A little over four years ago, I had a video interview with a bright, spirited and super smart young woman who blew us away with her interview to become our next If/When/How Reproductive Justice and HIV Fellow. There was no question that she was the perfect candidate to join our policy and advocacy team, and help us build the program. When we learned, shortly after the call, that she had just delivered her second baby within a day or so of our conversation, we were completely sold. We knew, either she was one of the toughest and resilient, or one of the most versatile, multi-tasking women we had ever met! Once Sequoia Ayala, JD MA, joined the SisterLove team, we quickly learned that she was both.
Sequoia Ayala didn’t complete her year as a Fellow because she was hired on as the Policy & Advocacy Program Manager halfway through the fellowship. Sequoia quickly stepped into a role that was not yet finished being formed. With little guidance, she took her position and the program, and ran fullsteam ahead with ideas and vision that led to the creation of a robust program focused on intersecting HIV with Sexual & Reproductive Justice.
On May 1, 2020 Sequoia began her next journey, surely continuing to leave a multitude of accomplishments in her wake wherever she goes. We will miss her dearly, and we wish her all the best in all her endeavors and achievements. She is truly leaving a legacy of leadership and institutional advancement. Only half of what she has done already, many dream their whole lives to do, Sequoia is a brilliant Black woman in the Sexual & Reproductive Justice movement destined to score some big wins for all of us.
Sequoia has been a tremendous gift to SisterLove. Her talents and diverse skill sets make her a rare find in a young person with her mature wisdom and knowledge. In her role as the PAP Manager, Sequoia has led us to do more policy and advocacy programming than we could have ever planned. She will be attributed with: establishing a policy and advocacy internship; creating the Healthy Love Youth Advocates Network and Statewide Summit; producing tons of informative communication mechanisms to reach our priority populations through video production, special events, blog posts, policy briefs and reports; In addition to publishing a few articles, Sequoia worked as co-counsel with a national team that successfully filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court Case, Trump v. Pennsylvania. She co-authored our seminal report, “Intersections at the Grassroots: An Intersectional Analysis of Atlanta’s HIV Epidemic. Sequoia has also played a pivotal leading role in helping us scale up and build the capacity of our fledgling community research program to become a fully staffed team conducting original research on medication abortion in Georgia.
It has been an honor, a privilege, a blessing and a fun learning experience working with Counselor Ayala. Through laughter, grimaces, smiles and tears, we have become committed colleagues, good friends and fierce comrades. I wish her all the best of the best, and send her to her next assignment with pride and joy. As for the rest of her story, I will end here and she will tell you for herself.
Much AppreciaLove, Sequoia. You will be missed and remembered through your work and your legacy at SisterLove. Anda bien, mi hermana, anda bien.
In the Spirit of My Sisters,
Dázon Dixon Diallo DHL, MPH