sessions for the high school students enrolled in our RIPPLE Program. Some of our BOLD Initiative interns will benefit from it by visiting CHN health centers scattered across the New York metropolitan area.

TDN New Board Member

Prof. Richard Glover is an Adjunct Faculty at the Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW). He received a Masters degree in Social Work Administration from CUSSW and a Bachelor degree in Business Administration from Boston University. Prof. Glover is the Executive Director of the Division of School Safety and Prevention of the New York City Department of Education/Office of School Safety and Planning, and he is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Social Enterprise Administration. As a board member, Prof. Glover will be involved in matters related to development and fundraising.

TDN New Brooklyn Health Initiative “Tour to Health”

New York City Department of Health, along with Citizen Committee for New York City, is on board to support Transdiaspora Network’s new pilot program “Tour to Health” in Brooklyn’s local communities.

In addition to monthly HIV prevention and health promotion workshops for our culturally diverse youth, the “Tour to Health” encompasses community outreach activities within our borough, site visits to significant local organizations, neighborhood clinics and cultural institutions serving Brooklyn-based residents while advocating for strong community identity and cultural values. Our leading organization is moving forward with this new collaboration to engage youth proactively in regard to eating healthy food and HIV prevention. This is a real milestone! To read more, you can access the post Connecting the Dots at our community blog post.

TDN New Manager, BOLD Intern and Team Members

Our new Program Manager Jasmine Knowles obtained her Masters degree from Columbia University School of Social Work with a concentration in Advanced Clinical Practice and School-Based and School-Linked services. In 2012, she got her BA with Magna Cum Laude from University of Maryland Baltimore County where she studied social work and sociology. Jasmine has experience working the adolescents in various settings. Additionally, she has designed, coordinated, and implemented various activities and programs for individuals and groups in Baltimore and NYC including health fairs, community outreach activities, and college visits. Jasmine is dedicated to increasing knowledge and raising awareness among the community, high schools, and individuals, and also has been proactively engaged in supervising TDN teens volunteer, in improving our innovative RIPPLE program’s curriculum and expanding our network of possibilities. She just received her NYS license as a social worker.

La-Kenia Green, our BOLD Initiative intern, was born and raised in Brooklyn and has a Puerto Rican- Trinidadian background. Starting September 2013, she will be a senior at Sheepshead Bay High School. She is taking steps towards her goals of attending college and becoming a successful veterinarian. She plans on using her leadership qualities and outspoken personality to bring the community together through the arts.

Jonathan Zacks, TDN Digital Strategist, received his BA in Computer Sciences from Vassar College in 2002. He oversees the organization’s IT and digital procedures, and puts out all technology fires to increase the visibility of our work. He divides his time between helping TDN and running Mac Help NYC, where he brought together a network of like-minded consultants to form his IT solutions team. He is leading the re-development of our organization’s new website.

Rebecca Brown, a Brooklyn-born advocate for cultural arts and TDN Program Associate, earned her Masters degree from New York University and is working towards her clinical licensure. She also holds a BS in Psychology with a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from Northeastern University. During her undergraduate studies, Rebecca also attended Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the University of Miami, enrolled as a dance minor in both schools.

Carina Alencar, TDN International Development Consultant, is a Brazilian educated in the United States. After attending Vassar College (Major in Drama and Africana Studies), she ventured into East Asia where she worked and studied. She spent time in Japan and Korea and completed a Masters degree in International Cooperation for Development at Yonsei University in Seoul.

TDN New Ambassadors

Les Nubians, the sound of a multicultural new world and the R&B Grammy-nominated duo composed of sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart, has officially declared their support to Transdiaspora Network’s overall mission and has joined our movement to walk toward an AIDS-free generation.

The women of Les Nubians were shaped by many influences. Their unique sound led to a recording deal with Virgin Records and in 1998 their debut album, Princesses Nubiennes was released in Europe. But the albums innovative mix of hip hop, neo soul and African music found an audience in America and “Makeda” the first single from Princesses Nubiennes became an urban radio hit. Massive media attention, successful tours and a Grammy nomination followed as well as nominations for two NAACP Image Awards and two Soul Train Lady Of Soul Awards; one of which Les Nubians took home as 1999’s winner for Best New Artist Group or Duo.

TDN Six Annual Benefit Cocktail & Changemaker Award

Back in April, our organization successfully celebrated its annual benefit cocktail where we presented TDN 2013 Changemaker Awardees. This year, the winners were Claire Simon, the co-founder and co-director of Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition, and Aida León, the Executive Director of Amethyst Women’s Project. They have demonstrated excellence and outstanding achievement in their work with the community in the field of HIV Prevention and Youth Development. Ms. Simon has been an HIV/AIDS advocate for more than two decades and Ms. León has been serving the Coney Island community for over a decade.

To see benefit cocktail’s photo album, click here.

TDN Coney Island Community Outreach

On May 1, a group of high school students from Manhattan Business Academy traveled to Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island, Brooklyn, bringing a donation of school materials (backpacks, pencils, pencil sharpener, pens, highlights markers, colored pencils, composition notebooks, note cards, pocket folder, etc.) provided by TDN for students affected by Hurricane Sandy. Later in the day, they were invited to attend an interactive educational session at Project Street Beat Mobile Medical Unit provided by the Keith Haring Foundation, where they learned how HIV testing is conducted in the community. This effort was possible thanks to the initiative of TDN Program Manager Jasmine Knowles.

2013 AIDS Walk New York

On May 19, a united community, 30,000 strong, filled the streets to take vital steps toward a future without HIV/AIDS. The rain did not stop us from marching at the 2013 AIDS Walk New York. The Transdiaspora Network-Stroock-Manhattan Business Academy team (12 members) crossed the finish line in great spirit. Our small team’s effort helps to raised $5,504,281 for GMHC and more than 40 other critically important local AIDS service organizations. These funds enable GMHC and its community partners to continue its far-reaching prevention and advocacy work that reaches hundreds of thousands in the tri-state area, as well as provide urgently needed food, access to medical care, counseling, linkages to safe housing, and other crucial direct services to thousands of people in need living with HIV/AIDS.

TDN HIV Prevention & Health Promotion Workshop

On June 24, at Sheepshead Bay High School, students opened up about their and others’ experiences with HIV/AIDS, social stigma, self-esteem, and sexual health, through dance mediation and discussion workshops. At the beginning, students were hesitant to share experiences, but after a dance session and role-playing, they quickly warmed up to the idea that the group of peers served as a safe, confidential safe within which, to open up, ask questions, and get personal.

To read more, you can access our community blog post The Miraculous Conversation.

Brooklyn Knows Celebrated National HIV Testing Day

On June 28, TDN President/Founder Ariel Rojas joined the Brooklyn community at Borough Hall to support National HIV Testing Day and to enjoy an exciting day of local performances and testing. Dr. Sweeney gave her last speech as representative of NYC DOHMH HIV/AIDS Bureau and received the Brooklyn Borough President Proclamation for her outstanding work as one of the most vocal representative of NYC Health Department.

TDN is a proud member of the NYC Department of Health’s Brooklyn Knows HIV Testing Initiative. Brooklyn Knows is New York City’s second borough-wide HIV testing initiative (following The Bronx Knows) and one of the largest HIV testing efforts in the country. Brooklyn has some of the highest numbers of persons living with HIV in New York City. By the end of 2011, approximately 27,700 Brooklyn residents had been diagnosed and were reported to be living with HIV/AIDS.

TDN Winner of Citizen Committee for NYC Grant

On July 9, our President/Founder attended a meeting with Emi Wang and Wilfredo Florentino, representatives from Citizen Committee for New York City, where they officially awarded TDN’s pilot program “Tour to Health” as one of their Neighborhood Grant winners to address health issues in the Brooklyn community.


Bringing Awareness to the Minds of All Ages.
By La-Kenia Green, TDN BOLD Initiative Intern.

My community is disconnected and change is desperately needed, as a result of this, many do not engage in conversation and the feelings are mutual. Besides separateness, violence plays a major role in dysfunctional social behaviors such as fighting and gang relations. Therefore causing people to do outrageous and dangerous practices such as being sexually inclined or using drugs. Drugs are the gateway to risky actions. In my community, young people are involved in drugs, alcohol, and gangs hence this is the cause for the spread of HIV/AIDS.

My role as a BOLD intern is to enlighten and bring awareness to the minds of all ages. Firstly, my goal is to be the voice for people who can’t express themselves in a more positive way and guide them on the way to do so. Secondly, in relation to HIV/AIDS prevention, I would work to help those who have it or know someone who has it to be themselves rather than feeling like an outcast to society. An insight of eating healthy should be recognized because it all affects the body even after you have been diagnosed. I want them to feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging so that they may return to their regular lives despite the disease. My job is to promote social innovation, community engagement and free speech.

In regards to this goal, TDN will be my supportive backbone and I want to help spread the organization. In addition to this, I want people to be aware that there are programs such as TDN that can improve your well being and your community every step of the way.

A block party, with the intention to better the neighborhood, is definitely a start. By getting people to communicate with one another through the arts, it should be a success. Social photography, dance and other various activities such as grouping will draw the connections between life and art.

In addition, a trip to a hospital would be beneficial because it would give kids a different insight on health and learn different forms of prevention. Speak to doctors, find out information and once we’ve gathered enough, make a conclusion and do an activity where groups depict the life of an HIV/AIDS carrier and try to end the story with a positive/ negative solution and determine which is best on how to keep your head up. For example, I have HIV and I use drugs but I have a friend who encourages me to go to rehab and do better. (state influences) The story could change and a family member may have AIDS and everyone treats you different, show how you react to it and how do you go about the situation. These are just some examples. This draws us back to social photography and when the assignment is completed it should be a collage of positives and negatives in the minds of an HIV/AIDS carrier.


“We can’t do well serving communities…if we believe that we, the givers, are the only ones that are half-full, and that everybody we’re serving is half-empty…there are assets and gifts out there in communities and (that) our job as good servants and good leaders is not only just being humble, but it’s having the ability to recognize those gifts in others, and help them put those gifts into action. Communities are filled with assets that we need to better recognize and mobilize if we’re really going to make a difference.”

– Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the US

Transdiaspora NetworkTM is a New York-based human capacity building non-profit organization conducting HIV prevention awareness and community-based, culturally aware preventive mentoring for a population of youth at high risk. In addition, it facilitates identification of community resources, empowerment based interventions, and educational approaches to increase health literacy. The RIPPLE Program (Dance Mediation, Storytelling Dynamics, the Social Photography Workshop) and the BOLD Initiative provide solutions that increase self-awareness and assertiveness. For more information about our organization, please visit

©Transdiaspora Network, September 2013

September 17, 2013   No Comments

Issue XXVI – Winter 2013


A New Year holds a promise of good things to come. At TDN, we are always interested in the world around us and how it affects us all, and the beginning of 2013 gave us a reason to shout out in joy: the passage of the new Health Care Reform Act, Valentine’s Day, and the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The State of the Union’s speech discussed some of our nation’s greatest challenges, and we were glad to hear that the President still considers HIV and AIDS a priority for our nation. However, too often in this fight, young people and their needs are left out or ignored. That is why young people from across the United States have joined together to call for the first ever National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day to be held on April 10, 2013. Take action now!

Throughout February, we have been celebrating Black History Month on our Facebook page featuring historical figures such as African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, Jamaica’s greatest folk heroin Grandy Nanny, and the legendary “Buffalo Soldiers.”

As our organization keeps growing, we have welcome new team members who are committed to our mission and organizational values. Rather than primary focus on the process involved in creating a cutting-edge curriculum or define our service style, TDN has jumped to a new level of performance by improving its internal coordination and gaining a community/market-focused approach that allow us to respond faster to a more unstable and complex environment.

All of us believe that generosity is not merely a matter of material offerings. Real and meaningful generosity is giving of ourselves. We give our love, our attention, our compassion, our interest, curiosity and genuine caring. We give our time, our understanding, our peaceful, positive presence and our commitment. Because of this belief, we are also organizing our 6th Annual Benefit Cocktail for April 26th, 2013, to build a new momentum and raise needed funds for the organization’s groundbreaking programs. We want to keep investing in New York City’s culturally diverse low-income communities.

Finally, I would like to introduce myself as TDN new Communications Coordinator. I will be responsible for keeping our followers abreast of the new developments, and also assist the organization in finding resources and create alliances with other community projects.

To get updates about TDN, remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sajal Javid, MEd.
TDN Communications Coordinator


TDN 2013 Changemaker Awards

Our Board of Directors is getting ready to officially announce TDN Changemaker Awards’ 2nd edition in March 2013. The Awards honor community leaders who exemplify the spirit of Trandiaspora Network and demonstrate excellence and outstanding achievement in their work with the community. The Awards recognize two innovative individuals or organizations who inspire us; they shine a light on visionaries who are taking the lead in capacity building and youth development in the HIV/AIDS prevention space and providing living examples of the power of dedication and hard work to change the world, one teen at a time. For more details, click here.

TDN Radio Interview for the Haitian Community

On February 23, President/Founder Ariel Rojas and Board Member Sophie Cardona were outstanding in introducing Transdiaspora Network to the Brooklyn-based Haitian community at Radio Comedy FM. During the 2-hour interview, which was conducted simultaneously in Creole, French and English, they engaged the audience in a fruitful and informative dialogue about HIV/AIDS. One of our listeners sent us this message: “We listened to you live! You were both fantastic, very convincing and powerful. It is truly exceptional what you are doing!” We want to thank Berlotte Israel for hosting such a delightful radio show.

TDN Awarded Hurricane Relief Grant

We are pleased to announce that Transdiaspora Network was awarded a Hurricane Relief grant from Citizens Committee for New York City (CCNYC). With CCNYC’s support, we have been able to amplify our response to hurricane Sandy in Coney Island, where in addition to our immediate response to the devastation caused by the super storm back in November, we are now planning additional community outreach and activities to address issues of long term resiliency in the community. Among other things, training workshops focused on health promotion and empowerment is in the works for youth in the area. Stay tuned for more information as we roll out our activities in the coming months.

TDN Featured at El Diario/La Prensa

Back in December 2012, our President/Founder Ariel Rojas gave an exclusive interview to reporter Carolina Ledezma from El Diario/La Prensa, the largest and oldest Spanish-language daily newspaper in New York City, and the oldest Spanish-language daily in the United States. He talked about TDN’s beginnings, our unique HIV prevention and youth development programs in the NYC area and our most recent community engagement in Coney Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The article, written in Spanish, was published on December 22, 2012. To read the interview, click here.

TDN New Members; New Program Initiatives

Lawanda Innocent is our new Program Coordinator and she aims to conduct a community project named “Tour to Health” with the youth of Brownsville, Brooklyn. In addition to monthly health promotion workshops, the project will encompass site visits to significant community organizations, neighborhood clinics and cultural institutions serving local residents and advocating for strong community identity and values. The tour, from March through July, will conclude with a visit to a community board meeting and participation in a local health fair. Through these activities, youth will practice social advocacy by interacting with local organizations and elected officials and stressing the importance of more inclusive and culturally competent HIV/AIDS prevention strategies in the Brownsville area. This project will be conducted in collaboration with Brownsville Partnership.

After a long selection process, Dante Kearse was accepted into our BOLD Initiative internship and was awarded $1,000. He was born and raised in Brownsville, Brooklyn, as a child. When he turned 10 years old, he moved back and forth from Atlanta to New York as the years went on. As he grow older he developed good listing skills and communication skills. Dante is 19 years old now and is graduating from Erasmus Hall High School. He is a graduate of the Brownsville Community Justice Program.

Dominick Abordo has joined our team as Program Associate. He is excited to incorporate and apply TDN’s curriculum into a new open group called “Coping With Loss,” that deals with HIV/AIDS and individuals at the Hetrick-Martin Institute. This entity, a New York City non-profit organization that provides supportive services to LGBTQ and at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 24, developed “Coping With Loss” along with a handful of new groups to better address the unique needs of its membership. The group aims to help participants process various types of loss –loss of friends, significant others, loved ones, pets, precious items, weight, and control among others– by providing them with positive coping tools and resources. Sessions will include interactive activities centered around arts, film, music, and other creative processes, and participants will receive concrete resources that they can bring home with them. TDN’s unique curriculum will be adapted and incorporated to supplement these meetings. “Coping With Loss” will begin on Thursday, February 28 and will be held biweekly through the end of May.

