|Photos by Erik McGregor above, Babara Ross and this writer.|
|This writer and friends, including Reginald Thomas Brown act act up 30.|
Some time after the election, I got in a discussion with a friend about ACT UP and the Resistance. People were looking for an organizational model that could help us push back. One man suggested ACT UP’s model of open meetings, affinity groups, and loosely affiliated direct actions would help spur the resistance. Another suggested its utility had played out. For sure, no one can be sure what is the best model moving forward. But the swirling of street actions coming out of the Resistance, the ACT UP style Rise and Resist meetings, born from the same location where ACT UP was born, suggest there is something to be said for the utility of its model, now thirty years in the making. Suffice it to say, ACT UP represents a style of direct action, stretching back to the ant-war and Gay Libation days, through the worst years of the AIDS crisis, into the Global Justice, and today’s resistance movements.
Riding over the action, I ran into Jim Fouratt, whose been at this for decades, strolling down the street away from the action. Everyone seemed to be there. Joining the action, I started running into friend after friend, Michael who had been out of town, Annette, Andy, Amanda, Eric, Jim, etc. Its now been twenty years that I have been going to ACT UP demos in New York, my first in San Francisco in 1993. The group has marked my growing up and learning to find a voice.
“Single Payer Now!” people screamed as we walked past the old St Vincent’s location toward Union Square.
Someone was carrying sign declaring: “Pence Loves Fags” and “Eat Ass Pray Love!”
“Eat Ass Pray Love!!!” people started screaming. “Eat Ass Pray Love!”
A group of younger activists were smiling, walking along.
I recalled Bob Kohler, the old Gay Liberation Front icon and ACT UP member, who died ten years ago.
“Wash your ass!” we chanted at his funeral march. “Wash your ass!”
Members of VOCAL were carrying pictures of activists from their group who had died in the last year. Every year the list of losses grows.
““Healthcare is a right,” the crowd screamed. “Health care is a right.”
Bryn Marie and I talked about the ACT UP youth caucus coming to meetings now.
I told her I was sorry I was not able to make the Monday night meetings.
You make the actions, she replied. That’s good enough.
I stumbled into my friend Brian, AKA Harmonie Moore, of the Church Ladies for Choice.
“My first ACT UP was the Monday after Pride in 1990. They needed someone to drive the flatbed truck back to Long Island City. I volunteered. And the whole room applauded. I drove the van back and arrived in a part of Long Island City where there were still prostitutes all over the place. Oh my I thought. I met most of my friends in ACT UP. There were all these guys I wanted to know in the meetings. Ed Ball, David Buckingham, Babbit…”
All these years, we still see each other at the Drag March every year.
Walking, I stumbled into Sharonann Lynch, of Médecins Sans Frontières, who I met when I first started going to ACT UP events in the late 1990’s. She helped organize ACT UP Memphis, going to her first ACT UP New York demonstrations in 1995, with the Bridges and Tunnels budget actions.
At Union Square a man was carrying a sign in tribute to Keith Haring.
Members of the Youth Caucus started mcing.
And veterans talked.
Mark Milano greeted Eustacia Smith, who first got arrested with ACT UP at the ten year anniversary demonstration in 1997. Milano pointed out that several of the activists – Sharonann Lynch, Smith, Mel Stevens - who had taken part in the Gore’s Greed Kills zaps over big pharma and international drug pricing were there. This small wave of actions helped move international drug pricing onto a global agenda, become a compelling target for the burgeoning global justice movement. These activists helped us see that we are all connected in this. AIDS transcends borders. So we have to stop it from spreading everywhere. We are all connected in this.
Some younger activists with the black block held a sign.
And speakers started.
“Thank you for saving my life,” charged several.
“Housing is health care!” charged Reginal Thomas Brown of VOCAL, one of the dozens of AIDS activist groups building on ACT UP’s legacy of connecting issues related to HIV and housing and questions about access to basic safety net services.
Mark Hannay pointed out that ACT UP has always argued for universal access to healthcare. He argued the time is now for universal access. With the collapse of Trumpcare, its still a message worth pushing.
Jim Eigo, the poet of ACT UP, followed. Jim was leaving SexPanic! when I moved here in the fall of 1997. We met at actions and talked. He shared his writings which found their way into four of my books. Its been a pleasure to see him and hear his story the last few years, as he re engaged with ACT UP.
