Addressing MPV: The Intersection of Availability & Access

Donald R. Powell, Sr. Director of Programs & Development

As a new virus hit NYC in July, Exponents jumped into action. When it became apparent that lessons learned (again) during our response to COVID-19 related to health inequities, access and stigma thought to have been learned had been forgotten, Exponents DID what we always do: ADVOCATE!! 

For two weeks, Exponents staff participated in webinars, town hall meetings, and panel discussions related to MPV (formerly known as MonkeyPox) ensuring that access for BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) queer and trans community members was provided in meaningful ways. On July 22nd, Amanda Phi and Patrick Padgen, from the New York Knows program of the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, reached out to ask if the agency would be willing to see if we could connect folks to appointments if they were provided direct access to the portal for scheduling those appointments. 

An emphatic yes led to a selection of our Director of Special Projects, Yvonne Soto, our Testing Manager, Sade Ellis, and Service Navigator, Roger Adamson. We all started being trained along to participate in a series of trainings, and gained access to the city’s MPV Vaccination scheduling portal.  Exponents was provided with 64 appointments for its first week of engagement. Those appointments had been exhausted in a little over 24 hours.

On Thursday, August 11th, Mr. Adamson and I attended a press conference organized by the LGBTQI Caucus of the City Council, where three pieces of proposed legislation were unveiled. The legislation requests that the City request vaccinations doses commensurate with our infection rates, and that the DOHMH create a comprehensive prevention plan and provide greater transparency on the breakdown of race, sexual orientation, gender identity and zip code of residence for those provided vaccinations. Crafted by the Caucus Co-Chair, Crystal Hudson, this legislation is the first of its kind to specifically address MPV in the country.

To date, Exponents has provided access to more than 300 BIPOC community members, provided recommendations to Speaker Adams and the NYCDOHMH on portal revisions, locations of pop-up clinics and the relationship to safety and many more issues. As a result of our work, Exponents received short-term funding to continue and expand on this support for the community. 

We did not work alone. Eternal gratitude to Snookie Lanore, Icon & Commentator within the House/Ball community; Dominic Faison, NYC Chapter Father of the House of Ebony Tygier Morgan (Founder & Principle of Ty wit Da Live), Ballroom Legend & Videographer, and; Nicole Bowles, Transgender advocate and activist for their Herculean efforts and reaching into their own personal social networks. Special thanks also to Patrick Padgen and Amanda Phi at New York Knows for their guidance and support, and First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem for helping us get the word out. None of this would be possible without the support of our dedicated and passionate team working diligently to get folks the access they need to feel safe and protected!!

Reflections from Women in Leadership

Regina Edwards, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

As we celebrate Women’s History Month and the contributions women have made, I also reflect on the milestones women have made in business and the long-awaited recognition we are finally getting. It gives me joy and hope for a future where equity becomes commonplace. That said, we still have a long way to go, but progress is being made and I am a part of this evolution.

Finance is a career field unmistakably dominated by men. So from the start, I decided to focus on what I could control, and to block out all the things around me that said otherwise. I rolled up my sleeves, did the work and proved that I had what it took. Being confident in myself and not allowing stereotypes to prevail has helped me get to my current leadership role. Believing that performance matters, being present at all times and willing to go that extra mile has worked for me.

However, while I believe that my work ethic and determination have paid off, I’m not so naïve as to think that this is all it takes. Women are where we are today by standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. Those women faced insurmountable challenges, some of which remain in existence today–gender bias, stereotypes, equity, and diversity challenges to name a few.

When I arrived at Exponents 26 years ago, I came with intention. I wanted to put my stamp on what was a relatively small agency that outsourced its accounting function. I worked hard to build a full-fledged finance department staffed up to meet the rigorous demands of the non-profit industry. My reach has also increased to include Human Resources, IT and Fundraising. It’s been a ride and I’m not done yet.        

What would I tell a young woman today about leadership? Don’t change who you are to fit a mold or try to please. Do your best, always present yourself in a way that is uncompromising, remain unwavering in what you want for yourself, and know your worth. 

Last but not least, when you get there, lead by example. Be an example for the others that will come behind you and undoubtedly walk in your footsteps, whether you know it or not. Be true to yourself!

Samantha Lopez, Executive Vice President & Chief Operations Officer

Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate the vital role of women in American history. This year, I find myself reflecting on the challenges faced by women in the workforce. I also find myself looking back on my own career achievements and the experiences that have brought me to my role at EXPONENTS in an executive leadership position.

When I began my career, I had the good fortune to work under a series of female leaders. These mentors modeled very different styles of leadership, from leading through fear and intimidation to leading through vulnerability and nurturing. What has stayed with me from those lived experiences is the firm belief that my gender didn’t limit my ability to lead, and the knowledge that there is no one effective style of leadership.

The challenges faced by women in earlier generations and in more male-dominated fields (such as science and technology) have lessened, but not been fully eradicated. We deal with barriers of a more subtle, insidious nature… a slight condescension, overtalking, being mansplained to, or having your ideas reworded as if you were unable to articulate your thoughts. 

Women are conditioned to be polite, so many of us experience difficulty asserting ourselves. We are wary of feeling as if we’re being rude, or being painted as aggressive. In my opinion, this conditioning is a significant contributor to the gender wage gap. Many women are not comfortable with asking for pay increases and promotions because it entails being assertive about one’s accomplishments, which can feel braggadocious or obnoxious. 

Trust me when I tell you, men never feel this way. They are aware there is nothing impolite about knowing your value!

For leaders who are also women of color, these issues are compounded by societal bias and stereotypes. It has been my experience that these negative aspects are offset by modeling potential and possibility to our agency’s participants and staff, which I find to be one of the most gratifying aspects of being a leader. 

Leaning into feminine energy by being able to nurture staff and provide them with a safe space to develop while guiding with a firm hand has been an effective personal leadership technique and has allowed us to continue to flourish during unprecedented times.

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