Other new team members are Claudia Sigala, TDN Clinical Supervisor; Marva Mariner, TDN Development Coordinator; and Dr. Anil Kabrawala, TDN Consultant Physician. Claudia became a social worker driven by a desire to improve the quality of life in the lives minority men, women, and families. Claudia’s upbringing in the Mexican-American border of El Paso, Texas, has shaped her to become a bicultural woman, dedicated to to address issues that impact physical and mental health of minority and immigrant communities. Marva, originally from Jamaica, is an specialist in Advanced Programming and has done research and presentations with the Research Infrastructure for Minority Institutions. She is an active advocate for the disable population as well as a member of the National Association of Social Workers’ African Descent task force. Both Claudia and Marva hold a Masters degree from Columbia University.

Dr. Kabrawala decided to pursue his dream of becoming a physician after finishing college. He enrolled at St. George’s University in Grenada, West Indies, where he reached out into the community by arranging several health fairs in order to provide basic preventative medicine and medical screening to the local citizens. He also provided care and assistance to the abused and neglected children of two orphanages in Grenada. After medical school, he enrolled into a residency training program in Internal Medicine at Stony Brook University Hospital in Long Island, NY.

MY BROOKLYN Documentary’s inaugural screening

TDN President/Founder Ariel Rojas was invited to the inaugural screening of MY BROOKLYN documentary at reRun Theater (Dumbo) on January 8th. Focusing on the redevelopment of Fulton Street Mall, for decades a popular and profitable Caribbean and African-American shopping destination, “My Brooklyn” documentary traces a tale of aggressive rezoning, multimillion-dollar development deals and racial displacement. Filming from 2006 to 2012, Kelly Anderson, documentary director and producer, grounds her investigation in the commercial lifeblood of black culture.

NYC Young Men’s Initiative

On February 20, TDN President/Founder Ariel Rojas was invited to attend this seminar where panelists, including Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs, discussed programs and policies develop by NYC to address barriers faced by young African-American and Latino men and their peers. Other panelists: Rev. Alfonso Wyatt, Founder, Strategic Destiny; Angelo Cabrera, President, Mexican-American Student Association; Khary Lazarre-White, Founder/Executive Director, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol. Moderator: Prof. Robert Smith, Baruch College.

Young Men’s Initiative, launched by the Mayor in August 2011, is the culmination of 18 months of work researching the causes of those disparities and their potential remedies. Through broad policy changes and agency reforms, a public-private partnership will invest more than $43 million annually in programs that will connect young men to education, employment, and mentoring opportunities; improve their health; and reduce their involvement with the criminal justice system.

Coney Island Is Back!

President/Founder Ariel Rojas is keeping his promise to help Coney Island local residents in the recovery process. Transdiaspora Network re-visited the area and made a post-Sandy re-assessment of the social environment there after 3 months of our initial hurricane relief effort. We were there also to commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day at Amethyst Women’s Project Open House, along with a dozen other organizations. Our team intend to keep nurturing this collaborative effort in Coney Island to address the needs of its low-income population, including HIV positive individuals.


Social Innovation Out Of The Box: TDN and HIV Prevention.
By Anil Kabrawala, TDN Consultant Physician, Stony Brook University Medical Center.

In the absence of an effective HIV vaccine, up to two million new HIV infections occur worldwide. At the end of 2009, an estimated 1.2 million persons in the United States were living with HIV/AIDS. And the rate of new HIV diagnoses was higher than average among certain racial and ethnic minorities, particularly African-Americans, Latinos, and Pacific Islanders.

HIV is transmitted by both homosexual and heterosexual contact; by blood and blood products; and by infected mothers to infants either intrapartum, perinatally, or via breast milk. HIV infection is predominantly a sexually transmitted disease (STD) worldwide. In the United States, about half of the HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed among adults and adolescents are attributed to male-to-male sexual contact. Worldwide, the most common mode of infection, particularly developing countries, is heterosexual transmission. Furthermore, the yearly incidence of new cases of AIDS attributed to heterosexual transmission of HIV is steadily increasing in the United States, mainly among those of lower socio-economic status, particularly women in minority groups.

Sexually transmitted infections (STI), like HIV, are clearly preventable causes of morbidity and mortality. Numerous strategies have been taken to lessen the burden that STIs have on our society. A key strategy already taken by health care providers in the prevention of STIs involves the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of patients, as well as their sexual partners, to interrupt transmission.

Transdiaspora Network (TDN) is a health initiative that takes a different approach to the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. In order to explain how, I will first briefly explain the three primary methods of preventative medicine: primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention. Primary prevention uses methods to avoid the occurrence of disease (e.g., condom use in HIV prevention). Secondary prevention uses methods to diagnose and treat existent disease in early stages before it causes significant morbidity (e.g., to prevent an HIV patient from developing AIDS). Tertiary prevention uses methods to reduce the negative impact of existent disease by restoring function and reducing disease-related complications (e.g., providing antibiotic prophylaxis in HIV patients that have already developed AIDS). TDN takes an even earlier approach; it works in the stages of “PRE-primary prevention.” It changes their way of thinking and behavior which in turn teaches them prevention. It encourages young adults to think more rationally and to make wiser decisions. It empowers them with information so that they can make the health-related decisions for themselves and tap into their informal network with positive impact.

TDN provides easy access to critical information about health, STDs, and prevention. It has an especially strong focus on the individual and how each individual affects his or her community’s informal network. It provides a judgment-free environment to allow teenagers and young adults from all races to speak freely about prevention; utilizing their language to communicate. It also utilizes others “forms of language” to communicate including dance mediation, storytelling, and social photography. By using this approach, people develop the idea that health care and STD prevention is not just “black and white”, “right or wrong”, “life or death;” but rather more lively, dynamic, and personable. As a westernized nation, we primarily focus on how the HIV virus affects mortality and morbidity, often promoting good health through fear. TDN takes a different approach and encourages people to live healthy and intelligently, indirectly promoting good health through more lively methods.

I strongly believe that TDN will prove to be invaluable to communities within New York City. By promoting social innovation and community engagement and advocacy, TDN is a necessary part of the international movement to walk toward an AIDS-free generation.


Transdiaspora NetworkTM is a New York-based human capacity building non-profit organization conducting HIV prevention awareness and community-based, culturally aware preventive mentoring for a population of youth at high risk. In addition, it facilitates identification of community resources, empowerment based interventions, and educational approaches to increase health literacy. The RIPPLE Program (Dance Mediation, Storytelling Dynamics, the Social Photography Workshop) and the BOLD Initiative provide solutions that increase self-awareness and assertiveness. For more information about our organization, please visit

©Transdiaspora Network, February 2013

February 24, 2013   No Comments

Issue XXV – Fall 2012 [SPECIAL EDITION]


As yet another presidential election cycle ends, it is a good time not only to tally wins and losses, but to reflect on how we as responsible citizens must act on behalf of future generations. An AIDS-free generation is not out of reach as long as we mobilize our own community of young people to promote awareness, education and HIV testing.

December is upon us already, and the holiday season is in full swing. Since our last newsletter in August, we have been in strategic planning mode, looking to the future and making sure that we are prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the next 5 years. The development of our Board and Advisory Board, and the improvement of our programs’ curriculum are key components of this effort. Superstorm Sandy jolted us out of our planning and into crisis mode: we coordinated an emergency response effort for Coney Island residents and we continue to look for ways to bring more long-term resiliency to the area as it painstakingly rebuilds.

On a more festive note, Transdiaspora Network (TDN) was invited by the New York City Health Commissioner’s office at a breakfast commemorating the 25th Annual World AIDS Day. Also, we have been awarded for our pioneering contribution to the field of HIV prevention by the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute. Read below for more about all of these exciting developments.

Last but not least, please make a tax-deductible donation to TDN before the year’s end. A donation of any amount makes a real difference: we need your help to ramp up our disaster recovery efforts in Coney Island, strength our programs and continue our outreach to at-risk youth in these devastated communities and beyond. As our President and Founder expressed “our vision is changing lives one by one.”

On behalf of our young team of dedicated professionals and volunteers, I personally wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season!

To get updates about TDN, remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sophie Cardona,
TDN Board Member


TDN Post-Hurricane Sandy Response in Coney Island

Just days after Superstorm Sandy hit our shores, TDN organized and coordinated an emergency relief drive in Coney Island, one of the hardest hit areas of New York City. On Saturday, November 10, under TDN’s leadership, eight organizations came together to help this devastated community: Urban Neighborhood Services, The CityKids Foundation, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Families at KIPP Washington Heights Middle School, Global Potential, Parents As Primary Teachers, B Condoms, and a local church.

Our emergency relief effort, highlighted by We Are All Brooklyn Coalition (WAAB),  was a great success: close to one hundred volunteers mobilized to gather, transport and distribute donations of food, clothing, water and relief supplies to more than 400 local residents from the peninsula. The total amount of donations were valued in more that $10,000. As one of the young volunteers, Lori Dooley, expressed: “It was both fulfilling and devastating to take part in the Coney Island relief effort… I felt like there wasn’t enough I could do, but was happy to be able to do what we could.” TDN wishes to thank all of our partners and volunteers, especially the teenagers, without whom this effort would not have been possible.

For further details, visit our community blog’s Coney Island Hurricane Disaster Relief post. To watch the video, follow this link.

TDN President/Founder Receives NYS Award

Each year during World AIDS Day, a select number of individuals from around the state of New York are honored for their extraordinary efforts in raising HIV/AIDS awareness within their community and among the general public. This year, TDN proudly announces that its founder and president Ariel Rojas was selected to receive this meaningful award from the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute. The awards ceremony is being held in Albany (December 5th, 2012) at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, as part of the 2012 World AIDS Day Healthy Living Expo. This year’s event expands beyond HIV/AIDS to address other public health and social issues most often pertaining to youth and promote living a healthy life. For details, visit our community blog.

TDN Invited to NYC Health Commissioner’s Breakfast

On November 30th, New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley hosted a breakfast at Brooklyn Borough Hall in observance of the 25th Annual World AIDS Day, and TDN was invited to attend this exclusive social event in recognition to our innovative approach in the field of HIV prevention and youth empowerment.

Along with other public health professionals and local community leaders from the New York City metropolitan area, our President/Founder Ariel Rojas enjoyed the musical performance of JoSunJari, and interacted with the Commissioner Office’s staff and with NYC World AIDS Day awardees which include community-based organizations (Exponents, Bailey House, La Nueva Esperanza) and individuals (Rev. Terry Troia, Catherine Abate, Dr. Donna Futterman). To enjoy the photo album, click here.

TDN New Board Member & Advisory Board Member

TDN is pleased to welcome Ms. Joyce Shim and Dr. Supria Sarma, our newest board and advisory board members respectively. Ms. Shim is an adjunct faculty teaching graduate courses including International Welfare and Social Policy at Columbia University, Hunter College, and NYU. She is a recipient of the New Jersey Senate Award and General Assembly Award for distinguished contribution to immigrant communities as well as Leadership Fellow of the Council of Urban Professionals.

Dr. Sarma is a seasoned professional with experience in the pharmaceutical industry and public health. She holds a PhD in immunology from New York University, where she studied mechanisms of T cell activation. Currently, she works in the Global Programs Division of the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and has managed the global rollout of a program promoting standardized, high quality HIV testing and counseling for pregnant women in Tanzania, Zanzibar, South Africa and Sierra Leone, and among other places.

National Latino AIDS Awareness Day’s 10th Anniversary

On October 15th, the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, TDN traveled to Coney Island to commemorate the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) in partnership with Amethyst Women’s Project. We provided an innovative culturally-oriented HIV prevention workshop to local residents as we recognizes the serious impact of HIV and AIDS in our under-represented communities. Hispanics/Latinos represent approximately 16% of the U.S. population, but accounted for 20% of new HIV infections in 2009, the most recent year these data were available.

NLAAD has grown to include a network of over 500 member entities since its inception in 2003. It was established ten years ago as a day dedicated to renew our commitment, reflect on the increasing impact of HIV/AIDS on the Latino community, and educate people about the importance of everyone knowing their HIV status through routine testing. To enjoy the photo album, click here.

2012 World AIDS Day

This year’s AIDS Day theme was “Getting to Zero,” which means aiming for zero new infections, zero new deaths and zero discrimination. The theme is a big goal, but the world has 700,000 fewer people infected than it had 10 years ago, so we are headed in the right direction. However, World AIDS Day is also important as it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education. Here is one of issues that should be addressed quickly: the criminalization of HIV transmission (see the graphic below).


A Day of Volunteering with TDN.
By Kerry Cooperman, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan Associate.

It was not until we were driving through the streets of Coney Island early Saturday morning, on our way to join forces with TDN and its partners, that I realized the full devastation of Hurricane Sandy and that I understood what motivated Ariel Rojas to be the extraordinary leader he has been over the past several weeks. I live in midtown Manhattan, an area that was spared the brunt of Sandy’s strongest winds and storm surge, and what I knew of Sandy’s impact was, until that point, mostly second-hand. I had seen the destruction on television, had spoken with family members who were still without electricity and hot water, and had read about the communities across the tri-state area that had nearly been wiped away. But I did not internalize the human consequences of Sandy until I drove through Coney Island and witnessed, first-hand, how the lives of so many had changed—endless blocks of homes gutted by storm water, small business owners attempting to salvage pieces of their destroyed shops and restaurants, children and families walking down the street, with empty baskets, looking for food and warm clothing and candles and basic supplies.

Spending a day volunteering with Ariel Rojas, his extraordinary TDN staff, and his extraordinary partner groups confirmed what I had suspected earlier that week—that Stroock had partnered with just the right group of devoted community leaders to make a real difference in people’s lives in the aftermath of this tragedy. That Saturday was filled with memorable moments for me. I will never forget the block-long line of Sandy victims waiting for a can of food or a blanket or some diapers for a newborn child; or the mother who told me that her home had been completely destroyed, that she was relying on groups like ours to make it through each day, and that we had given her and her children a great deal of comfort; or the delighted and relieved expression on one father’s face after a TDN volunteer handed him a bag filled with food for his children; or the man who came into Urban Neighborhood Services’ space wearing only a thin long-sleeved shirt and left wearing a sweatshirt and warm coat; or Ariel Rojas darting all around the neighborhood to make sure everyone in sight knew we were providing clothing, food, water and a hot meal; or the incredible dedication and enthusiasm of the teenage volunteers who themselves were victims of Hurricane Sandy but who nevertheless devoted their Saturday to helping their neighbors. My Stroock colleagues and I are grateful to have had this opportunity to work with so many generous and compassionate volunteers under the incredible leadership of Ariel Rojas. TDN and its partner organizations have inspired us to continue to help our NYC neighbors in the weeks and months to come.

SPECIAL REPORT – The CityKids Reflections

Dominique Dorsey, 19: “I spoke to this lady who lost heat, clean water, some of her possessions and electricity because of the hurricane. She was standing in a tank top and cardigan crying, explaining how she took in two homeless people, who was displaced and that she had to go across the street to help someone else. Even though she lost a lot and is going through a hard time she still opened her heart to helping other people. That just shows her resilience to accept defeat and have her love of humanity that she has in her heart.”

Jennifer Salas,18: “There were a lot of parents that came in with their kids and all of the kids seemed to be really happy. They weren’t stressed and angry, even though they’ve lost a lot. I learned that there’s more to life than what I thought.”

Tianna Seay, 17: “Everything actually woke me up to the fact that I might ask and want a lot but there are people that don’t have anything. They can’t eat, drink and maybe sleep because of the situation. So it actually made me open my eyes because I have family and heat and somewhere to rest my head. It was really sad to see people suffer like this. I feel very thankful for helping people today and I hope it’s more to come. And I thank all of City Kids family for everything. Thank you!”

Vania Fanning-Singleton, 16: “I was so impacted by what I’ve seen in Coney Island today because even though I lost everything I put a smile and volunteered to help people in similar predicament as me. Quotes: 1) ‘Don’t think that you’re alone or going through something by yourself because they are others that that are going through worst’; 2) ‘Put a smile on your face even when you are upset and think about how you can move forward’; 3)’The most drastic beginnings lead up to the brightest, beautiful and emotional ending’.”

Francesca Belliard, 15: “What happened today changed a lot in my life. I feel like I did something really good. I cried and I thought I wasn’t going to. People actually said god bless you to me. I would love to do this again no matter where and when.”

Tiffany Fung, 17: “After this experience helping those in need after Hurricane Sandy, I realized how grateful I should be. These people allow me to see what it is like to be in a place where there are no resources. Helping these people out made me feel like I can be part of the community and help out.”

