Training for Intersectional Liberation

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Hey, folks! Thank you so much for joining us. My name is Riahl O’Malley. I use he/him pronouns. I’m with Learning to Transform, and I am delighted to introduce all of you to Jessie Claudio. Jessie Claudio graduated from the transformative trainer cohort and remains an active member of that network. We are certainly blessed to have a conversation with Jessie today about all the amazing work that he and his colleagues are doing. Before we delve into it, I’m going to have Jessie introduce himself.


Thank you so much, Riahl. Hello, everyone. My name is Jessie Claudio. I use he/him pronouns. I am based out of Memphis, Tennessee, and I work for the Latino Commission on AIDS, specifically as a Community Building Manager for a program called Latinos in the South.


Amazing. I want to learn more about the work that you’re doing. Certainly, through your participation in the transformative trainer program, you created an incredible training. What are some ways in which you’re using this training and education in your own work, Jessie?


A substantial part of my work is focused on the southeastern parts. My role requires me to help oversee nine states in the southeast, including Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina, to name a few. A lot of my work revolves around ensuring that our community, specifically the Latino community, is aware of the availability of resources related to HIV. Additionally, I am required to introduce other community organizations and partners to this project through relationship building and by learning about their work and highlighting it. In order to organize and facilitate advocacy with Latinos in the South, we have been offering training initiatives to community partners. Specifically, I developed my HIV 101 for language workers with the [Learning to Transform cohort program. Language workers essentially include both formal and informal Spanish interpreters and translators. Specifically in the South, we noticed that when it came to accessing preventive or corrective HIV care, there is a huge language barrier affecting the access to these resources specifically within our communities.

Thus, we wanted to establish a network of interpreters who render their services either to HIV AIDS organizations, clinics, or even community spaces, to encourage them to reach out to these language workers and ensure that they are being hired to do the work. Within our field, there are oftentimes learning spaces like conferences and meetings that take place, whether by ensuring that they have someone on site who interprets for them or having someone who can go to their appointments. It is our objective to make sure that in such spaces, organizations curating these opportunities can access these language workers who can then come and render those services to improve language access and language justice. Interestingly, one of the ways in which we’ve been utilizing our training is by creating tools and resources, and acquiring fundamental knowledge about the work that our organization does and aims to achieve while organizing and serving our communities. So, for example, the HIV 101 for language workers is focused on conveying a very fundamental understanding of what HIV is and how it works, before providing resources and tools that revolve around language.

So, we offer them resources, such as preferred language. Often, there’s a lot of stigma surrounding HIV, and people aren’t always aware of that. Moreover, HIV disproportionately affects gay, bisexual men of color, and trans women of color. As such, we wanted to ensure that these interpreters – most of whom don’t come from a background in public health or have experience working with HIV – possess not only fundamental knowledge around HIV but are also introduced to a preferred language that is more inclusive and less stigmatizing. We also wanted to inject it with a few notions of how this concerns the LGBT community and the appropriate way to interact with the members of this community. Since the language workers will be in these spaces, they’re going to encounter someone who probably identifies as queer or is within the spectrum. We want to equip them with the knowledge required to talk about HIV, while also making sure that they are addressing the person in a respectful manner that keeps their humanity and integrity intact.

This training essentially builds a foundation for them to get more comfortable around this topic and engage with this community, which is something many of them may not have been exposed to in the past.

“When you take this training, we’re not expecting you to be experts. We’re not expecting you to know everything…What we are hoping is to plant the seed…To give you the confidence to feel empowered to talk about these taboo topics in a way that is more intentional and inclusive.”


That’s amazing. There are a number of things that I really love about what you said. For instance, one of the primary aspects of this program is that it’s for language workers. We had previously talked about how that framing is important because so many people who are playing the role of interpreter just happen to be bilingual. A few monolingual people might just assume that being bilingual is the same as being an interpreter, but it’s not. This is a role that people are expected to play, whether they’ve decided to be in that role or not. As such, framing the role of a language worker as someone who engages in the labor of interpreting and translation is smart and also has implications for the design of the training material.

Second, those with their certification essentially underwent some sort of formal training. However, their training isn’t related to a few actual scenarios such as the medical system, the school system, or whatever institution they’re interacting with, which is rooted in power dynamics. This is why it is necessary to undergo training to understand how to navigate those systems. In this case, language is such a critical facet around power and it is important to know what language to use when talking about HIV or interacting with LGBTQ folks.

