A Note From Dafina Ward, Executive Director

Dafina Ward

Executive Director

Gina Brown headshot

Roses are some of my favorite flowers.  I have some in my garden, and recently they seem to be producing more thorns than blooms.  That’s how life has felt recently.  The attacks on humanity and autonomy across many southern states—definitely thorns.  Yet, the advocates fighting for their communities, the people we have the honor of standing with every day—roses for sure.  And so it goes.   There is a quote that says, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”  I am choosing to rejoice in the roses.

Over the past weeks, we have lost some powerful advocates in the South, but more importantly, we have lost people we loved and counted as friends, mentors, and family.  Kirk Myers-Hill, Tiffany Marrero, Rymsky Evans (and I know there are others)—we will rejoice that you were roses on the thorn bush. And while losing you still seems surreal and incomprehensible for many, your lights will live on in the seeds you planted.

I am choosing to rejoice in the roses.  And I hope you will join me.  Remember that roses need pruning, care, and nourishment.  Take care of yourself in this season. As we close out Mental Health Awareness Month, take a moment to create a Summer Self-Care Plan.  How will you tend to yourself?  Yes, there is a lot of work to do. There are more challenges than we can count, but you cannot effectively fight if you are fatigued. With that in mind, I am taking some time away to rest. During the month of June, I will be out of the office celebrating my daughter’s graduation, laying on the beach, struggling through some yoga classes, and finally cleaning out my closets. This is my Summer Self-Care Plan.  Please consider doing something for yourself.

In this email, there are some exciting updates from SAC.  You will see that our team has grown, and the individuals who have recently joined us are each dynamic and passionate advocates.  They bring decades of experience in public health, HIV advocacy, community programs, disability rights, training, capacity building, and more.

I am also thrilled to share that SAC’s longest-serving employee, Mardrequs Harris, is now serving in the role of Deputy Director!  Mardrequs is a leader in our community and work. He is a trusted resource for so many, a supportive manager to members of our team, and a trusted thought partner for me and others.  Mardrequs fights for the community. He shows up with respect, curiosity, and a desire to make things better.  He sees beyond the surface and is always looking for ways to support emerging leaders.  SAC is so fortunate to have him take on this new role, and I am honored to have him step into the Deputy Director position.

Meet the 2024-2025 Transformative Grant partners!

This is the final round of funding for Gilead’s groundbreaking COMPASS program, a 10-year, more than $100 million collaboration between Gilead Sciences, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Southern AIDS Coalition, University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and Wake Forest University School of Divinity.

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SAC congratulates the appointment of Dafina Ward, Executive Director, to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS

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