Anna Grazette, 16: “I really appreciate and won’t take for granted what I have. I saw this mother searching for a blanket for her four year old daughter to be warm. That really warmed my heart. I would love to go back and see how they are doing. I would love to do more helping with City Kids. Quote: ‘Keep hope alive; God always has you on his mind’.”

Jannel Dishmey, 15: “Today I was happy that everybody was here to help people that needed food and clothes. The reason is because I knew how they felt. I went through the same way and same place they happened but in Santo Domingo. To me I realized it does take one person to make the future and now I know it.”

Cam Johnson, 15: “I really want to give back to the people some more and show them that there is still hope for better future. I really like the beach it was wonderful. I can imagine what it looks like without all the destroyed places and see the smiles on their faces.”

Shayna Valdez, 18: “I definitely didn’t think I would help people as much as I did with finding blankets and other necessities. What made me happiest though was seeing everyone helping out and seeing the community at work. I know my help was greatly appreciated and all I kept hearing was ‘thank you’.”


“For the first time in three decades [of] this epidemic, we have a real chance to come to grips with HIV. But in order to do that, we need to tackle an epidemic of really bad law.” – Dr. Shereen El Feki

Watch this talk » (15:30min.)

Transdiaspora NetworkTM is a New York-based human capacity building non-profit organization conducting HIV prevention awareness and community-based, culturally aware preventive mentoring for a population of youth at high risk. In addition, it facilitates identification of community resources, empowerment based interventions, and educational approaches to increase health literacy. The RIPPLE Program (Dance Mediation, Storytelling Dynamics, the Social Photography Workshop) and the BOLD Initiative provide solutions that increase self-awareness and assertiveness. For more information about our organization, please visit

©Transdiaspora Network, December 2012

December 3, 2012   No Comments

Issue XXIV – Summer 2012


Watching the Olympics during the past two weeks has elevated all of our souls, inspired us, perhaps, to set our sights higher than we think is reasonably possible and feel empowered knowing that the human spirit, which inhabits us all, is undeniably great. And greatness populated the City of London with a new generation of athletes coming to the age as legends such as 19-year-old Kirani James, who is the first non-US runner to break the 44-second barrier in the race. His time is the fastest ever by a Caribbean athlete in the 400-meter, or 15-year-old American Katie Ledecky, the youngest member of the US swim team, stunned the global swimming community with a start-to-finish win in a grueling 800-meter freestyle final. We cannot forget Gabby Douglas’ performance, the first young Black American female to win the Olympic all around gymnastics gold medal! Her confidence is all the more remarkable. And we must highlight the appearance of 16-years-old Wojdan Shaherkani, one of the first two Saudi Arabian female athletes to compete at the event.

The games may be over, but we are as energized and motivated as ever to continue to push ourselves to deliver the HIV prevention solutions our communities deserve and to foster that same fighting spirit in every teenager we serve. Attending the XIX International AIDS Conference was also inspirational and definitely a highlight of the past couple of months. Convening in Washington with thousands of fellow HIV/AIDS activists, researchers, educators, and advocates reminded us that “we stand at a unique time in the history of the AIDS epidemic”, and that the time to act is now. Thank you for standing with us at this crucial time, and thank you for all you do. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

To get updates about TDN, remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sophie Cardona,
TDN Board Member


Turning the Tide Together

Along with celebrating the organization’s five year anniversary, attending the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC this past July was one of the highlights. This year’s AIDS Conference was particularly special as it marked the first return of the AIDS Memorial Quilt since it was last displayed in full in 1996. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was a powerful presence across the nation’s capital as it marked its 25th anniversary, starting with the opening ceremony of Quilt In the Capital (QIC) on Saturday, July 21, where a single panel, called The Last One, was revealed publicly for the first time.

President and Founder Ariel Rojas spent several days in Washington, DC, learning about the work of other organizations and programmatic best practices around the world and interacting with lawmakers, scientists, international celebrities, young delegates, community representatives and religious leaders, either at the daily plenary sessions, collateral activities or at the Global Village. During this historical gathering, the message was loud and clear from speakers including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Sir Elton John, who stated that “an HIV vaccine won’t end stigma and hate. Science alone can’t end AIDS. Compassion is critical. Love is the cure.” (Watch it here). Although the dramatic scale up of HIV programs has begun to reverse the spread of HIV, the global AIDS response faces crippling financial challenges that threaten many of these programs. According to Dr. Elly Katabira, “after almost a decade of increased financial support for the Global HIV/AIDS response, this past year has been marked by funding flat lining. Donor countries have blamed the economic crisis for reductions in development aid, however there are growing concerns that the tide has turned away from AIDS funding and that political will in taking the HIV/AIDS response to the next level has waned.” Ariel acknowledged these funding challenges and noted that despite the difficult economic climate, TDN’s own fundraising efforts have and must continue to increase as “our prevention programs and strategies become even more inclusive at a local level, taking into high regard the cultural nuances of those populations affected by the virus. TDN is growing, and we hope that our supporters will grow with us.”

To enjoy the photo album, follow this link.

The Washington DC Declaration

In anticipation of the XIX International AIDS Conference, TDN became a proud signatory of the Washington D.C. Declaration, a call to all concerned global citizens “to seek renewed urgency to expand the global fight against AIDS.” The challenge is to scale up resources and efforts by using the tools we have today to curb new infections and improve the health of tens of millions of people with HIV/AIDS. To meet this challenge, we must, among other things, increase investments, end stigma, increase HIV testing, end pediatric HIV transmissions, accelerate research and mobilize affected communities. As the declaration states, “we stand at a unique time in the history of the AIDS epidemic.” We must act on what we know today to start the end of AIDS together. To date, the declaration has garnered over 4,800 signatures. Add your name.

Pushing the Envelope: The Youth Force Declaration

Prior to the memorable XIX International AIDS Conference, more than 130 youth activists from around the world gathered for a three-day meeting where activists and leaders collaborated to create the Youth Force Declaration – a document that details the policy and programmatic demands of youth in the global response to HIV and AIDS. At this same meeting, the group announced the creation of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day and called on the US government to recognize it.

The creation of National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day is a momentous step towards acknowledging and addressing the needs of young people in the HIV and AIDS response. Each year, young activists in high schools and at universities across the country will use this day to organize and educate about HIV and AIDS. They will promote HIV testing, fight stigma and start the necessary and uncomfortable conversations we need to deal honestly and effectively with the challenges we face. Perhaps most importantly, it will provide a recurring, yearly date for young activists to hold our leaders accountable for their commitment to, and investment in, truly realizing an AIDS-free generation. “Young people are among the most vulnerable to new HIV infections, but their calls for support are too often not heard,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). “This must change as this is the generation that will help bring us to our vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.”

Transdiaspora Network has already endorsed the effort to make it a reality. Watch the video of the announcement. Sign the petition.

Reflecting, Thinking Ahead: TDN Board Meeting

The first Board meeting after the organization’s fifth anniversary celebration was the perfect opportunity to reflect on the achievements and lessons learned of the last five years and to make solid plans for what lies ahead. Building on discussions about organizational capacity building, fundraising strategies and programmatic priorities, TDN is planning for the future with the development of a new strategic plan, stronger fundraising initiatives and the resolution to keep good governance a top priority for the organization. The TDN Board of Directors agreed to meet more frequently in the next six months to ensure the organization is on the right track and hitting its milestones.

On another note, we also want to thank Alexis Diaz, who steps down from the board at the end of her term to have more time to volunteer closer to home, in her NJ-based community. Alexis’ passion, dedicated service and her inclusive ideas for conducting outreach to at-risk youth were invaluable. We wish her the best in her new endeavors! If you are passionate about TDN’s mission and would like to put your convictions to the test, consider joining our Board. If interested, please contact us.

Welcoming New Members

To guarantee our programmatic priorities, we welcome our two newest additions to our team, Hailey Reid (Research Manager), who has more than 10 years of experience planning, implementing and evaluating community-based public health programs, and Carla Michel (Development Coordinator), who is a planning and merchandising professional in the retail industry and enjoys getting involved in her local community. She also tutors and mentors students.

We are still filling some positions, so check out our job and internship openings in the future. When you get involved with TDN, you are helping to bring about lasting personal and social change.

TDN and the LGBT Pride March

This June, TDN was invited to join Governor Andrew Cuomo in the 43rd Annual LGBT Pride Parade. There was no shortage of celebration as thousands of spectators showed up for the Pride Parade as it made its way down Fifth Avenue towards the West Village to celebrate the gay community. This year’s cavalcade was led by Grand Marshals Cyndi Lauper, Chris Salgardo, Phyllis Siegel and Connie Kopelov.

A Trusted Resource for HIV Prevention: Yes, We Are

Since June, TDN has been included on the National Resource Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention Among Adolescents’ list of trusted resources. The rate of new HIV diagnoses in youth ages 15-24 years of age increased from 2006 to 2009, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than half of all undiagnosed HIV infections are in youth age 13-24 years. With these statistics in mind, the National Resource Center’s website is a great tool for anyone interested in remaining current about published literature and evidence-based programs and practices in HIV prevention. The web portal, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Adolescent Health, was created in 2011 to build national capacity in youth HIV prevention by providing a platform for information exchange, a resource library and access to training and technical assistance.


Game Changer: Magic Johnson.
By Kate Fergurson, Real Health Magazine (excerpt).

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, most Americans didn’t think that heterosexual men had to worry about the virus. It was primarily viewed as a gay disease or one of drug users. All that changed on November 7, 1991. On that day, Earvin “Magic” Johnson stepped up to the podium at the Los Angeles Great Western Forum and told the world that he was living with HIV.

“It was a profound moment; I’ll never forget it,” says Nelson George, director of The Announcement, a recently released ESPN documentary that covers much of those early days.

“It really affected me and all of my friends, most of whom were single men in the early ’90s,” George continues. “[Magic’s disclosure gave] guys a reality check [that helped them understand] you’ve got to wear a condom; you’ve got to understand the concept of safe sex. It was a profound moment in the sexual life of America and the world because it took HIV away from being a disease that gay men get and made it something that heterosexuals had to deal with.”

What Johnson’s announcement showed was that anybody could contract the virus—even a legendary basketball icon, the epitome of health and vitality—making HIV everyone’s problem and everyone’s concern. But besides learning that the disease was not restricted to gay men, Magic got another lesson. “I learned quickly how differently I’d be looked at now that I had HIV,” he says in the film.

In 1987, four years before Johnson’s announcement, a congressional amendment put HIV on a list of “dangerous and contagious diseases,” where it joined AIDS, previously placed there by the US Public Health Service under pressure from then-President Ronald Reagan. Interestingly, the government chose to designate HIV as “contagious” despite evidence the virus isn’t spread by casual contact, which is the usual public concept of what a contagious disease is.


Last December, Johnson revealed his plans to create a coalition to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, break down the stereotypes about the virus and engage rappers to speak out against homophobia and discrimination against gay people. According to an article in The Huffington Post Canada, Johnson says he reached out to the hip-hop community, a group he targeted because “they have power—power with their voice, power with that mic in their hand and power with the lyrics that they sing.”

Johnson also knows a thing or two about the power of celebrity. When he announced his HIV status, Johnson was 32 years old and at the peak of his power and prowess as a b-ball star. When he walked away from the mic, though, he had a new direction on which to focus his considerable clout. He became an advocate committed to waging war against HIV/AIDS.

(To read more, click here)


“Great things don’t really come out of the status quo, they come out of people with vision and drive to prove the difference.”

– Jimmy Treybig, Founder, Tandem Computers

Transdiaspora NetworkTM is a New York-based human capacity building non-profit organization conducting HIV prevention awareness and community-based, culturally aware preventive mentoring for a population of youth at high risk. In addition, it facilitates identification of community resources, empowerment based interventions, and educational approaches to increase health literacy. The RIPPLE Program (Dance Mediation, Storytelling Dynamics, the Social Photography Workshop) and the BOLD Initiative provide solutions that increase self-awareness and assertiveness. For more information about our organization, please visit

©Transdiaspora Network, Summer 2012

August 14, 2012   No Comments

Issue XXIII – April 2012


Happy spring, TDN followers! And what a spring it has been to celebrate the five year anniversary of our organization! We are so grateful for the support TDN has received over the years and the tremendous opportunities we’ve had to work in communities across New York. This year, we’re proud to reach across our borders with TDN’s reach as well. This month, Capracare volunteers and one of our board members, Susan Wile Schwarz, are on a trip to Haiti to promote health, including the implementation of our HIV prevention curriculum. According to CapraCare Executive Director Jean Pierre-Louis, “the skills gained by our volunteers will be put to great use in Haiti. Our volunteers were transformed by the TDN’s innovative and creative ways of teaching HIV/AIDS prevention.” This way, we are creating the foundation of TDN’s international social development platform.

We also have other reasons to celebrate. Justice is on the way for the Trayvon Martin case. Our staff has grown even bigger, we’ve launched a new interactive website, and we’re ironing out the final details to our yearly benefit event – the biggest one yet! So many new things are in the works, so read on and stay tuned!

To get updates about TDN, remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Yon Lam,
TDN Communications Coordinator


TDN Annual Benefit Cocktail and Awards

Transdiaspora Network will mark its milestone 5th anniversary with its Annual Benefit and Changemakers Awards Ceremony on Friday, May 25th, 2012. In addition to drinks, dancing, live music, and raffles, this year’s Benefit will feature the unveiling and presentation of the first annual TDN Changemakers Awards.

In its inaugural year, the TDN Changemakers Awards Ceremony will honor two community leaders who we feel truly exemplify the spirit of Trandiaspora Network and the change we are creating in the world. The Awards will recognize innovative individuals in the community who inspire us and push us to do more. We hope to shine a light on visionaries who are taking the lead in the capacity building, youth development, and HIV/AIDS prevention space and providing living examples of the power of dedication and hard work to change the world, one teen at a time.

The Changemakers Award Ceremony will take place at 7pm on Friday, May 25th, 2012 at the beautiful Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in downtown Manhattan. Please join us as we toast present and future community leaders, celebrate how far we have come, and ensure a bright future as TDN continues to grow and expand our reach.

TDN got new team members!

Transdiaspora Network is delighted to welcome Bai Xue as our Research Coordinator and Makeenda Nia John as our Youth Affairs Coordinator. Bai holds a Masters degree in Statistics from Columbia University and a BA in Finance from Fudan University in Shangai, China. While in China, she worked as a Marketing Assistant for HSBC Bank China, and China Minsheng Banking Corp., where she was responsible for maintaining customer databases, analyzing data, and conducting market research. Bai joined TDN in February 2012 and looks forward to applying her statistics knowledge to promote positive social change.

Nia is a high school student at Brooklyn College Academy, who was accepted at our organization last year as an intern coming from the Sadie Nash Leadership Institute. She has published in our blog in two occasions and has gathered information to enrich our resources list at a local level. She is a Crown Heights resident and has experience in mentoring middle school students as well as volunteering for local programs such as Feeding the Homeless. Her biggest achievement so far is obtaining college credit in Philosophy, English, Psychology and Spanish Classes.

A New Website, A New Look.

As some of you may have noticed, we have a new and improved website! Successfully launched at the beginning of April, just in time for this newsletter, TDN’s new site represents the kind of organization we have become after 5 years of hard work and constantly challenging ourselves to reach a larger audience with our message of awareness and prevention: a dynamic, professional organization, always evolving and growing. “This has been quite an experience,” our web strategist Dylan N. Gluck says, “I have learned from this job a lot.” We hope you’ll take advantage of its interactive features, including the community blog, and share your feedback with us. We would love to hear what you think!

Community Day at Columbia University.

TDN President/Founder Ariel Rojas conducted a Dance Mediation/Storytelling Dynamic workshop at Columbia University School of Social Work where he had an interactive dialogue with social work students about giving a different value to HIV prevention in the intersection of music, dance, non-verbal communication, negotiation practices and cultural upbringing. One of the participants, Lily Brent give us her testimony: “The Afro-Caribbean Dance Mediation / Storytelling Dynamics workshop challenged me to literally step outside my comfort zone and use dance as a metaphor for dialogue about safe sex. In describing my experience to the group, I explained that in my youth I studied classical ballet. Ballet is a dance language with proscribed rules, different from the free-styling we were asked to do in the workshop. Using dance as a language for HIV prevention, it’s important to remember the different traditions and varying rules for engagement that people bring to the conversation.”

TDN Makes Inroads On College Campus.