But there are so many stars and movements that grown out of ACT UP. Bob Lederer, who can be seen briefly in the early meetings of the Treatment and Data committee of ACT UP in David France’s How to Survive a Plague, and I talked about some of the heroes of the movement, including Housing Works, the Harm Reduction Committee and so many others, who have not been featured in some of the movies about ACT UP.
Eigo recalled the early days of the Ending the Epidemic initiative. Charles King and Mark Harrington hatched the plans in jail in DC during the International Conference on AIDS, recalled Eigo. King had been working on the issue for years before as part of the Campaign to End AIDS. He pointed out that ending the epidemic means expanding Medicaid and Medicare through the Affordable Care Act. It means preventative medicine. It means connecting sexual health in a holistic perspective. It means ending homelessness. What it does not mean declaring victory and leaving. It means zero deaths and zero new infections. It means ending it everywhere. Eigo concluded with a simple vision. I hope one day to be here truly celebrating zero AIDS deaths with a younger generation. It’s a hope we all have.
But several speakers stood up to point out that ending the epidemic means ending criminalization, ending transphobia. Ending the epidemic means ending it everywhere.
ACT UP showed us how we could all fight for that. It showed us how to stand up for ourselves, for care, for lust, for being freaks, for being different and building our communities up from that. When people with AIDS are under attack, it taught us to fight back. When our friends are under attack, it taught us to fight back.
Thank you act up.
ACT UP, Fight Back, Fight AIDS.
Anniversary with a multiorganizational action, on Thursday, March 30, 2017,
30 YEARS OF ACTING UP TO END AIDS.
The action will begin at the New York City AIDS Memorial in memory of our beloved comrades and as a symbol of our recommitment to ending AIDS.We will then march in solidarity to Union Square for a spirited rally. The action will celebrate the history of AIDS activism and the legacy of ACT UP as a direct action organization committed to ending the AIDS crisis.
30 YEARS OF ACTING UP TO END AIDS
envisions a country and a world free of AIDS in the
next generation. Our demands fall under the following broad issue themes:
Ending the AIDS pandemic
Defending and expanding access to health care and coverage
Fighting for affordable HIV and
hepatitis C drug prices and access
Finding a cure for HIV/AIDS
Defending the human rights of all oppressed communities in ending the AIDS crisis
Ending HIV criminalization laws
At the 30 YEARS OF ACTING UP TO END AIDS
action we will commit ourselves to resisting the
current political environment based on fear-mongering, bigotry, and the disenfranchisement of vulnerable people, including people living with HIV and hepatitis C. We are still united in anger against policies that undermine people’s right to health care, and we embrace the new tidal wave of resistance and activism to recommit to an end to AIDS in this generation!
“While the President and Congress have pulled back from their outright attack on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid for now, the fight to protect these and other programs, like Medicare and the Ryan White CARE Act, that so many people living with HIV/AIDS rely on for access to health care will no doubt continue,” said Mark Hannay, a member of ACT UP/New York. “And of course, ACT UP remains committed to fighting for a universal national health insurance program such as
“Medicare for All.”
“Important initiatives such as the plan to End the AIDS Epidemic in New York state, as well as ongoing research on a cure must continue without any obstacles”, said Luis Santiago, a member of ACT UP. “For that to happen, we must redouble our activism in the streets and inside the centers of power, and work with our partners to prevent any funding cuts to Medicaid and Medicare, and to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)”.
"Thirty years later, ACT UP renews its commitment to making HIV and hepatitis C treatments affordably priced for everyone who needs them. Extortionate drug prices continue to put patients' lives in jeopardy. We will use
our spirited legacy of using direct action to overturn these treatment
barriers and patent abuses in order to achieve EtE and hep C elimination goals in New York and across the country!" noted Bryn Gay, from Treatment Action Group, a cosupporter of the event.
30 YEARS OF ACTING UP TO END AIDS: ACT UP 30th Anniversary March and Rally
Thursday, March 30, 2017
4 to 7PM
Starting point at
218 West 12th Street, New York City
March route: West Village to Union Square
Rally location at
5PM: Union Square, open plaza on East 17th
Anti Violence Project
AREA: The American Run for the End of AIDS
Health GAP: Global Access Project
Latino Commission on AIDS
the Road NY
Metro New York Health Care For All
Rise and Resist
TAG: Treatment Action Group
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
(Trans Women of Color Collective)
About ACT UP
About ACT UP NY: Founded in 1987, ACT UP
(AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), is a diverse, nonpartisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS
crisis. ACT UP meets every Monday night at 7pm in New York City at the LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street off 7th Ave.
| A panorama of friends. |