“We will never surrender to the injustice,” says Jessi Mona Cartwright-Biggs, a 67-year-young grandmother and activist who lives in Houston, Texas. She’s spent the past year fighting for our rights on numerous fronts and helping the blue wave by getting folks to register and vote in the midterms.
Cartwright-Biggs, who jokes that, “HIV has been living with me for 19 years,” is one of the founders of the Positive Women’s Network-USA Texas Greater Houston Area chapter and serves as its strategic communication action team officer.
“I go to different organizations to address and speak about the stigmatizing language they are using and request it be changed,” Cartwright-Biggs says of her work with PWN. “The outcome thus far has been positive.” She also does outreach at re-entry programs for people paroled from prison, is involved in voter registration drives, and speaks to residential facilities for people living with HIV about resources available — especially for women who are poz.
Cartwright-Biggs grew up in upstate New York where she attended a Catholic school in which she was the only black kid in her class until 8th grade. She went on to earn an associate degree in criminal justice and a bachelor’s in human services.
As a survivor of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and violence in the workplace, Cartwright-Biggs says she’s been able to use her trauma for good to help others and empathize with those who experience trauma themselves. During the Kavanaugh confirmation proceedings Cartwright-Biggs says, “I felt the resurgence of the pain all over again,” and she joined in protesting his confirmation to the Supreme Court.
She’s also involved in the fight for immigrant justice in Texas. “I really was proud to be a part of these major events that affect our country,” Cartwright-Biggs says. When she was younger, she didn’t join the Civil Rights Movement, but says this year, “was my opportunity to get involved and protest to support the cause and injustice that took place, and actually is still taking place. The immigration events in Texas reminded me of slavery and the Holocaust. It reminded me of the pain and unbelievable injustice to basic human rights. I couldn’t not take the time to speak out for the voiceless. … I am so proud of having had the opportunity to travel with the ACLU to the Texas-Mexican border to protest the immigration separation.”
She’s also proud to be celebrating her 32nd year of sobriety. And in 2019, she’s looking forward to educating more people who are living with HIV, by sharing resources and stressing “the importance of involving themselves in government that affects them. And most of all, I want to show them that they can thrive in their lives, that HIV-AIDS is not a death sentence.”
Cartwright-Biggs says she sees the biggest challenges facing Americans living with HIV are healthcare, reproductive rights, and racial, social, and economic justice. “All of these are issues that will keep any civic-minded person engaged and very busy,” she acknowledges. “It is an uphill battle and the struggle continues. ”