Twice, Transdiaspora Network visited Vassar College in less than a month. On March 22nd, TDN Research Coordinator Bai Xue, along with Kenny Hernandez, a volunteer teen from Montefiore Hospital’s Adolescents AIDS Program, attended a luncheon with Ricardo Bracho at the ALANA Center. Mr. Bracho is a playwright, screenwriter, teacher, AIDS activist, dramaturg, performer, and journal editor. Our young team raised HIV prevention awareness among Vassar students and have a fruitful exchange of ideas with faculty from the Hispanic Studies and Political Sciences departments about creating a more open dialogue between the college and young community members. (photo album)

On April 12th, Paul Robeson High School students, along with English teacher Stefanie Siegel, made a historical trip to the campus where they retreated for the day to address issues of HIV prevention and homophobia among teenagers. They were also able to have insightful conversations around the topic of race and higher studies education with Vassar students and faculty from different departments, including a talk with Edward Pittman, Associate Dean of the College for Campus Life and Diversity. (photo album)

Advocacy Goes to Albany: Reunión Latina 2012.

L to R: Maria E. Alvarez, Partnership Team Leader, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Gulliermo Chacón, President, Latino Commission on AIDS; Monica Sweeney, Assistant Commissioner, NYC Department of Health; Alvaro Carrascal, Senior Vice President, American Cancer Society; Ariel Rojas, President/Founder, Transdiaspora Network.

As TDN President/Founder Ariel Rojas attended the two-day event, Reunion Latina provides us with the opportunity to bring all of our experiences together in one powerful forum, in order to influence legislators, social and civic leaders. Attendees, including service providers, media representatives, elected officials, community leaders and their partners, experts in the field, and people living with HIV/AIDS participate in workshops and panels that highlight critical issues and promising solutions pertinent to those who are working to break the cycle of indifference and stigma in some of our nation’s most affected communities. (photo album)

TDN Board Member at Youth Summit.

TDN Board Member Elkhair Balla participated in the recent Municipal Credit Union Youth Summit, educating youth on health and wellness. His company, B Condoms, held two seminars as part of the Municipal Credit Union (MCU) Youth Empowerment Summit. The Summit was put together by MCU, Hot 97.1, WBLS 107.5 and the United Federation of Teachers. Elkhair was honored with an award for his commitment to the community. Click here for a video segment on the event.

TDN at National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Based on Transdiaspora Network’s trademark prevention approach, the educational workshop brought our groundbreaking curriculum to a diverse group of Brooklyn middle and high school students on February 7th, 2012. Here is the testimony of Maxine Cooper, Consumer Health Librarian at Brooklyn Public Library: “For those who have concerns regarding the explicitness of HIV/AIDS information, Transdiaspora Network provides a different approach in getting young people to look at themselves. How they see themselves is very relevant to how they behave as individuals. When they become aware of themselves and the true reasons for their negative behaviors, perhaps they can better understand their needs to take preventative measures to protect themselves not just against HIV and AIDS, but other negative behaviors, as well. Discussions on self-esteem and interactive methods for self-awareness is a great way to get young people to look at themselves in a more positive light, and to foster and encourage better decision-making in their lives. On National Black AIDS Awareness at the Central Library, I saw a class discussion, and a separate group of about 8 young men communicating positively in discussions led by Transdiaspora Network. Although, I didn’t hear all that was being transpired in the sessions, I did witness the ‘art of communication’.” (photo album)

Hoodie March Honoring Trayvon Martin

On February 26, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed as he walked to a family member’s home from a convenience store where he had just bought some candy. He was only 17 years old and his murder has divided the nation.

TDN President/Founder Ariel Rojas and board member Alexis Diaz stepped up calling for justice and made an statement as our organization support the most vulnerable population: the youth.


Sex and Loyalty.
By Safiya Mattis, TDN trainee and CapraCare volunteer.

How does one establish their own beliefs system? One can say that with maturity and growth in life comes the establishment of core beliefs. Some may even say that one’s experiences in life can play a role in this process. While all of this is true, the foundation is usually first established by one’s culture. Culture includes factors such as religion, patterns of behaviors, thought processes, values and belief characteristics. While some may deviate from their cultural upbringing, others base their value system on their cultural foundation. In today’s modern times, we see that society also plays a role in developing one’s morals or what is deemed acceptable.

Everyone has personality traits that they can appreciate in themselves and notice in others. One such trait is loyalty; an understood commitment between persons. Loyalty is a valued trait in the relationships formed in one’s life. One such relationship where loyalty is excepted is between men and women. For most, when intimacy is involved a sense of loyalty is expected. However, this is not always the case. The value of sex and loyalty can be shaped by culture and society. When I think about culture and society, how the male and female is defined plays a role how sex and loyalty is valued. Speaking from my own Caribbean background, I see the role that gender plays. Women are taught that loyalty to their man consists of acts of servitude; basic maintenance of the household. Sex is often times seen as a scared act shared between the woman and her mate. This is how a woman is supposed to act and anything done outside of this norm is seen as unacceptable. Men show their loyalty by providing a home and maintaining financial stability with their household. In regards to sex, some men believe it is acceptable to have intimate relationships with other women besides their mates. At times, males believe these sexual experiences with other women do not speak to the loyalty to their wives. Society often looks pas these behaviors and is excused as acceptable behavior. This a prime example of how culture can create certain ideas that viewed differently.

One’s culture plays a role in many aspects in life. In some cultures the value of sex and loyalty are viewed differently based on gender. These views are influenced by the expectations placed on males and females.

SPECIAL REPORT – Community Survey

A Historical Success.
By Bai Xue, TDN Research Coordinator.

Our community survey effort represents a new approach of collecting data at a more local level, in order to shape the way Transdiaspora Network delivers its services to young members of the Brooklyn community. We want to know, neighborhood by neighborhood (Bed Stuy, Brownsville, Crown Heights), how community members reflect about issues of HIV prevention in their own social context. Through this effort, we will have a better understanding of why these areas continue to contribute astonishing numbers to HIV infection rate statistics. We want to collect information that is relevant not only to professionals in the field, but also to community leaders, elected officials and policymakers. This way, we can develop new strategies to prevent the spread of HIV and fight its social stigma, reinvigorate our advocacy efforts and create action plans that support more impactful, efficient, sustainable and cost-effective programs.

-May 31, 2012- that is the day that I will never forget. Twelve undergrad volunteers from Columbia University, led by TDN President/Founder Ariel Rojas and me, did the unthinkable in the Brooklyn area on a rainy and chilly day. For most of the student volunteers, the streets of Brooklyn were brand new. Luckily, we had help from Pastor Kenneth Bogan, a local spiritual leader who provided valuable advices on our survey questions, and Mrs. Bogan, an experienced medical service worker who has served the three communities we surveyed for the last 40 years.

It was rainy and chilly in the morning, but the students were still very excited about our adventure. When it finally stopped raining at around 11am, we took the subway to the first neighborhood: Brownsville. Our task was not easy because most of the people we hoped to survey did not feel like stopping and listening. Others were suspicious about what we were doing and refused to talk about a sensitive topic like HIV/AIDS.

I was glad to see that our volunteers overcame these obstacles through their persistent efforts. Mrs. Bogan advised us that it was easier to survey people in restaurants, laundromats and beauty salons than on the street. After several attempts, the volunteers started to gain experience on how to introduce the topic and how to convince people who were suspicious to strangers. When we switched neighborhoods from Brownsville to Crown Heights, the number of surveys jumped from 40 to 110 in Crown Heights, a clear testament to our continuous learning and hard work!

This survey is no doubt a milestone in the history of TDN. The data we obtained covered three different neighborhoods with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We interviewed 220 people, ranging from teenagers to the elderly. More importantly, we spread the word of HIV prevention around the whole community by distributing 300 condoms donated by b Condoms as well as a few hundred of Brooklyn Knows HIV Testing Initiative promotional cards. (photo album)

Broadened Horizons: Reflections About The Survey.
By Diane Ning, Rishan de Silva, Jennifer Sekula and Angela Leverich (Columbia Community Outreach volunteers).

Our experience with Transdiaspora Network took us places we’ve never been before and broadened our horizons. It offered us a great opportunity to get out of the Columbia bubble and to go see many areas of Brooklyn we would have otherwise never visited. We have rarely, if ever, gone to Brooklyn, and the few of us who have gone, did not stray far from the areas of Brooklyn closest to Manhattan. Through our day of surveying people with Transdiaspora Network, we welcomed the opportunity to experience firsthand four different areas of Brooklyn – Crown Heights (two areas), Brownsville and Bedford Stuyvesant – and learn a lot about Brooklyn’s turbulent and rich history from Bettye Bogan.

We really enjoyed talking to the variety of people that we encountered throughout the day. Diane was very surprised by the number of people who were unsure of what heterosexual meant, while Angela was surprised to encounter an illiterate young man in KFC. Rishan and Jennifer also had some memorable moments, including meeting the President of the 73rd Precinct City Council and being forced to reflect upon own own opinions towards HIV/AIDS when a subject refused to answer the questions without hearing our own thoughts.

The idea of surveying 350 people seemed very daunting, especially with the slow start in Brownsville. The speed picked up quickly though as we became more and more efficient with the increasing number of people we surveyed. We were each able to survey more than four people in Bedford Stuyvesant in under half an hour! Diane feels that this experience definitely helped break some of her initial inhibitions with talking to strangers on the street and asking them very personal questions. For her first survey, she felt very awkward reading out loud each and every question to the man who was fixing the Bogans’ church. After that, the whole group learned to try to avoid reading the questions aloud, if possible.

Similarly, Jennifer also overcame her fear of approaching people in the street and eventually became comfortable with asking random people personal questions for a good cause that would positively impact the community. She found it interesting how different styles of approaching people led to different reactions and outcomes and tried to use her observations effectively as the day went on. In addition, Rishan learned that people come from varying backgrounds, which informed their opinions on these issues, contrary to what he had originally thought. Rishan also experimented with wording and figured out that if he made it seem like a moral obligation towards the subjects, he was more likely to receive responses.

In addition, we found that surveying people indoors on such a cold and rainy day was the most effective. Places like restaurants, where people were going to stay for a little while, or subways and bus stops, where people were waiting with little else to do, proved the most effective and had the lowest rejection rates. In addition, Angela and Diane found that going to crowded banks that had a long line to use an ATM was also effective. Rishan and Jennifer found that going into stores was not as successful as polling people at bus stops.

Overall, the experience made us all reflect upon the importance of HIV/AIDS education in the community and also made us more aware of how critical and entrenched of a problem it is. Our day with TDN taught us a lot about ourselves, our growing capabilities, and the deep value of reaching out to other people.


“Do continue to believe that with your feeling and your work you are taking part in the greatest; the more strongly you cultivate this belief, the more will reality and the world go forth from it.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Transdiaspora NetworkTM is a New York-based human capacity building non-profit organization conducting HIV prevention awareness and community-based, culturally aware preventive mentoring for a population of youth at high risk. In addition, it facilitates identification of community resources, empowerment based interventions, and educational approaches to increase health literacy. The RIPPLE Program (Dance Mediation, Storytelling Dynamics, the Social Photography Workshop) and the BOLD Initiative provide solutions that increase self-awareness and assertiveness. For more information about our organization, please visit

©Transdiaspora Network, April 2012

April 17, 2012   No Comments

Issue XXII – January 2012


With our bellies full with holiday feasts and our resolutions made, 2012 has officially begun in full stride. This January, Transdiaspora Network wants to make its own resolution. We would like to remember and continue to support those tragically affected by the earthquakes that hit Haiti two years ago. In this installment of the TDN newsletter, we will commemorate the passing of the second anniversary of the earthquakes  and continue to show our support for their ongoing recovery efforts. We will also see how other groups, both here in the United Stated and in Haiti are working toward this end as well. We should not forget that Transdiaspora Network activated an emergency response just seven days after the tragedy, collecting clothes and medical supplies. In February 2010, TDN volunteer Mike Henriquez crossed the border from the Dominican Republic into Haiti and hand-delivered TDN’s donations (Archive: 2010 January Issue, 2010 March Issue).

The two-year anniversary has come and gone this January, but Haiti and its post-earthquake landscape still stands waiting in need. In the last 24 months, the international community has poured out its support, including billions of dollars in funds, relief products and volunteer support. Countries in South America, such as Brazil have relaxed their visa regulations to Haitians and employ thousands of displaced earthquake refugees. Billionaire Denis O’Brien, president of Digicel, has also been a presence since the beginning, pledging to build 80 schools by 2014. He believes his private investment of countless millions may also be a savvy business move as well; Haiti is the largest consumer of his mobile goods.

In response to the current situation, TDN program participant Nia John concluded: “Though Haitians seems to be making advances and making better lives for themselves by traveling to Brazil, they still need as much help as possible. Haitians are indeed receiving help in places like Brazil, where the authority figures and citizens have hope in them that they can indeed make an improvement in their lives. The help that these Haitians are receiving in Brazil is wonderful, but what about those that aren’t given the same opportunities as those Haitians who are being given help? They should be given help because they deserve a chance at success just like the rest of us. Brazil is already doing a marvelous job at helping Haitians receive the help that they need and so is Digicel. Although Digicel doesn’t always get its way, it has been able to help Haiti by requesting that more schools be built in order to educate the children of Haiti and that it be given as much aid as possible in order to rebuild the Caribbean country. People like Denis O’Brien have been involved in making sure that all that Haitians have been ‘promised’ on cameras, is indeed being put into action for them.”

This dim light of hope for Haitians should just be the beginning of their recovery. Four months ago, we marked the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks across the eastern coast. Today, we are still re-building Ground Zero. Six years ago, we witnessed one of the worst natural disasters on American soil devastate the Gulf Coast. Today, we are still rebuilding New Orleans.

Haiti remains a least developed country faced with the same struggles to rebuild. Haitians have culture and natural beauty and markets and schools that have been devastated. Haitians need continued international recognition of the issues and support for their recovery. Organizations such as CapraCare and Edeyo, featured in our newsletter this month, have done a tremendous job of supporting the Haitian community and creating a gateway for information about the slow and steady re-growth of the ravaged cities across Haiti. Read on to see how they’ve contributed and how you can too. As William Shakespeare once said “‘Tis not enough to help the feeble up, but to support them after.

Remember that 2012 also marks our 5th anniversary. To get updates about TDN, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for your support throughout these years.

Yon Lam, TDN Communications Coordinator


TDN Shows Love for Haiti

On January 19th, Founder and President Ariel Rojas and Board Member Susan Wile Schwarz represented TDN at CapraCare’s Second Annual “Show Your Love for Haiti” benefit in downtown Manhattan. The benefit, which featured live musical performances, traditional Haitian foods, and a special presentation on the history of Haiti, recognized three community members for their work in support of the Haitian diaspora community. CapraCare Board of Directors Vice-Chairman Cordell Brown presented awards to Manhattan Deputy Borough President Rosemond Pierre-Louis; Elsie Accilien, Executive Director of Haitian-Americans United for Progress; and Samuel M. Pierre, Vice President of the Haitian American Caucus and Brooklyn Borough Director for the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit.

“CapraCare is grateful to Transdiaspora Network for their steadfast support and truly helping made the event memorable,” said Jean Pierre-Louis, CapraCare’s Founder and Executive Director. “On behalf of the people of Haiti, we say a big thank you to Transdiaspora Network.”

All proceeds from the benefit will support CapraCare’s ongoing community health services in rural Fonfrede, Haiti. Since 2009, CapraCare has provided access to medical care, mental health services, and health and nutrition education to the Fonfrede community. In collaboration with local health care providers and medical facilities and international health and public health experts, CapraCare provides extensive training to a cadre of volunteer health workers in the Fonfrede community. Through its network of trained volunteers, CapraCare has established the School Health Education Program, provided earthquake relief and mental health services, and launched a youth leadership initiative. For more information about CapraCare’s work or to learn about how you can help, go to their website.

TDN commemorates the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

In honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, On February 7th, Transdiaspora Network will partner with the Brooklyn Public Library to share our groundbreaking approach to prevention. Our team has tailored our Dance Mediation and Storytelling Dynamic module for this particular day. In this special workshop, TDN’s own youth participants will engage their peers in an innovative dialogue about HIV prevention and social empowerment.

Black Americans make up just 14% of the U.S. population, yet they account for almost half of those living and dying with HIV and AIDS in this country.

Black Americans make up just 14% of the U.S. population, yet they account for almost half of those living and dying with HIV and AIDS in this country. The growth of these disparities is a particular concern during the current economic crisis, with a disproportionate rise of poverty and unemployment placing these communities at even greater risk for infection. Factors associated with poverty directly and indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection and affect the health of people living with HIV, including limited access to high quality health care services, housing and HIV prevention education. Additionally, other sexually transmitted infections, whose rates are already high in Black communities, can significantly increase the risk of contracting HIV. Moreover, stigma and homophobia continue to prevent many Blacks from seeking HIV testing, prevention and treatment.