I value the significance of that work and how it intersects with the many other programs that you have established with this network that you support, build up, and connect with. Thank you for sharing these details about that program. Reflecting on that experience, the people who participated in the training, and those who go through the program, what are the benefits of using training and education in this way, as per your observations?

“I feel like oftentimes data and numbers are very important to illustrate the severity of a situation…But then, when you’re able to put a human aspect to understand that this is beyond a systematic problem and affects day-to-day people, people like you, people like me… When we’re able to incorporate these other forms of understanding, in the messaging and the discourse, it makes it a little bit more personable.”


Absolutely. Through these trainings, one benefit I identified is that we could create a foundation and base for them to build upon their knowledge around these subjects. Because, like you mentioned earlier, a certified or licensed interpreter doesn’t necessarily possess the knowledge required to be a subject matter expert around HIV.

So, our goal was to create a foundation or a base for them to understand the fundamentals so they can build upon them. When people undergo this training, we’re not expecting them to be experts or know everything that they need to know. We are merely hoping to plant the seed to equip them with the confidence required to feel empowered to talk about these taboo topics in a way where it is more intentional and inclusive. But most importantly, it is about eliminating stigmatizing language. This is why I tell people nowadays that HIV – the virus itself – is not what is killing our communities. Instead, it’s the way that we talk about it and still perpetuate a lot of these narratives that are very archaic and harmful. As such, it’s all about creating a foundation and base for them to continue their knowledge. But most importantly, Riahl, the goal is to create and hold space for them – and for all of us – to engage in a conversation on these very important and often complex topics that might seem overwhelming. However, these trainings make the content more digestible by using simple language, focusing on the key points of the message, and verbal and visual examples to show how everything is interconnected.

Personally, visual aid is the best learning tool for me. Whether in a lecture or at a training session, if we are merely talking, I sometimes have a hard time conceptualizing or grasping some really important pieces from those conversations. This is why we are supplementing information with some type of visual aid to extend the point or emphasize what we’re trying to achieve. Essentially, it is just about creating and holding space… to ensure people know that this is the space to ask questions, make mistakes, and learn.


I really appreciate that. You said that this can be a really taboo topic. In that context, invoking conversation rather than merely giving a presentation might be nerve-wracking for folks who are participating in the session, since they may fear saying the wrong thing. They signed up for this training because they don’t know how to talk about it yet. This is why one of the things that strikes me about your approach is that you set the tone by clarifying that you are not expecting people to be experts, while also deliberately presenting this as a place where we can make mistakes and learn from them. Because we say the wrong thing all the time and I really appreciate you naming that. That’s the reason the stigma exists, right? Because of people’s attitudes and behaviors towards it, as opposed to the illness itself.

The second part is the visual examples. It’s one thing just to articulate your point verbally. It’s another to create a picture or a drawing, share a cartoon or something that might help someone remember these points when they’re in that situation. I’m no neuroscientist, but as I understand it, this approach does aid in retention. It helps us remember things when there’s something visual that we can refer to.


And not only that, Riahl. It also adds to the ethos of our messaging. Often, data and numbers are very important and informative to illustrate the importance or the severity of a situation or the necessity of something. But by introducing a human aspect, you can acknowledge and address that this is beyond a systematic problem; it affects the day-to-day lives of people like you and me, even though we might not necessarily realize it. By incorporating these other forms of understanding, the messaging, and the conversation that’s taking place, it becomes a little bit more personable. I think it also kind of hits a different chord within the human body that highlights the importance of the training and of the work that we’re doing through a different lens – that of a human lens.

Like, let’s look past the data and the numbers, to see the day-to-day lives of people and how this affects their well-being.

“Often, data and numbers are very important and informative to illustrate the importance or the severity of a situation or the necessity of something. But by introducing a human aspect, you can acknowledge and address that this is beyond a systematic problem; it affects the day-to-day lives of people like you and me, even though we might not necessarily realize it.”


