August 18th marks the third annual Positive Women’s Networks (PWN) Celebrate and Honor Black Women in the HIV Movement Day. PWN aims to use this day to highlight Black women and Black women-led organizations as well as their contributions to ending the HIV epidemic.
AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) is proud to boast many Black women amongst our staff and in leadership roles. Tamika Foust, Director of Capacity Building and Training Workforce Development, and L’Oreal Bailey, Senior Manager of Community Partnerships and Special Projects, are two that we choose to highlight on this day by honoring and celebrating their contributions and impact for Black Women in HIV.
Tamika Foust started at AFC in 2021 as a Prevention Employment Specialist and is now the Director of Capacity Building, Training & Workforce Development. Since joining the Community Partnerships & Special Projects team, she has led and contributed to multiple projects including the HIV Workforce Taskforce and the Learning Circle Collaborative, Tamika and is currently developing the Employment Services component of the department.
Tamika’s professional background spans from government, to healthcare, to higher education. At the forefront of everything she has done throughout her career, the overarching theme in her work has been helping others.
“I’m a servant at heart. I just really believe that as a Christian, as a human being, it is my job and my purpose to serve,” said Tamika.
Stemming from a conversation with Dr. Cynthia Tucker, Senior Vice President of Prevention and Community Partnerships at AFC, the HIV Workforce Taskforce first meet in December 2021. “Dr. Tucker had so many different wonderful organizations coming to her needing help, having problems with hiring and job retention during the height of COVID,” said Tamika. “Having worked in higher education, I know how hard it can be to help students get internships. I know how much harder it can be for schools to get graduates and alumni jobs. Why don't we bridge the gap? This entire idea came from listening to the issues that Dr. Tucker was hearing about from smaller organizations as well as AFC.”
In March 2023, on a nonexistent budget, Tamika was instrumental in creating and conducting the HIV Workforce Taskforce Hybrid Job Readiness & Resource Fair. This endeavor successfully connected many students, unemployed and underemployed individuals looking to change career paths with professional, academic, community resources, tips, and tools on how to enter or reenter the workforce. Tamika is excited to continue this project with the second Job Readiness Fair coming this October.
Among the organizations Tamika has partnered with is Defy Ventures, where Tamika continued her employment crusade, helping justice-involved individuals with professional development, learning entrepreneurial skills and networking with working professionals, business owners, or graduate school students.
When talking about her experience with these individuals, Tamika said, “It really validated and solidified the decision we made to partner with Defy Ventures as one of the best decisions. The individuals who are a part of that program need to know they are not the mistake they made. They are still valuable and have much to contribute.”
When asked about the community of Black/African American women on her team and at AFC, Tamika was ecstatic. “To be on a team with educated, talented women and know that we’re able to lean on each other every single day, it’s empowering to another level,” said Tamika. “I’m able to look to my left, my right, and in front of me and see my sisters all saying, ‘I got you.’”
Part of that incredible community is L’Oreal Bailey, former Research and Evaluation Coordinator and current Senior Manager of Community Partnerships and Special Projects who has been with AFC since 2014.
Prior to AFC, L’Oreal knew she wanted to help women and make a difference in public health when she began her leadership role at Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center working with women living with HIV. She began helping by connecting, engaging and reengaging women of color back into HIV care, while breaking the silos to stigma. Through this program she led a Healthy Relationship workshop for women that focused on skill building, self-efficacy, disclosure, and developed strategies for safer sex practices to help reduce HIV transmission.
“I realized the need for and importance of advocating, empowering, and building relationships with women due to the mistrust in the medical industry, especially with women of color. I really enjoy working with women, and making a difference in their lives and their respected communities they live in,” said L’Oreal.
When asked “What challenges black women are facing when it comes to HIV prevention and care?” L’Oreal explained, “It is hard for black women to be open about their health to providers that do not look like us. Black women, including justice- involved women, are faced with many challenges and barriers including structural barriers such as poverty, medical mistrust, stigma, lack of social support when it comes to being engaged in health care. Black women are not always seen or heard which is very important.”
As a valuable leader at AFC since 2014, L’Oreal has contributed to the development and implementation of multiple programs including multiple multi-sector coalition for programs such as Project Elevate, Safe and Sound Return Partnership, Women’s Connection, and Women Evolving. These programs work to change structures that impact priority populations.
L’Oreal has continued her work at AFC leading the Women’s Connection Program with Dr. Tucker, funded by PAFW, a community driven network in the Chicagoland area that continues to identify strategies to increase engagement of women of Color in the HIV Continuum of Care. This program has been a driving force on the creation of the Women Connection Summit of Hope.
This led L’Oreal to AFC, where she has been working for the past 9 years, now as a part of Dr. Cynthia Tucker’s team working with Tamika on projects such as the￼ Women’s Connection Summit of Hope.
L’Oreal has led the Learning Exchange Circle, an advisory board of women who advises the Women’s Connection and Women Evolving programs. This board, also made up of cis and trans women of color, are offered advocacy, training, leadership development, empowerment and support.
When talking about her greatest experience at AFC, L’Oreal spoke of helping a woman who was newly released after a long incarceration. L’Oreal said, “She didn't have the momentum. She was incarcerated for 15 years. She didn't know what a Ventra card was. She didn’t know how to work a smartphone. Being able to look back to where she is now, fully employed, fully housed, and with a driver’s license. Just by us advocating, and making sure the clients are listened to, helping them believe in themselves, and providing the support, reminds me why I am here.”
With their open hearts and intelligence, both Tamika and L’Oreal have become inspirations not just to their community, or AFC, but also to all of Illinois. Their achievements have led to marginalized community members gaining opportunities, skills, and to some, even their lives back.
In honor of Celebrate and Honor Black Women in the HIV Movement Day, please join us Thursday, September 21st at 12 p.m. CT for a virtual Black Women Movement Discussion Panel, featuring several black leaders within the community. You can register for the event here: Meeting Registration - Zoom