End of the Year, But Still On Duty!

L to R - Karen Aletha Maybank, Assistant Commissioner, NYC DOHMH; C. Virginia Fields, President/CEO, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS; Jasmine Staton, HIV Youth Peer Educator, John Jay College; Ariel Rojas, President/Founder, TDN.

Thanks to World AIDS day, December was a busy month for TDN. President and Founder Ariel Rojas made a guest appearance on Bonita Radio’s “Cool-turéate!” show. Bonita Radio is an online station based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. To listen the interview, click here. Also in December, Ariel was honored to attend the New York premiere screening of “Many Women, One Voice: African American Women & HIV” at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, hosted by the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. The screening was followed by a panel discussion featuring NYC DOHMH Assistant Commissioner Aletha Maybank and Jasmine Staton, an HIV Youth Peer Educator at John Jay College.

L to R: Lindsay J. Safran, Gov. Cuomo Executive Chamber; Wendy Prudencio, NYS Department of Labor; Ariel Rojas, Transdiaspora Network; Jennifer Rivera, Gov. Cuomo Executive Chamber.

On another exciting note, Transdiaspora Network conducted a very strong Year-end Appeal Campaign (read our letter), and we also contributed to the statewide holiday toy drive, organized by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office to benefit families in communities affected by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.


Interview with Michael Pradieu, Vice-President & Co-Founder, EDEYO Foundation.
By Wilson Joseph, TDN Web Assistant.

At the end of last year, Ariel Rojas asked me to contribute a piece to January’s special newsletter dedicated to the second anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12th, 2010. As we all know, this earthquake is perhaps the worst natural disaster to strike the Caribbean in recorded history. An estimated 200,000 to 250,000 people perished as a result of this terrible tragedy. I myself have lost several people that were very dear to me, and two years later, I’m still haunted by the images of the aftermath that I saw on television. But I was also incredibly touched to see how the world responded to this catastrophe; more than 50% of households in America donated to disaster relief as a way of helping out, and today, even though mainstream media organizations have long since shifted their focus away from Haiti, many individuals continue to work tirelessly to remind people that Haiti’s situation is still extremely precarious. I had the opportunity to sit down with one of these people for a quick talk about his work there. Michael Pradieu is a co-founder of Edeyo, an organization that is dedicated to provide a decent education and hope to children in Bel Air, one of the poorest slums of Port-au-Prince. For those of you not familiar with the language, edeyo means “help them” in Kreyol.

Wilson Joseph (WJ): First of all, can you tell us about how Edeyo started?

Michael Pradieu (MP): One night, a childhood friend of mine, Unik Ernest, and I were hanging out. He had just returned from what had become an annual trip to Haiti where he delivered Christmas presents to children in Bel Air. That night we talked about how happy the children were, but we also talked about the hopelessness of the situation in which those children found themselves. Yes, they were happy to have those new shiny toys, but what about tomorrow? The future? Do they have one? You know, it wasn’t the first time he and I had such a conversation but this time we wondered what “WE,” not politicians, could possibly do to help out. In fact, Unik’s mother, Maude, had urged him several years ago to use his clout as a successful event planner in the entertainment sector to help the disadvantaged in Haiti. But that night we agreed that we could no longer talk about it and just be upset.

We didn’t know what we were going to do exactly. We first started by doing a lot of research. Our initial instinct was to do something having to do with health. So we reached out to people like Doctors Without Borders to see if perhaps we could get involved with vaccination projects or something to that effect. But things like that were already being provided by other groups. We were quite concerned about duplication of services; there are a lot of NGOs in Haiti providing all kinds of services. For years, Unik had raised money to support all kinds of things in Haiti, but this time we wanted to be more hands on.

Slowly, education started to become the most obvious choice. The sheer complexity of it all can be very scary, but we realized that any honest discussion about Haiti, or Haiti’s problems, always led to the very same issue: the lack of educational opportunity in a country where over 50% of the population is under 25 years old. It was at that point we decided that, whatever we do, it would have to be in the area of education. We thought if at least we can provide these children with an adequate level of literacy, it would take them a long way. It’s at that point that we thought about a school.

WJ: So now you decided to do something; what were some of the challenges that you faced early on?

MP: To be honest with you, it was quite daunting. We knew exactly what we wanted to do, but one of the challenges was to find someone on the ground that we could completely trust to represent us in Haiti. Trust in our organization is quintessential to us. Maude Saab was that person for us.

Another challenge was building that bond with the community. This was extremely important. However, we were greeted with a lot of skepticism. Coming to a neighborhood, designated by the UN as a “red zone,” and telling these people that you want to help build a school for free and support more than 300 children, naturally, people’s first reactions were “Why are you here when society has written us off? What’s in it for you?” Well, we do it for free; it is our responsibility as children of Haiti to give her a hand up. The community quickly understood that we are not here because we had political ambitions or because we wanted to enrich ourselves. Since then, the bond between Edeyo and the community has been very strong.

Finance was a challenge. We knew that, whatever we do, it will have to be financed. Luckily, we had some experience in that area because, like I said, Unik had raised a lot of funds in the past to support diverse causes in Haiti. So in the beginning, a lot of our efforts went into raising money and establishing contacts on the ground.

WJ: What was the hardest thing about it early on?

MP: We treated hard things as a challenge and overcoming them emboldened us. In November 2007, we had 88 children when we first opened the school. By the second year, we had about 275 students and just before the earthquake we grew to 300. We even had to move to a bigger location in order to accommodate all the students. These were all kids who would not have gone to school at all if not for our school because the vast majority of schools in Haiti are tuition based. So we were growing steadily because the need was there. We were extremely proud of our accomplishment and were looking forward to accommodating more kids in the future as well as implementing more programs from which the children could enrich themselves further until the earthquake happened.

WJ: How was the school affected by the earthquake?

MP: It was devastating; the whole building collapsed during the earthquake. Luckily, when it hit that afternoon, everyone had already gone home. But six of our students, ranging from age three to seven, did die from the earthquake. We actually have a memorial for them on our site every year on that day. Very few people in Haiti weren’t personally affected by this. Some families lost 20, 25 people just like that. I myself have lost some acquaintances. It was a surreal experience. We immediately put together a team to travel there to assess the damage. It was clear to us that we were going to have to start from scratch. But throughout the whole ordeal, we never stopped supporting the kids and the community. We sent two missions ASAP with doctors, nurses, all sorts of supplies, including over 100 tents that can shelter a family of five each. We insisted that the teachers continue to keep the children occupied even when we were operating under tents. This was essential because, after a tragedy like that everyone, but especially the children, is susceptible to mental health issues. We thought that keeping them busy was very important. Our food program, the one hot meal we serve daily from the beginning of Edeyo, never stopped either.

WJ: It’s now been two years, where is Edeyo now?

MP: Well interestingly enough, we had to go back to the first building where the school started, the one we had outgrown. It was still standing so we hired engineers to inspect it and secure it. They gave us the green light to move back there. In the two years since then, we’ve built an annex on the lot next door and have been operating there until we make permanent plans.

WJ: What does the future looks like for Edeyo and Haiti?

MP: Well we see these children as Haiti’s best resource. We continue to be inspired by their intelligence and the promise they hold. Educating this young population is perhaps Haiti’s biggest challenge and eventually its biggest reward. We at Edeyo realize that our effort is meaningful. Obviously, we can only do so much. We are taking care of 300 children in a country where over four million children need the same help. But we think that what we’re doing is most important because we are laying down a template that we hope can inspire others to follow. There are thousands out there who want to help but don’t know where or how to start. Hopefully, by looking at our story they can see that all it takes is laying down the first stone and then the rest will follow.


“In the past 40 to 50 years, Haiti has seen it’s best and brightest leave for other countries for numerous reasons. A few years ago, the New York Times reported that as many as 84% of the country’s professionals live outside the country so there’s a need to prevent not only this phenomenon of brain drain, but also to add new talents to the pool.”

– Michael Pradieu

Transdiaspora NetworkTM is a New York-based human capacity building non-profit organization conducting HIV prevention awareness and community-based, culturally aware preventive mentoring for a population of youth at high risk. In addition, it facilitates identification of community resources, empowerment based interventions, and educational approaches to increase health literacy. The RIPPLE Program (Dance Mediation, Storytelling Dynamics, the Social Photography Workshop) and the BOLD Initiative provide solutions that increase self-awareness and assertiveness. For more information about our organization, please visit

©Transdiaspora Network, January 2012

January 24, 2012   No Comments

Issue XXI – November 2011


With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, Transdiaspora Network and its members have a lot to be thankful for this year. It’s been a whirlwind start to the fall, with a mischievously snowy Halloween and a chilly November. It’s the fall of new healthcare legislation, Occupy movements across the globe, and economic changes that will shape our future for years to come. TDN has absorbed the energy of change and been busy at work creating new partnerships and planning great events this season. We’re looking forward to seeing more of our followers in the coming months. As Theodore Roosevelt stated, “Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.”  To get updates about TDN, remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Yon Lam,
TDN Communications Coordinator


TDN is an MSL Be:Cause Grant Finalist!

Transdiaspora Network has been selected as one of four finalists for the 2011 MSL Be:CAUSE Community Connected Grant. Most notably, we are the only startup group amongst the contestants, made up primarily of well-funded and longstanding organizations. The theme for this year is “New Yorkers Helping Neighbors” and we are excited for the chance to win $100,000 in pro-bono professional PR and communication services from MSL Group. On Wednesday, November 9th, TDN gave a presentation at MSL headquarters to the grant jury detailing how TDN’s mission would be better served with their help and thus better serve the New York metro community. We look forward to results shortly!

Board Member Receives Exceptional Service Award!

Transdiaspora Network Board Member Elkhair Balla received the Exceptional Service Award for ‘Bridge-Building Across Cultures’ from Nation to Nation Networking (NNN) at its 4th Annual International Diaspora Award Dinner on Thursday, October 13, 2011. This award was given to Mr. Balla because of the work he has done around national testing day in NYC and expanding of b Condoms mission into Africa and the Middle East.

Elkhair was also attending the National Minority AIDS Council’s (NMAC) U.S. Conference on AIDS in Chicago, Illinois, from November 9th to the14th. The mission of the United States Conference on AIDS is to increase the strength and diversity of the community-based response to the AIDS epidemic through education, training, new partnerships, collaboration and networking.

DOHMH Invitation to Community Workshop.

As part of the efforts to promote collaboration between their community partners for the upcoming year, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and Community Partners have invited Transdiaspora Network to this workshop “Networking with your Neighbors: Identifying New Opportunities for Linkage to HIV Primary Care and Support Services.” The objectives of this interactive workshop are to: 1) provide Brooklyn Knows partners with updates on the Initiative’s progress and plans for the year ahead; 2) present Brooklyn HIV data pertinent to our work; and 3) foster collaborations between agencies located in the same neighborhoods. This half-day workshop will be at the Brooklyn Public Library, Stevan Dweck Center, at Grand Army Plaza on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 from 10:00 AM to 1:45 PM.

New partnerships: Housing Works and Brooklyn Historical Society.

L to R: Deborah Schwartz, President, BHS;      Ariel Rojas, President/Founder, TDN.

These partnerships allow for TDN to reach further into local communities and glean from experienced community groups the necessary channels to communicate with individuals. We share the tools of experience and youth leadership with Housing Works’ LGBT Youth Program and the Brooklyn Historical Society’s Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations Initiative to grow and enrich neighborhoods that need our help.

TDN Works with Sadie Nash Leadership Project.

L to R: Alexis Diaz, Board Member; Dominique Dupont-Dubois, Program Manager.

This year TDN welcomes four high school interns from the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, which was founded in 2001 to promote leadership and activism among young women, strengthening, empowering them and equipping them to be agents for change in their lives and in the world. Our interns are participating in Sadie Nash Leadership Project’s Community Action Placement (CAP) during which they will exam the structure and leadership of our organization, work alongside with staff and develop a thorough understanding of Transdiaspora Network.

According to Chanelle, one of the CAP interns, “there are not that many organizations that want to prevent HIV, and to see one and hear about it makes me think there are people in the world that care about our safety.” Through this experience, these young girls will develop valuable skills and training related to service learning and leadership. Please join us as we welcome Nalyn, Nia, Chanelle, and Keyana as TDN’s 2011-2012 CAP interns.

Celebrating National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.

In order to bring the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) to the forefront, Transdiaspora Network (TDN) partnered with the Latino Caucus at Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW) to offer a panel discussion “HIV/AIDS and Latinos: Dancing from Tradition to Prevention” on October 13, 2011. The panel was rich with experienced and dedicated individuals such as Melissa Faith Ramirez, NLAAD Director, and Johnny Guaylupo, Housing Works’ LGBT Youth Program Coordinator, as well as Dominique Dupont-Dubois, TDN Program Manager, and Franchel Mendoza, CUSSW Latino Caucus representative. All brought new depth of knowledge for future Social Workers who will venture into working with the Latino community. Moreover, the Latino Caucus attempts to provide CUSSW students with the idea that Latinos are not homogenous. Latinos are individuals with different wants, dreams, and desires that are necessarily not found in research and literature. Transdiaspora Network and panelists provided information on how important it is to use language that caters to adult and young Latinos and how constructs vary within the Latino community. “As a social work panelist,” said Franchel Mendoza, “I was able to share my knowledge and experience on HIV/AIDS and how it affects the community I live in.”

TDN at PrEP community forum in Chelsea.

L to R: Dr. Roy Gulick, Professor, Cornell University; Tessa Scott, Research Coordinator, TDN.

On October 18, 2011, Ariel Rojas and Tessa Scott of TDN had the opportunity to attend a PrEP community forum in Chelsea. PrEP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is typically a 90 day treatment of antiretroviral medications given to prevent HIV infection. To kick off this forum, Dr. Roy Gulick, Professor and Chief of Infectious Diseases at Cornell University and head of Cornell’s Clinical Trials Unit, presented on the latest findings from PrEP trials in Africa, Asia, South America, and the US. He highlighted a few key points 1) Uninfected people on PrEP had a lower infection rate compared to those on the placebo; 2) Amongst those who became infected, those on PrEP had a dramatically smaller HIV viral load than those on placebo; 3) PrEP wasn’t beneficial for people who are already infected; 4) Not all studies showed a lower HIV incidence rate for those on PrEP – a study in Africa showed no difference amongst heterosexual African women, so that trial was stopped early and prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to not recommend PrEP in women.

Dr. Gulick’s presentation was followed by a diverse panel question and answer session of community and board members to answer questions and concerns from the community about HIV and PrEP. Overall, the energy and passion felt from so many dedicated and concerned people at this community forum was inspirational and reminded us of how much more there is to do and how much we need to work together to continue our progress.

Community Fair at Wingate School.

On Saturday, November 5, 2011, TDN participated in the First Annual Community Health Fair at Wingate High School in Brooklyn. The theme was “A Better Life Through Healthy Decisions”. The fair had a great turnout and included skits, HIV-testing, and even face painting provided by various organizations throughout the borough. The TDN team met many wonderful individuals including social service professionals, healthcare providers, area residents and high school students who showed interest in learning more about our organization’s program. The event also gave us a chance to know other groups that are pulling together with us to make sure our underrepresented communities have real alternatives to enjoy a healthy environment regardless of their socio-economic status. We look forward to keep participating in future fairs and interacting with other Brooklyn-based organizations and local residents.

Benefit Gala “Innovation in Africa!” at the United Nations.

L to R: Josephine Ojiambo, UN Kenyan Ambassador; Ariel Rojas, President/Founder, TDN; Kennedy Odede, President & CEO, Shining Hope.

On November 8, 2011, TDN President and Founder Ariel Rojas was invited to attend an evening of celebration, learning, and advocacy at the Institute of International Education’s Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Facility. The United Nations Association Young Professionals honored Kennedy Odede, President & CEO of Shining Hope and Founder of The Kibera School for Girls, for his pioneering work in Kenya. The Keynote Speaker Mr. Patrick Hayford, Director of the United Nations Office of the Special Advisor on Africa enriched the evening through his breadth of international experience and excellent connoisseur of Africa’s milestones. Kenyan Ambassador Josephine Ojiambo added her comments to the Award stating that “innovation is to see change as an opportunity more than a threat.” The event was full of good spirit as well as surprises, including the presence of Malaak Shabazz, daughter of the late Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. The Gala was an excellent opportunity for New York professionals to interact with individuals who represent the best of innovation within the global African community. A portion of the proceeds were donated to the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets—a global, grassroots campaign to raise awareness and funding to fight malaria in Africa.


