newspaper headline, youth center expands gay and lesbian teen support groups

“This is a place you can come to and express how you feel about your sexuality and you don’t have to worry about someone verbally or physically attacking you.”

We Support Kids. Without Question.

In 1996, Aunt Martha’s became the first South Suburban organization to offer a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ) support, education, and prevention group.

As late as 2003 (and possibly much later!), Aunt Martha’s was still the only agency in the south suburbs with an ongoing support group gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth and young adults. Weekly sessions were attended by groups of 25 and more by participants making their way from as far as the north side of Chicago and the rural outskirts of Kankakee.

By then, many of the youth and young adults who turned to us acknowledged Aunt Martha’s as the only support and link to services that prevented them from contracting HIV.

During his final February in office, President Obama said of Black History Month, “It’s about the shared experience of all African Americans…and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America.” This year, focused around a theme of Black Health and Wellness, Black History Month recognizes the legacy of medical scholars and health care providers. It reminds us of the continuing contribution of the hospitals, schools and community clinics they created. It reminds us of the partnerships they forged to support one another in the face of mainstream discrimination and all of the injustices and disparities it breeds.

In the midst of month 23 of a pandemic that has disproportionately ravaged communities of color, Black History Month provides an opportunity to learn from the sacrifices of the past, but also to recognize and to reaffirm our support for our Black and African American coworkers and colleagues as they write their own narrative and shape, as they always have, ours. It seems appropriate to recognize Speaker Welch for his place as the first African American to hold the position, and for his work with the leaders of the Legislative Black Caucus to ensure the historic measures of reform passed last year are implemented with the same vigor and in the spirit of diversity, inclusion and justice with which they were created.

Of the more than 120,000 patients and participants Aunt Martha’s is privileged to serve, over half (53%) identify as Black or African American. When they visit Aunt Martha’s, they see doctors, nurses, child welfare specialists, care coordinators, home visitors, crisis responders and other professionals who come from their community and understand that the most powerful word is always TRUST. Aunt Martha’s, as an organization, is proud to be a part of that vital relationship. And we are, moreover, proud to share the work and impact of our colleagues and friends as they continue to shape and strengthen the communities around us.

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