Cora Lee is a member of the Lumbee Nation, and started with PAN as Indigenous Programming Coordinator in October 2022. She has worked in Indigenous services, as a nurse practitioner in HIV, Hep C and STBBI care and support, and as an educator. Cora Lee works with the Training and Leadership team.
What sparked your interest in working in HIV, hepC and harm reduction?
HCV: I grew up with a parent who had a long struggle with HCV (before current treatments were available). It impacted my life very deeply, and has shaped my perceptions of violence, health, and family. I remember one of his medical providers, a doctor of Chinese medicine, told our family once that when he wants to ask someone, “How are you?” he expresses it as, “How is your liver?” After seeing that my dad’s liver looked like after decades of HCV, cancer, and cirrhosis, I’ve always had a great reverence for all that this organ does.
HIV: I suppose I see myself as a descendant of the queer women who were the nurses and caregivers and fighters from the start of the HIV epidemic. In a way, HIV has been a thread that has tightened the alliance between queer people of different experiences, and I appreciate this aspect of HIV work.
Harm Reduction: Basically, I’m just a realist and I like things that work. And harm reduction works.
What kind of impact do you hope your work has on the “real world”?
I hope my work increases people’s knowledge about (1) issues that affect the health of their communicates, and (2) other’s perspectives that diverge from their own. I hope that, in the course of their daily lives, they encounter moments during which they stop and reflect on something they learned as a result of their engagement with PAN’s capacity building work. I hope these reflections lead them to make more informed decisions and improve their sense of command and understanding of the world around them.
What are you looking forward to in your work over the next year?
I am looking forward to visiting and experiencing the lands where our various constituencies live.
If you had unlimited funds, what parts of community work would you invest in? (research, outreach, training, etc.)
Indigenous autonomous governance and infrastructure. I think there are better ways to arrange social governance that support Indigenous sovereignty, equitable participation and decision-making, and that center the intellectual traditions that we’ve developed over thousands of years. Indigenous social, biological, and physical scientific methodologies have longitudinal advantage, and are optimally suited to maintain and honor the contracts that we’ve established with our respective territories.
If you were able to choose, what is the natural talent or superpower you’d like to be gifted with and why?
To understand the perspectives and experiences of others exactly as they perceive them. I’d like to have this gift because I think it would be a powerful tool for social alliance building (not to mention, for vanquishing enemies).