Yes, I love that. I really appreciate considering all of the challenges that can come with this really critical work to surface taboo conversations. Because, it is really critical to have those conversations and get people to the table. You mentioned that you’re convening this across nine states. I think you even worked on a national scale. Could you delve into the kind of challenges that emerged during the course of creating this space and what you did to overcome those challenges and develop such a fruitful space?


I tend to use a lot of analogies to express some of my points. To answer this question, one of the challenges I encountered is that everyone is like a snowflake in the sense that no two are alike or the same. You must understand that you cannot use a cookie-cutter outline or training for everybody. Instead, you must be client-centered or aware of who your audience is. Keeping that in mind was something that I had to really navigate. It was both challenging and rewarding since we often try to create a good product that we hope to use in various spaces. However, depending on the audience in those spaces, it doesn’t always translate. This is why it is important to allow your content to have room for it to be catered to, or tweaked or adjusted to the audience that you’re talking about. It is important to ensure that nothing is necessarily set in stone.

There tend to be some pieces that you want to retain regardless of who your audience is. However, in terms of how you convey the message or some of the examples, you should be able to switch it up, because not everyone is going to resonate with the same way of delivering a message. I learned this lesson not only by developing this training initiative but also throughout my career. Particularly in the context of communicating with individuals, I learned that sometimes I need to adjust myself by retaining the essence of the message but expressing it or talking about it in a different way. This is how I had that nuance when I was doing the national training. Everyone was from the south and down there, we have this unspoken knowledge of our environment, our political climate, and the religious factors that sometimes other states or regions in our country might not necessarily be aware of. In these circumstances, making those tweaks was very helpful in improving the impact of the messaging.

In other words, I had to work on offering training that was very focused on the South. But then, on a national platform, I had to tweak some stuff either by taking or adding some things that made more sense on that scale.


Oh, absolutely. Designing your curriculum with your audience in mind is very important. This is such a potent example – thinking about what to share with people engaged in this work in the South versus a national context. There are certainly a lot of things that are different between those audiences. Paulo Freire has a great quote that says, you need to know in whose favor you’re working for. We’re not working in favor of humanity. Humanity is an abstraction.

When designing the training, you placed considerable thought into various questions – What are the examples that I’m going to use? What are the activities that I’m going to use for these particular people based on their context, even though that’s unique for each group. Like you said, they’re snowflakes. But what are some elements that they share? What does this group share that I can direct my speech toward in order to be relevant to them? I think that’s such a great experience to share.

There may be some folks who might deliver training relying on the cookie-cutter method, maybe through PowerPoint presentations. Maybe that’s the expectation that they’ve inherited from wherever they’re working, or maybe it’s a common practice.

Whatever the case is, maybe they’re considering how to start being more participatory. They might want to start facilitating more or drawing out more experience using these tools. What advice would you give to someone who’s just beginning their journey as a facilitative trainer or educator?


I would say, first of all, be patient with yourself. Give yourself the grace to be open and receptive to constructive feedback. During the process of working on the training, one thing I learned was that even though I was a subject matter expert in terms of HIV, I was still new to my audience – language workers. It was necessary for me to understand that I had to deliver my knowledge in a way that made sense to the people receiving it. There was a lot of back-and-forth conversation and some consultation. We also learned through you guys [at Learning to Transform]. Instead of only using internal community partners or staff, we also reached out to community partners to kind of look over your work.

So, occasionally, I would get feedback on certain things that I considered important but didn’t really resonate with my audience. I had to give myself that grace and accept that it was not going to be perfect. I’m going to have to revisit the drawing board a couple of times, but that’s okay. In order for you to have a good product at the end, you need to have these conversations and be open to constructive feedback.

First-time facilitators should know their presentation style. Everyone has strengths and areas of improvement (I don’t like to say weaknesses). I was able to learn about my strengths and areas of improvement through prior experience with more seasoned veteran presenters. So, for those who have the resources or the opportunity to work on a co-facilitation, it is quite effective. It helps when you have someone who’s been doing it a little bit longer because you can observe them and learn from their style. Often, you get inspired by some of their techniques or strategies, which you can implement in your way. It also helps find out the way that you engage.