Interview with Johnny Guaylupo, Program Coordinator, Housing Works.
By Yon Lam, TDN Communications Coordinator, in collaboration with Marilucy Lopes.

Housing Works is an organization that provides housing and related support to low-income and homeless individuals infected with HIV/AIDS. They believe that housing saves lives and are committed to improving health outcomes for their clients through a spectrum of services that stabilizes the lives of New York City’s most vulnerable residents. Housing Works considers that people living with HIV/AIDS must lead the fight to eradicate the disease, a struggle that includes access to health care and supportive services and an end to AIDS stigma. According to them, clients have the right to life of dignity, to receive the highest-quality medical care, to live in environmentally responsible housing, and to achieve self -sufficiency through community and support programs. TDN had the opportunity to interview Johnny Guaylupo, Staff Representative and Program Coordinator at Housing Works Inc.

1. Where do you see the value of TDN’s mission and goals?… TDN simply provides a non-traditional HIV prevention model which can add to the other models we already offer at Housing Works.

2. How do you evaluate the current HIV prevention system for youth?… I feel like we could do so much more but we are not to the extent where I feel it should be at this time in the HIV world. For example, I view Spanish language information in the Latino community is lacking. A comprehensive sex-ed curriculum is one step forward we activists have fought for many years to get. Now we have one that is better than the one years ago. However, we have parents intervening in this vital and important education because of reasons that I feel are ridiculous. Young people have the right to know what they are getting into and the risks they can prevent. The lack of housing is one fight that we must continue. It is a proven fact that stable housing is seen as a prevention model for HIV. When someone is HIV positive and in housing, they are able to live a healthy life by taking medication on time, and decrease the stress of not having a stable place to live.

3. How is your program tackling the outreach challenges in Brooklyn’s under-represented communities?… We are going to neighborhoods in Brooklyn such as Bed-Stuy, Flatbush, Crown Heights, East New York and Bushwick to offer HIV testing, connect people to our life-saving services that we offer at Housing Works, and educate the community about the risk of becoming HIV positive. This is why we feel TDN has offered another way we can improve our efforts.

4. Tell us about the successes toward HIV education and services engendered by Housing Works programs…. Housing Works began in 1990. There were fewer than 350 units of supportive housing for the estimated 30,000 homeless people with HIV/AIDS living in New York City. Since that time, Housing Works has housed and served over 20,000 New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS and has won national recognition for developing innovative, client-centered models of housing, health care and services for hard-to-reach populations. Housing Works is now the nation’s leading advocate for grassroots empowerment of people with HIV/AIDS, as well as at-risk marginalized communities. Housing Works has created the nation’s most successful job training and placement program for homeless people with HIV/AIDS.

5. TDN believes there is a the gap between mainstream approaches to HIV prevention and the needs of peripheral communities in Brooklyn by promoting health literacy, HIV/AIDS public awareness and healthy lifestyle. How do you feel Housing Works addresses this?… Housing Works began in 1990. There were fewer than 350 units of supportive housing for the estimated 30,000 homeless people with HIV/AIDS living in New York City. Since that time, Housing Works has housed and served over 20,000 New Yorkers with HIV/AIDS and has won national recognition for developing innovative, client-centered models of housing, health care and services for hard-to-reach populations. Housing Works is now the nation’s leading advocate for grassroots empowerment of people with HIV/AIDS, as well as at-risk marginalized communities. Housing Works has created the nation’s most successful job training and placement program for homeless people with HIV/AIDS.

6. Tell us about how you incorporate community in your programs and outreach (Cafe, thrift store, etc)…. Housing Works is a healing community of people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. We strive for our mission through relentless advocacy, the provision of life-saving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain our efforts.


Hilary Clinton Calls For “AIDS-Free Generation” at the National Institutes of Health

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton laid out the agenda for the U.S.’s global war on AIDS this week in a speech at the National Institutes of Health on Tuesday.

“We have a chance to give countless lives and futures to millions of people who are alive today but equally, if not profoundly more importantly, to an entire new generation yet to be born…. The goal of an AIDS-free generation is ambitious, but it is possible. An AIDS-free generation would be one of the greatest gifts the United States could give to our collective future. This goal would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. While the finish line is not yet in sight, we know we can get there because now we know the route we need to take.”

Secretary Clinton underscored the importance of both helping the 34 million people living with HIV and preventing new infections. “If we take a comprehensive view of our approach to the pandemic, treatment doesn’t take away from prevention. It adds to it,” she said. “So let’s end the old debate over treatment versus prevention and embrace treatment as prevention.”

She listed several encouraging developments, including the use of antiviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission, voluntary male circumcision, which has be shown to reduce the risk of female-to-male transmission by more than 60%.

Finding funding for these programs won’t be easy—The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) shelled out more than $6.5 billion on AIDS prevention and treatment in 2010 alone—but Clinton sees this as an opportunity for the U.S. to take the reins in a positive way. “At a time when people are raising questions about America’s role in the world, our leadership in global health reminds them who we are and what we do,” she said.


[Excerpted from Queerty, By Dan Avery, November 10, 2011]


“For leadership to be effective, experimentation should be supported, errors accepted, and personal responsibility nurtured, in much the same way we gradually empower the maturing adolescent, slowly but surely moving towards an inter-dependent ‘leader-to-leader’ relationship.”

– Terry Power

Transdiaspora NetworkTM is a New York-based human capacity building non-profit organization conducting HIV prevention awareness and community-based, culturally aware preventive mentoring for a population of youth at high risk. In addition, it facilitates identification of community resources, empowerment based interventions, and educational approaches to increase health literacy. The RIPPLE Program (Dance Mediation, Storytelling Dynamics, the Social Photography Workshop) and the BOLD Initiative provide solutions that increase self-awareness and assertiveness. For more information about our organization, please visit

©Transdiaspora Network, November 2011

November 15, 2011   No Comments

Issue XX – September 2011


Summer is coming to an end. This last season, the Big Apple witnessed the force of Mother Nature: a 5.8 magnitude earthquake and the menace of Hurricane Irene, which shut down the city that never sleeps. Transdiaspora Network (TDN) weathered the tempestuous summer and is ready for new challenges and fruitful endeavors. We are off to a good start. TDN received an official invitation from New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to become a full partner in their Brooklyn HIV Testing Initiative. The organization also received a grant for the second year in a row from the Credit Suisse Foundation for our dedicated contribution to improve the living standards of minority groups in New York’s metropolitan area.

As our Communication Associate Federica Rangel says, “our main message, promoting HIV prevention awareness, has reached new places, extending beyond our initial aim. We feel excited and positive about our plans and new projects in the upcoming programming cycle. We raised our bar, and we will continue to work hard and challenge ourselves in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and to reach more and more young people on a larger scale.”

On a personal note, I would like to thank our team members Sophie Cardona, Federica Rangel, Marilucy Lopes, Dominique Dupont-Dubois and Aparna Bhasin for their efforts and good contributions to our newsletter’s 20th issue as well as Karen Lander from the Jewish Community Relations Council, and Julie Golia from Brooklyn Historical Society. To get updates about TDN, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Ariel Rojas, MS, MA
TDN President & Founder


TDN Welcomes New Additions.

We are delighted to inform our followers and the general public that the TDN crew has four new acquisitions. Marilucy Lopes, who is an outstanding graduate student at Columbia University School of Social Work and has worked with us in the past implementing an HIV prevention focus group at a high school in The Bronx, will be in charge of our newsletter layout, social media, public relations and program evaluation, as TDN Communications & Research Coordinator (if you scroll down, you will be able to read her reflection about the recent commemoration of September 11th).

Dominique Dupont-Dubois is a recent graduate from the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health where she focused on reproductive and family health. As our Community Outreach & Public Health Advocate, she hopes to use the knowledge and skills she has gained to interact with local communities, especially of Caribbean decent, in order to help them gain better knowledge of and access to reproductive health care services and empower them with the information to better care for themselves and their families.

Aparna Bhasin, who will be developing our international platform, is a recent graduate of Columbia University’s School of Social Work with a concentration in International Social Welfare and Public Policy. She is from Mumbai, India, and has spent most of her life in vibrant inter-cultural communities. Ms. Bhasin spent the last year as an intern for UNICEF, supporting the Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparities. Ms. Bhasin has a keen interest in international development that is focused on local, sustainable capacity-building and youth development.

The last new team member, but not less, is Tessa Scott who holds an MPH from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and currently works at Weill Cornell Medical College doing clinical trials. As TDN Research Associate, she will develop the organization’s research strategy at the community level in Brooklyn, and assist in program evaluation activities.

Annual Board Meeting: Fashioning The Future.

TDN formally welcomed two new board members at its Annual Board Meeting in June this year: Alexis Diaz, who will be focusing on TDN’s minorities leadership and program development efforts; and Elkhair Balla, who will strengthen our approach to community-based enterprises and special events.

Ms. Diaz recently earned her MSW from Columbia University. She is currently pursuing her social work license, and has served as a peer educator at the Union County HIV Consortium. She is keenly interested in sexual health education and in helping more young people of color graduate high school instead of going to prison; particularly young people from queer communities. Ms. Diaz’s family is from Puerto Rico, and she will advise on how to make TDN’s programs as inclusive as possible, while developing our presence in more diverse communities across the city.

Mr. Balla is a mentor, investment banker and social entrepreneur. Prior to co-founding the B Holding Group (parent company of b condoms), he worked as an Investment Banker for several multinational corporations. He also co-founded, a social network site. Mr. Balla is a native of Sudan and enjoys mentoring NYC Youth and raising funds for African and New York City causes through his event company named L’Altruist. He also sits on the Development Board at VillageCare. Mr. Balla will assist TDN in developing public-private partnerships with local business and community-based enterprises.

Apart from the usual programmatic and financial updates, this year’s board meeting focused on capacity building and strategic planning objectives aimed at developing TDN’s long term plans for sustainability. Building strong relationships with local businesses and the corporate sector, strengthening our presence in the community and forging new partnerships for our programs, creating a Youth Advisory Board, and developing the organization’s Board and fundraising capacity were all on the agenda.  With our five year anniversary just around the corner, TDN is excited to push forward its agenda as it plans an exciting celebration for this landmark year.

TDN Attends Congressional Briefing in Washington DC.

In preparation for National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (October 15), there was a Congressional Briefing in Washington DC this Tuesday morning, September 20, 2011. This is the chance for health and community advocates to help Congress better understand the Latino HIV/AIDS crisis. Hispanics, along with African-Americans and men who have sex with men are the most affected by HIV/AIDS. While Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. represent only 16% (U.S. Census Bureau) of the population, they make up 20% of new HIV infections in 2009 according to the Centers for Disease Control. Hispanic/Latino men are newly infected with  HIV at a rate three times that of white men. Among women, Hispanic/Latino women are newly infected by HIV at a rate four times that of white women. At the briefing, advocates for Latino health spoke to Congress about these and other facts and encourage the Congressmen and women to take steps toward helping prevent more individuals from being infected. Transdiaspora Network was represented by our Community Outreach & Public Health Advocate Dominique Dupont-Dubois.

Why TDN International?

The United Nations Millennium Development Goal 6 is to have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, every day over 7,000 persons become infected with HIV and young people aged 15-24 account for about 41% of new adult HIV infections around the world. The HIV epidemic has had a devastating impact on communities, societies and countries. In places most affected, life expectancy has been reduced as much as 20 years. Young adults, the future of a community and society, are the most at-risk population resulting in increased household poverty in many countries.

This epidemic spreads differently in different places: for example in sub-Saharan Africa, young women are two times more likely to be infected than their male counterparts; while in Latin America and the Caribbean, the opposite holds true. There are differences in risk behaviors and attitudes, that require HIV prevention and treatment interventions be tailored to fit the specific needs of a population.

Transdiaspora Network (TDN) helps to create a body of knowledge that is dynamic and transferable; with HIV prevention and awareness focused at the individual level, and close attention to cultural diversity and community needs. It is NOW that youth around the world need access to effective HIV prevention in their schools, and awareness in their communities to combat continuing stigma and discrimination. TDN has the potential to apply transferrable knowledge and experiences to the global community, at a time when it is needed most.

New Community Partnerships.

Recently, TDN Founder and President Ariel Rojas and TDN Community Outreach & Public Health Advocate, Dominique Dupont-Dubois met with a representative of NYC Business Solutions, a set of services offered by the Department of Small Business Services, run by the Brooklyn Chambers of Commerce. This office, based in Brooklyn and in other areas in NYC, works to help individuals start a business, by providing help with office staffing, financial and legal issues, getting certifications and educational help. The Brooklyn Chambers of Commerce works to help small business owners express themselves through entrepreneurship, allowing them to start, operate and expand their businesses. TDN will work with Brooklyn Chambers of Commerce via NYC Business Solutions in order connect with further organizations in the Brooklyn area and expand our outreach to different areas of the Brooklyn community.

Over the summer, we were also invited to join the Brooklyn Knows HIV Testing Initiative. The Brooklyn Knows project, headed by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, is a borough-wide HIV testing program. It is a public health effort to increase HIV screening throughout Brooklyn and is similar to the Bronx Knows HIV Testing Initiative. The goal of Brooklyn Knows is to increase HIV testing in the area so that we can reduce the number of late HIV diagnoses and improve the linkage of HIV-positive individuals to care. As a member of the Brooklyn Knows HIV Testing Initiative, TDN will work to make sure that individuals throughout Brooklyn know their HIV status by encouraging testing through our youth programs and outreach activities.

Annual Coney Island Beach Outreach.

On July 22, TDN participated for the first time in the Brooklyn Outreach Workers 11th Annual Coney Island Beach Outreach. Representatives from the NYC Department of Health and Diaspora Community Services, among others, were present. We were honored to be invited to this amazing outreach effort in Coney Island as part of the Brooklyn Knows HIV Testing Initiative. We spent the day handing out condoms and information about TDN and promoting the Storytelling Dynamics program. We also met with many other organizations. Temperatures hit a record 104° F (40°C) making it the HOTTEST DAY in NYC’s history! Overall, it was a fun day, filled good music, food, lots of condoms, interaction with people passing by and a very enthusiastic vibe among participants. We look forward to participating again next year.

Cultivating the Next Generation: Storytelling and HIV Prevention.

Brooklyn’s culturally rich and vibrant neighborhoods have always been home to great writers: Truman Capote’s Brooklyn Heights, Paul Auster’s Park Slope, Edwidge Danticat’s Crown Heights, and Jonathan Lethem’s Boerum Hill. But our beloved borough is also a haven for great readers, bookstores, and 60 branches of the Brooklyn Public Library. These days, Brooklyn’s literary spirit is stronger than ever (six 2011 Pulitzer Prize winners live here!), and Transdiaspora Network (TDN) aims to foster that enthusiasm throughout all of our communities by developing, even more, our RIPPLE program’s Storytelling Dynamics module. We are pleased to tell you that TDN made it to the second round of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation 2011 Awards. The awards are for small youth-led initiatives that educate and/or give out responsible and accurate information about HIV and AIDS targeted at young people within their communities. Results will be announced at the end of November 2011.

As a component of the RIPPLE (Reflective Interaction Promoting Prevention & Learning) program, Storytelling Dynamics provides youth with the social, relational and personal skills needed to help prevent HIV transmission. Through active listening about HIV basic facts, but more importantly, through listening to each other’s stories and understanding how their cultural upbringing has influenced their perceptions and actions towards prevention and healthy sexual decision-making, youth learn by association not only how to protect themselves from infection, but how to make positive and healthy decisions regarding their sexual activity.

A Carnival and Its Legacy.

The 44th West Indian American Day Carnival/Parade took place this year on September 5th. Organized by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), the parade showcases the various nationalities and cultures that make up the community, in all its vibrant colors, musical pulse and spice.

Colorful masqueraders, exuberant dancers and more than 60 decorative floats and 40 costume bands brought to life this year’s central theme of “One Caribbean Family,” as they made their way down Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, past crowds of on-lookers from all over the country. The parade is one of the city’s largest outdoor events.

But the carnival provides more than just entertainment and revelry, explains Yolanda Lezama Clarke, president of WIADCA. The effort to promote Caribbean heritage and its rich cultural legacy has made the process of assimilation a much easier experience for Caribbean people. For Patricia Haynes of Barbados, for example, “the Carnival has given dignity to wearing the mark of ‘West Indian’ when it was not always popular to do so.”