I’ve realized that I love in-person training over virtual sessions. While I try my best to be engaged in virtual sessions, when I’m there in person, my energy and my vibe are more different, and I connect with my audience in a deeper, more profound way. I gained this knowledge by practicing and engaging in training with other people. By observing them, I was also able to figure out my strengths and areas of improvement. I would say this would be my advice or tips for newcomers or people who are new to facilitating – be patient, give yourself grace, be open to constructive criticism, and in that process, also figure out your style, which may be very different from people like me. Some folks are inclined towards no tea and no shade, but they’re attached to data. And that can be a little bit boring. I try to make mine more interactive. Again, through this training and through my style, I also learned that having audiences engage with me is not just about us constantly talking and giving content, but it’s about creating pockets and opportunities for conversation and dialogue. So those would be my couple of tips.

“I would say this would be my advice or tips for newcomers or people who are new to facilitating – be patient, give yourself grace, be open to constructive criticism, and in that process, also figure out your style, which may be very different from people like me.”


Those are awesome tips. Thanks so much for sharing that. I know one of the community partners you worked with was the Tilde Language Justice Cooperative. Definitely a great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about language justice. I’m wondering if there are any other resources or practices that have helped you become better, Jessie.


Absolutely. I would say Learning to Transform is definitely a huge resource. If you guys have not had a chance to go through their training, please do it. There are so many tools and resources that you get to implement through that training, not only on the project that you’re working with but this knowledge can be implemented in various aspects of your work. For example, for me at least, it was the SMARTIE goal that impacted me. I’ve always heard about SMART goals. But the SMARTIE approach was revolutionary to me because I am a big believer that if your work is not intersectional, then with all due respect, it’s BS. So even though my work is primarily working with HIV within the Latino population, I’m also being intentional about how it intersects with people who are undocumented, people who are queer, and people who are neurodivergent. This approach makes sure that we’re encompassing all these different groups to whom we might generally not provide a direct service, but all of our work connects specifically when talking about liberation.

I think the SMARTIE goal really captured one of my personal values, where the IE stands for inclusive and equitable. When you guys were explaining that during one of our sessions, I had a huge light bulb ignite. I was certain that this is a tool that we need to be using. And it was information that I was able to share in a different cohort I’m part of. It’s from NMAC called Gay Men of Color. We were talking about storytelling and resources and how you can use the acronym SMART when developing something to make sure that you’re doing your work justice and checking off some marks. But at the end of that session, I was able to share with them the SMARTIE acronym, the upgraded version, if you will. And when I shared that with my team, everyone basically had the same response that I did.

This is definitely one of the practices that I keep in mind to this day. When I was undergoing this training, I was developing the HIV 101 project for language workers. Now, I’m able to use that same SMARTIE goal for my upcoming training in January, which is LGBTQ 101 for Spanish media. Again, this is essentially focusing on Spanish media outlets and how they cover things that affect the queer community, whether it is policies or stories in terms of how we’re talked about. And so that’s something that I’ve kept with me since being exposed to it. Learning to Transform is an incredible resource because, within that one resource, you’re exposed to multiple tools and so many ways of approaching the work that you do. So, the SMARTIE method and the Learning to Transform would be my two recommendations.


Well, I’m so grateful to hear that it’s been useful to you not only in designing that program for language workers but also in the new program that you’re developing in January. I must admit that the IE in SMARTIE is not our innovation. We actually got it from The Management Center, which is another great resource for folks who are interested in organizational development and management for social change. Maybe intentionally or perhaps unintentionally, you added another layer of nuance to it by bringing up intersectionality. That’s what the “I” [in SMARTIE Goals] stands for, too. So, thanks for that.

Jessie, it has been such a pleasure hearing about your experience. I’m so looking forward to hearing all of your future accomplishments that continue to happen in your work. Jessie is from the Latino Commission on AIDS, the Latinos in the deep south program and we will integrate a link to plug their work. You should check them out. Been such a pleasure, Jessie. Thank you.


Thank you, Riahl. This has been an amazing interview. Again, I appreciate everything I learned through you guys. This is my final message to the readers – please reach out, not only to learn about the organization, but also to collaborate, strategize, or be a soundboard. I’m also here as a resource for the community. So once again, thank you so much, Riahl. Wishing everyone a wonderful day.


Thanks, Jessie.

You can find out more about The Transformative Trainer cohort program by following the link here.

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Riahl Hey, folks! Thank you so much for joining us. My name is Riahl O’Malley. I use he/him pronouns. I’m with Learning to Transform, and

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