The two-time Grammy winner and iconic figure of Caribbean music and culture, Pablo Milanés, also enjoyed the festivities as a spectator among the thousands of New Yorkers that lined the parkway.

Celebrating 20 Years of Advancement in Crown Heights.

This summer the Crown Heights Community Leadership Council (CHCLC) developed a community project called “Crown Heights Summer of Celebration.” The goal was to emphasize the positive achievements and energy in the area as well as to create excitement and awareness around the many existing services and organizations in this neighborhood. Labeling the many efforts and events in Crown Heights under a common logo and mission statement helped to create partnerships among the organizers and recognition among the residents.

On August 18, as a culmination event for this community project, CHCLC commemorated the 20th Anniversary of what has become a cultural touchstone in American culture: the Crown Heights riots. Twenty years ago, for three bloody days (Aug. 19-21, 1991), Crown Heights was the scene of ethnic tensions, mob attacks, thefts, confusion, and fear. The reception, led by Ife Charles from the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center and Rabbi Eli Cohen from the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council, was held at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum featuring Ruth Messinger, President and CEO of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), as the guest speaker. Along with musical performances by DeScribe, a local Jewish rap artist who is inspired by his relationship with spirituality, and The Mighty Sparrow, the legendary “Calypso King of the World”, eight awards were presented to various community leaders and institutions to honor their commitment to bringing new opportunities to the community and enhancing the quality of life in Crown Heights. Elected officials spoke in support of this vibrant and diverse community. NYC Speaker Christine Quinn, Assemblyman Karim Camara, NYC Council Member Letitia James, NYS Senator Eric Adams, NYC Comptroller John C. Liu and CM Mathieu Eugene were in attendance as well as US Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. TDN President and Founder Ariel Rojas was also invited to this special commemoration where the arts, the community and the youth were celebrated and Crown Heights’ vibrancy and cultural diversity were highlighted.

Brooklyn’s Health: Past, Present, and Future.

On Monday, September 12, the Masters in Public Health Program at Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus presented a vibrant and thought-provoking event, “Brooklyn’s Health: Past, Present, and Future.” Julie Golia, Public Historian, and Robin Katz, Outreach and Public Services Archivists, both from Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS), spoke to an audience of students and public health professionals about the rich history of public health in Brooklyn. They used materials from the collections at BHS to illustrate new paths of research for public health practitioners.

Golia and Katz discussed the impact of disease and urban growth on a diverse and changing group of Brooklynites: from seventeenth-century Native American communities decimated by smallpox, to activists in 1960s Bedford-Stuyvesant demanding better sanitation services. New York City’s geography played an important role in their story. For example, until the 1814 establishment of an efficient steam-powered ferry system in Brooklyn, the East River served as a biological barrier, preventing the spread of infectious diseases from crowded New York City to sparsely populated Brooklyn. Using maps and archival collections, they also emphasized the importance of changing immigration patterns. Over the course of the XIX and XX centuries, growing numbers of immigrants from Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean swelled Brooklyn’s population, prompting new public health needs and new institutions and reform organizations. Finally, Golia and Katz discussed the relationship between public health and activism. They highlighted organizations like the Brooklyn chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which in 1962 organized a civil disobedience program called “Operation Clean Sweep” in order to demand more frequent garbage removal in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Golia and Katz concluded by pushing students of public health to incorporate Brooklyn’s history into their analysis of public health inequities today. To learn more about this remarkable 148-year-old institution, you can visit their website.

No-copay Birth Control As Basic Preventive Health Care.

Last month the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) approved recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to make birth control available with no copay for those with health insurance. And young women who access health care through religious affiliated colleges and universities should not be denied basic health coverage simply because their college does not want to provide it. In order to ensure that more women have access to birth control, the DHHS specifically included contraception as basic, necessary preventive medicine covered by insurance without copay. This would mean that religious affiliated colleges and hospitals would need to include this basic preventive coverage in health plans for their students and employees.

Not surprisingly, the conservative right wing is urging U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to expand an already unnecessary “religious exemption” rule. Expanding this language would affect religious affiliated schools, hospitals and more, allowing Catholic colleges and other institutions to offer health plans without covering birth control. Learn more about the issue. Sign the petition against this proposal. Access to birth control is basic preventive medicine for women!

A Battle Against HIV/AIDS Discrimination.

In August, a lawsuit was filed in federal court against one landlord and four New York City realty companies, Manhattan Apartments, Abba Realty Associates, Soni Realty, Askarinam Realty, and Kimberly Place Realty, for violating the civil rights of disabled New York City residents living with AIDS.

Under the federal Fair Housing Act and New York City’s Human Rights Law 3, it is illegal to refuse housing based on disability. In addition, Local Law 10 prohibits landlords from refusing service based on lawful source of income, such as HASA housing subsidies and Section 8 vouchers. Individuals who encounter illegal housing discrimination are encouraged to call the Fair Housing Justice Center for assistance at 212-400-8201.


A Glimpse into A September 11th Reflection.
By Marilucy Lopes, TDN Communications & Research Coordinator

I was sitting in my 10th grade biology class when it happened. I witnessed the events of September 11th, 2001 live on television as they unfolded some 20 miles from where I was sitting in the state of New Jersey. I can still remember feeling the fear, confusion, anger and sadness that many people have described that day, but there are two things that I will never forget. When asked to write this piece, I thought I might share this story in hopes that my reflection on this 10th anniversary of the attacks is something we can all share and remember.

The silence and the smell were two things that have stuck with me. I remember walking my dog the evening of September 11th, relieved to be alone for the first time that day where I could try and make sense of what had just happened. Walking around, I remember the eerie silence. Everyone seemed to be home. Parked cars everywhere, lights on in homes, but there was no movement anywhere. It was so quiet. No cars riding down the street, no one outside talking, no planes in the sky, not even a breeze. And unfortunately, for many people in my town their world had in fact stopped—they never came home. The next morning, I remember thinking I had dreamed the previous day, but when I went outside I knew it had been real.

I stepped foot outside and the air smelled like smoke or something burning. I knew the smell was coming across the river, from The World Trade Center. The smoke cloud was visible for days, but the scent is what got to me. That might be weird for some people to see as affecting someone (especially after everything that happened that day), but that is what really triggered the thought of life and death into my head. I wanted to go on with the day as if nothing had changed, I did not want to think about the tragedy, but even breathing was a reminder. The scent in the air kept reminding me of tragedy and death.

Fast forward to today, and I have had 10 years to think about what happened that day, the next morning, and every day since September 11th, 2001. So many things were out of our control that day and the days following. I could not control what had happened, how people felt, or what the air smelled like, how the neighborhood looked or how it sounded. The only thing I could control was what I decided to do that day, where I went, who I spoke to, what I said, etc. I felt how the environment and events that took place were affecting me, but I also knew I could control how I reacted to them and what I chose to do with what I felt.

Now, ten years later, I find myself continuing to form and practice a balance between the things I can and cannot control. I practice this balance by trying to focus on what matters most to me in life and what kind of life I envision for myself. Making choices that align with my dreams and visions for my future are the ones that make me feel value in my life. The anniversary of September 11th helps me reflect on how there are some things in life we will never fully understand, predict or control, but for the things we can do we should make the most of them. Life is short and for many souls who are taken unfairly and too soon, it is a disservice not to treasure being alive and making the most of our time here.


New AIDS Cases Dropped 25% This Year, City Reports

(…) The number of adults newly diagnosed with AIDS dropped to 2,225 in the 2011 fiscal year, which ended June 30. That total was 25 percent lower than the total the year before (2,969 cases diagnosed), and 47 percent lower than in the 2003 fiscal year, when there were 4,164 new cases, according to the Mayor’s Management Report, which was released Friday. Dr. Monica Sweeney, assistant commissioner of the Bureau of H.I.V. Prevention and Control in the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the decline was a “proxy for improved care.”

“It’s not that people are not infected” with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, she said. “It is that they are taking medications, they’re able to be more adherent, treatment has become easier.” But she added that the number of people newly diagnosed with H.I.V. has also been going down, though those numbers were not included in the report.

She said that the improving numbers had raised concerns among public health officials that the public might become cavalier in their behavior. “Many people who are not infected have what we call treatment optimism,” Dr. Sweeney said. “Why bother using a condom? Why bother not having multiple partners? — and people are still getting infected — because of the success of the treatment,” Dr. Sweeney said.

New infections were most common among men under 30, especially black and Latino men, who have sex with men; black women; and to a lesser extent Latino women, she said.

On the other hand, she said, because of programs directed at pregnant women and drug users, it is rare for babies to be born infected, and “people getting infected from intravenous drug use has gone from the thousands to 185” in 2009, the last year of complete data available.

The historic numbers tell a striking tale of an epidemic that crested and then began to fall as the means of transmission became better understood and drug treatment was simplified from a handful of pills to a single capsule containing three medications.

City charts show 52 new diagnoses of AIDS before 1981, rising to 160 in 1981, 540 in 1982, 1,097 in 1983 and then soaring to a peak of 12,745 in 1993 before beginning a gradual decline to the present levels.


[Excerpted from The New York Times Blog, By Anemona Hartocollis, September 16, 2011]


“Effectiveness does not necessarily come from the power of personality or the ability to mobilize thousands to a cause. It can also emerge from careful, thoughtful, and creative planning undertaken by a group committed to change, along with the tenacity to see it through to completion.”

– F. Ellen Netting

Transdiaspora NetworkTM is a New York-based human capacity building non-profit organization conducting HIV prevention awareness and community-based, culturally aware preventive mentoring for a population of youth at high risk. In addition, it facilitates identification of community resources, empowerment based interventions, and educational approaches to increase health literacy. The RIPPLE Program (Dance Mediation, Storytelling Dynamics, the Social Photography Workshop) and the BOLD Initiative provide solutions that increase self-awareness and assertiveness. For more information about our organization, please visit

©Transdiaspora Network, September 2011

September 20, 2011   No Comments

Issue XIX – March 2011


Transdiaspora Network mourns the loss of Edouard Glissant, the great Caribbean thinker, writer, and poet, who died in Paris this past February. He stated once that “contact among cultures infers a relation of uncertanity”. In these turbulent times, we must remain steadfastly focused on our goals in order to enact positive change in an increasingly complex world. Following his train of thought, we want to propel decisive mutations for change in the quality of our future.

The past few months of the New Year have been momentous and difficult for many people around the world. Major earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan have brought devastation and loss affecting thousands of people, while democracy movements across the Arab world and mass protests in favor of worker’s rights in Wisconsin have brought the issues of equality and freedom to the forefront of the nation.  

With Spring coming, it is time to evaluate how we can grow and improve in the new year as we rouse ourselves from Winter. With that in mind, as of this issue I have been appointed Editor-In-Chief of the newsletter by our President and Founder Ariel Rojas. While the newsletter will continue to provide you with relevant news on HIV issues as well as pertinent scholarly articles, I hope to bring about a renewed vigor and growth in the coming months by providing content that brings you closer to the people and work of Transdiaspora Network. Focusing on articles that demonstrate the human aspect of our organization, I will strive to bring you more pieces about the people who work here, the people we work with, and the community we work within. 

As part of that goal, this issue contains an interview with the BOLD Initiative’s new intern, Sherill-Marie Henriquez, who has started an innovative new project with Brooklyn youths called Bounce School. 

I am open to comments and suggestions anytime at meckstat(at) 

Mateo Eckstat


TDN at Barnard College’s Civic Engagement Night  


At the end of February, Transdiaspora Network was invited to the Civic Engagement Networking Night at Barnard College where several students showed an interest in learning about the organization’s innovative approach. Emily Neil, one of the participants, shared her thoughts with us: “I think the message of empowerment and youth leadership inherent to [Transdiaspora Network] is significant in both its role in HIV prevention as well as the creation of a positive self-image and confidence among young people.” 

Conference Examines Role of Heterosexual Men in HIV Prevention 

On February 25, Transdiaspora Network Founder and President Ariel Rojas attended the conference “Young Women of Color, Heterosexual Men and their Role in HIV Prevention” organized by the Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition. At the conference he discussed the lack of communication between local high schools’ health coordinators and HIV-related social service organizations in sharing data about critical HIV/AIDS indicators at a neighborhood level. He pointed out that while social service organizations connected to prevention programs have worked diligently for many years to improve their effectiveness through data collection and accurate statistics, they have neglected an important element of public health strategy by not making this information more available to the public, particularly local schools. 

TDN New Community Partnerships 

Transdiaspora Network is pleased to announce a new partnership with the School for Democracy and Leadership at Wingate Campus High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Possessing one of the largest NYC populations of both Caribbeans and people living with HIV/AIDS, Transdiaspora Network’s entrance into the Crown Heights community is an important step in the fight to prevent the spread of HIV.  In addition, through the diligent work of our Columbia University social work intern some exercises from our RIPPLE Program’s curriculum have been implemented at Bronx Bridges High School in Soundview, the Bronx. 

National Campaign Supporting the Affordable Care Act 

As a member of the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, Transdiaspora Network signed a petition supporting full implementation of health care reform under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This legislation will attempt to reduce the spread of HIV through new coverage requirements and the creation of a Prevention and Public Health Fund in every state. New requirements will include full coverage for certain preventative screenings, including HIV testing for pregnant women and those at increased risk for infection. This is an important step in helping the one-fifth of people with HIV who are unaware of their status get medical care that is not only lifesaving but also suppresses the virus, greatly reducing the risk of transmission to others. The Prevention and Public Health Funds will invest in evidence-based prevention programs at the community level, retooling our approach to preventing chronic diseases such as HIV. This will improve the overall health of communities and avert more costly medical expenses. 

TDN Jazz Benefit Concert: Cyrille Aimée, Special Guest 

As part of this year’s fund-raising efforts, we are planning our 4th Annual Benefit Concert, to be held on May 12th, 2011 at Canal Room in Tribeca. This event will bring culture and music to the New York community while promoting sustainable solutions to fight HIV/AIDS.  


Our special guest this year is Cyrille Aimée, a very talented Dominican-French jazz singer and 2010 finalist in the Thelonious Monk Vocal Competition, who will be performing in support of our social endeavor. We expect 200 guests or more, and hope you will be able to attend the concert. We are counting on your support as we work to fulfill our organization’s goal of advancing HIV prevention one teen at a time. Stay tuned for new developments. 

Crown Heights Against Violence  

Save Our Streets (S.O.S.) Crown Heights reports that Crown Heights North (the 77th precinct) has gone more than 30 days without any shootings in the neighborhood. Save Our Streets is an innovative anti-gun violence program that utilizes outreach, public education, and case management to stop shootings and killings in Crown Heights. With 75 shootings in 2010, there is an urgent need for this program and your support! 

Proposal Ending Abstinence-Only Program 

On March 15, 2011, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Representative Barbara Lee of California introduced the Repealing Ineffective and Incomplete Abstinence-Only Program Funding Act of 2011. This bill would end funding for abstinence-only sexual education programs, which have been proven to have no impact on teen behavior, and redirect that money towards the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), which supports demonstrably useful comprehensive sex education programs. This is an important bill that has the potential to help stop the spread of HIV among youth populations. Please learn more about the bill and take action. 

The BOLD Initiative Making Inroads

Transdiaspora Network is pleased to welcome a new intern to our organization’s BOLD Initiative, Sherill-Marie Henriquez. She is raffling a $840 gift card from CLAY Health Club + Spa to support her project. The proceeds will help the project to organize a museum field trip. To learn more about the raffle, visit Bounce School’s website or contact us at bounceschool(at)

In this issue of the newsletter you will find an interview where she shares details of her background and role within our initiative.

TDN New Pilot Project: Access to Supportive Intervention (ASI) 

To extend the educational support offered to our teens regarding HIV prevention issues and other topics, Transdiaspora Network have initiated a pilot project for the next three months called Access to Supportive Intervention (ASI), in which our program participants will have access to a life coach. In the next issue of the newsletter we will have a new column called The Coaching Corner, written by our Certified Professional Coach Maria Caso and our Editor-In-Chief Mateo Eckstat, that will give an inside look at Maria’s interaction with program participants. We welcome Ms. Caso to Transdiaspora Network, who would like to share this motivational statement with you: “In many of the things you attempt, the odds will be against you. Fortunately, the odds don’t really matter. After all, the odds were very much against you ever being born in the first place. And yet here you are. Whether it is with your health, your wealth, your relationships, or anything else, the odds don’t determine your results. Your thoughts, actions, words, focus, commitment and persistence are what create the results you get.” 


The BOLD Initiative and Bounce School Making History
By Mateo Eckstat, TDN Editor-In-Chief 

Hailing from Union City, NJ, just across the Hudson from Midtown Manhattan and now a sophomore at Columbia University, Sherill-Marie Henriquez* is leading an innovative project with high school students called Bounce School, which has been integrated into her work with Transdiaspora Network’s BOLD Initiative internship. We discussed her background, how she became involved with TDN, and what a typical day in Bounce School is like. 

M.E.: Give me some background information about yourself–where did you grow up, what’s your family history, and what are you doing now? 

S.M.E.: I grew up in Union City, NJ. I lived there my whole life until I left for college. My sister and my mother moved here from the Dominican Republic about twenty years ago, a little while before I was born. Now I go to school at Columbia and go back to Union City about two times a month. 

M.E.: What was it like growing up there? 

S.M.E.: Hudson County has a very large Latin American population. Union City used to have the second highest concentration of Cuban immigrants in the nation. So I grew up in a diverse place. We had Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Salvadorians, Hondurans, Colombians, Guatemalans, so we had to be diverse, right? 

M.E.: What led you to start working with Transdiaspora Network? 

S.M.E.: I went to a civic engagement networking event at Barnard, and I was really just trying to get a feel for different non-profits and trying to find a summer internship in the education field. 

I was already working on a project I had started called Bounce School. I really wanted to spread the word in case people could refer me to other resources, but I did not expect to find such immediate help. I went up to Ariel and after talking to him for a few minutes and looking through the TDN brochure, I noticed some big similarities between the BOLD initiative and Bounce School. Both focused on teaching students of Latin American and African American descent through a cultural lens and in a relaxed, alternative classroom setting. I told him about Bounce School, and he asked if I would like to apply for the BOLD Initiative internship.  

M.E.: Could you tell me more about Bounce School and how it got started? 

S.M.E.: I developed the idea after taking a course called Latin American Civilization and another one called Contemporary Issues in Education. For the first time I saw how today’s injustices have their roots in historical events. Those two classes allowed me to reflect upon my own education, what was missing, and how it shaped me. Learning about things like the Spanish Conquest and what it means to be Latin American was so important to my growth as a student and as a teenager transitioning into adulthood, and I thought it would be great if we could bring that kind of cultural pride and identity awareness to teenagers. My curriculum focuses on teaching critical thinking, questioning historical sources, being aware of our own biases, and discovering how we have been shaped by the stories with which we grew up.  

M.E.: Could you give me an example of a typical class? 

S.M.E.: For our second class I brought in six primary documents – letters and articles I got from my Latin American Civilization class, written in the 16th and 17th century. I placed one in front of every seat, and as soon as they had had enough time to read, I started singling them out and asking questions about the documents: what is the format? If it’s a letter, who is it from, who is it to? What is it describing? What year was it written? Where was the person who wrote it from? What role do you think this person played in the conquest? What clues do the documents give us to indicate this? What else can we learn about their lives through these documents? 

I asked them to infer things, to question assumptions, to examine little details. I asked a bunch of questions, because I wanted to lead them to a certain conclusion rather than lecture them. When a student finally said that there are at least three sides to history: the truth, one side, and another side, I knew we were in the right place. Soon after that came the realization that we cannot simply trust hearsay, textbooks, or primary documents as legitimate truths in and of themselves. 

After that we played a game called Step into the Circle. After reviewing our community rules which ensure that we are creating a safe and confidential space in which to have discussions, I read about twelve statements. After each statement, the students who identified with it would stand up, look each other in the eye, and shake hands. All of the students who remained seated clapped for them, celebrating their peers’ identities. For example, one of the statements was “I identify as a Native American.” Another was “I grew up in a single parent household.” After each statement, we all sat down and had the option of elaborating on our choice. So when I stood up after saying “I grew up in a single parent household,” I shook hands with other students who also came from single parent households, while our seated peers clapped for us. When we were seated, I explained that although my mother was divorced, we lived across the hall from my aunt for most of my childhood, so it was really more like having two moms. 

M.E.: So as the class moves on through history will the class begin to focus more on Transdiaspora Network’s goal of HIV prevention? 

S.M.E.: Yes, our next class will begin with slavery, move on to slave rebellions and independence movements in Latin American colonies, and end with an introduction to HIV/AIDS in the Latin American and African American communities. The class after that one is about immigration, and that’s where the diaspora element comes in. 

M.E.: That all sounds amazing. What is it like to start a project like this? It must be difficult to balance with school, doesn’t it? 

S.M.E.: Well, yeah. Columbia University isn’t exactly taking it easy on me! But I know that now is the time when I have the best motivation, connections, and resources to start something like this. 

*Sherill-Marie Henriquez is a sophomore student at Columbia College who is interesting in pursuing a career in Education, specifically urban and Latin American education.  



Caribbean HIV/AIDS Summit Opened In Bahamas

There has been an alarming increase in the transmission rates of HIV/AIDS among 20-49 year-olds in The Bahamas, according to recent statistics. Even more alarming is the fact that since 1994, AIDS has been the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15-49. But the problem is not only immune to The Bahamas, but throughout the region as well. In order to combat this disturbing trend, over 80 participants from throughout the region convened in the capital yesterday, to attend a three-day Caribbean Regional HIV Prevention Summit at the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort. 

The summit is being co-sponsored by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Ministry of Health. Participants at the summit represent several government agencies, national AIDS programmes, technical and policy experts, civil society organisations, programme implementers for MARPs and OVPs, multi-lateral and bi-lateral and regional organisations, and representatives from local organisations and networks supporting MARPs and persons living with HIV. 

 They discussed and share strategies on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. The Caribbean is the second most HIV affected region in the world as AIDS continues to be the leading cause of death among adult Caribbean males and females ages 25-44 years. 

 Opening the summit was Minister of Health, Dr. Hubert Minnis, who said while the national HIV/AIDS programme continues to be a global model, the country still has its challenges of providing adequate service to most at risk people (MARPs) and other vulnerable populations (OVPs) in HIV prevention programming, namely immigrants. “Fear of detainment by undocumented immigrants remains a barrier that hinders adequately reaching the immigrant population,” said Dr. Minnis. “Consequently, efforts to strengthen and expand prevention interventions aimed at individuals most at risk and people living with HIV to protect their health and reduce the risk of HIV transmission to sex partners and children are clearly needed.” 

 As there are currently no provisions for multilateral country agreements that address the continuity of medications between health systems in respective countries, Dr. Minnis said treatment becomes another challenge. While the focus has always been on the prevention and the comprehensive care of individuals infected with HIV, access to health care – regardless of immigration status – becomes a tenet of the Ministry of Health. 

 “The Government of The Bahamas has put in place policies and practices that facilitate reaching MARPS and OVP’s. One such policy that specifically facilitates the operation and scope of HIV/AIDS related services is the provision of medical care for persons with needs regardless of their ability to pay. Antenatal care, including the provision of antiretroviral therapy, is provided free of charge to all public patients. This has also been extended to all registered HIV positive patients in the private and public health sector.” 

 According to Dr. Minnis, the Ministry of Health with help from PEPFAR, will continue its efforts to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. “Since the very first case of HIV/AIDS was identified in The Bahamas, the death rate from HIV has been reduced by 70 per cent. The Bahamas went from 300 deaths from AIDS every year to around 70 for the last two years,” said Dr. Minnis. 

 Participants in the three-day summit were challenged to creatively think of ways to promote HIV/AIDS prevention, stigma reduction and public awareness in the local community. 

[Excerpted from The Bahamas Journal, By Andrew J.W. Knowles, March 16, 2011] 


 “Worldliness is exactly what we all have in common today: the dimension I find myself inhabiting and the relation we may well lose ourselves in. The wretched other side of the worldliness is what is called globalization or the global market: reduction to the bare basics, the rush to the bottom, standardization, the imposition of multinational corporations with their ethos of bestial (or all too human) profit, circles whose circumference is everywhere and whose center is nowhere.”

– Edouard Glissant



Transdiaspora NetworkTM is a New York-based human capacity building non-profit organization conducting HIV prevention awareness and community-based, culturally aware preventive mentoring for a population of youth at high risk. In addition, it facilitates identification of community resources, empowerment based interventions, and educational approaches to increase health literacy. Our Afro-Caribbean Dance Mediation, Storytelling Dynamics, the Social Photography Workshop and the BOLD Initiative provide solutions that increase self-awareness and assertiveness. For more information about our organization, please visit  


©Transdiaspora Network, March 2011 






March 22, 2011   No Comments

Issue XVIII – January 2011


Transdiaspora Network keeps believing in the future, but most importantly we believe in the endless potential of our youth. Our team recognize each young person’s uniqueness while providing personal empowerment and new strategies to practice HIV prevention. We are working even harder to improve our program’s curriculum and to be more effective in our community outreach expanding TDN’s social diversity. We are not afraid of being patient.

For 2011, our organization is envisioning a new expansion with the creation of the BOLD Initiative to inaugurate a culture of genuine promises where college students can come on board with a renewed sense of social commitment and voluntarism. This new year, everybody is welcome to contribute and elevated our expectations. Join us in our believe that youth empowerment and prevention are related to opportunity and achievement. Please visit our website and let us know how you can help to further our mission.

Would you like to know what is our New Year’s resolution? Here it is: Local action. Global message. One teen at a time!

Ariel Rojas, MS, MA
President & Founder


TDN invited to International Conference at UN Headquarters

Based on our innovative curriculum to educate culturally diverse teens about HIV prevention, TDN has been invited to participate in a day-long conference at the United Nations, focusing on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, with special emphasis on the subtopics of Poverty, Education and Global Health. The conference, held on January 14th, will offer information and updates of the progress being made toward the MDGs, one of which is combating HIV/AIDS. The conference is organized by The Committee On Teaching About the United Nations (CATUN), which provides educators worldwide with opportunities to learn about the work of the UN and community organizations, and to learn how to integrate global awareness into learning and teaching at all levels.

In recent years, attendance at the CATUN conference has reached and even exceeded 800 participants from countries in Latin America, Europe and Africa as well as the United States. In addition to speakers and panels, the conference includes an Info Fair of UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others whose work connects with the conference theme. This space provides materials and activities that can be replicated in classrooms and elsewhere.

TDN Partners With The Children’s Museum of the Arts For Haitian Art Festival

Transdiaspora Network is partnering with The Children’s Museum of the Arts (CMA) to promote a Haitian Art Festival, designed to serve the Haitian-American community of New York City and the tri-state region. The festival will be held on February 5th and 6th, 2011 at CMA’s SoHo facility, 182 Lafayette Street in Lower Manhattan.

The festival will feature a variety of hands-on, artist-led workshops teaching traditional Haitian art and folk art. On February 5th, contemporary Haitian-American artist Jean Dominique will lead a painting exploration of Haitian culture. Mr. Dominique will be sharing his own artwork that captures the movement of Haitian music and the essence of a traditional marketplace. Drawing inspiration from his paintings and actual objects, visitors will have the opportunity to work with Mr. Dominique on their own watercolor paintings. Additionally, storyteller Bethie Dominique will share traditional Haitian folktales accompanied by Emmanuel Louis’ rhythmic Haitian drumming.

On February 6th, the festival’s activities will continue with the traditional drumming, singing, and dancing of BONGA ( Following each performance, families will have the opportunity to participate in interactive workshops led by the guest performers. There will be also artist-led workshops exploring the visual art traditions of Haiti. For more information, contact the museum at 212.941.9198.

The BOLD Initiative: A New Endeavor

Transdiaspora Network has opened up a new space to engage young college students interested in trying new ideas to raise awareness and catalyze communal advancement in HIV prevention. We have named this new initiative The BOLD Initiative: Bridging Opportunity Leadership and Development and our first BOLD intern, Anyeli Arias, joined the program last fall. Anyeli is a Dance major at Hunter College and a student of Dominican-decent.

Anyeli decided to enroll in the Bold Initiative to expand her social knowledge and because TDN targets the concerns she feels most passionate about: helping children and social issues. Using her previous experience from the CARAS Dance Ensemble — a youth dance company that strives to empower young artists to express themselves through dance and to create works that explore social issues and spark dialogue for change – she was able to innovatively draw attention to issues specifically related to self-awareness and HIV prevention. During her internship, Anyeli worked on re-designing the curriculum for our new programming cycle of Dance Mediation and Storytelling Dynamics.

“In the beginning,” reflects Ms. Arias, “since I didn’t have any experience dealing with HIV-AIDS related issues, it was very challenging to incorporate that into the work, and to make it accessible to students. But as time progressed, it became easier, and I become better at developing the curriculum. The internship is something I feel very positive about.” During her internship, Anyeli received mentorship from Chelsea Downing, TDN’s Development Coordinator, and general supervision from TDN President and Founder Ariel Rojas.

New Brochure For A New Year

TDN has a new electronic brochure, thanks to the teamwork of our Graphic Designer, Dennis Chen, and TDN Board Member Sophie Cardona.

Successful Year-End Online Campaign

The social media online campaign “Where Do Babies Come From?”, which was designed by TDN Communications Director Federica Rangel and  ran during last month of 2010 on Transdiaspora Network’s community blog, was a resounding success, both on Twitter and Facebook, and surpassed all our expectations. During the three-week campaign, our blog received more than 200 visits from 11 countries, and more than 1,000 people accessed our campaign on Facebook, leaving colorful and insightful comments. Social media works! Click here to view the campaign.

Bed-Stuy Teens Help Neighbors And Set A Record

A group of Bedford-Stuyvesant teens turned last blizzard into a cash bonanza. The Bed-Stuy Foot Soldiers, teens who shovel, sweep and clean the neighborhood’s stately brownstones, earned nearly $5,000 last week shoveling snow – a one-day record for the group.

“This was the biggest storm we’ve ever dealt with, the biggest and the scariest,” said Foot Soldiers founder Barnabas Shakur. “There were four times I thought I was going to hit a car.”

The storm was a blessing for the group, part of Shakur’s youth nonprofit Project Re-Generation, which operates on a shoestring budget. Only about 20 of the Foot Soldiers’ 100 members were able to brave the snow last week and travel around the neighborhood in Shakur’s Ford F-150 pickup, stopping at houses and clearing the sidewalks, porches and steps.

Foot soldier Joey Horne, 19 years old, said he didn’t mind the cold – and felt good after an elderly woman thanked him for shoveling her out of her house.


Kenya: 40,000 males undergo ‘cut’ in anti-HIV drive

More than 40,000 men and boys were circumcised during the festive season under a government-sponsored programme for the prevention of HIV. More than 250,000 males have been circumcised so far giving Kenya the highest number of young men circumcised under the HIV prevention programme in the world.

According to Dr Nicolas Muraguri, the head at the Kenya National Aids/STI Control Programme, a Rapid Results Initiative launched in December captured many males. The World Health Organisation (WHO) shows Kenya has reached more men than all the other 12 participating countries combined.

While Kenya had recorded 110,000 cuts by June last year, the other 12 East and Southern African countries had a combined reach of 49,000. By the beginning of December, during the World Aids Day, Public Health minister Beth Mugo said the country had exceeded targets and would scale up the initiative during the holiday season.

“Kenya is the leading country globally in the promotion of Voluntary Male Circumcision as a key strategy in HIV prevention with the service being offered in Nyanza, parts of Nairobi, Western and Rift Valley provinces,” the minister said. Studies have shown that male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection by nearly 60 per cent. The programme hopes to reach 1.1 million males and prevent an estimated 900,000 new HIV infections for over 20 years.

But the implementing team has raised new concerns. The project targets males over the age of 15 considered sexually active but during the holidays there is a heavy turnout of younger boys. “More than 45 per cent of clients were younger than 15. Circumcising such young boys will not have an immediate impact on the HIV epidemic, because most of them are not sexually active,” says the update.

[Excerpted from The Daily Nation, January 3, 2011]


“Promoting empowerment means believing that people are capable of making their own choices and decisions. It means not only that human beings posses the strengths and potential to resolve their own difficult life situations, but also that they increase their strengths and contribute to the society by doing so.”

– Charles D. Cowger

Transdiaspora NetworkTM is a New York-based human capacity building non-profit organization conducting HIV prevention awareness and community-based, culturally aware preventive mentoring for a population of youth at high risk. In addition, it facilitates identification of community resources, empowerment based interventions, and educational approaches to increase health literacy. Our Afro-Caribbean Dance Mediation, Storytelling Dynamics, the Social Photography Workshop and the BOLD Initiative provide solutions that increase self-awareness and assertiveness. For more information about our organization, please visit

©Transdiaspora Network, January 2011

January 5, 2011   No Comments