Congregation Kol Ami celebrates World AIDS Day
LOS ANGELES – On World AIDS Day, December 1, 2021, former members of the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power Los Angeles (ACT UP / LA) have announced their intention to launch an ACT UP oral history project / LA to capture historic AIDS activism in the Los Angeles area from 1987 to 1997.
Mary Lucey, Nancy MacNeil, Jordan Peimer, Helene Schpak and Judy Ornelas Sisneros spent the last year planning the project which aims to document the movement that has dominated the gay community in the Los Angeles area for a decade, a galvanizing endeavor that demanded health care, dignity and human rights for thousands of people diagnosed with HIV or AIDS.
ACT UP Los Angeles was a nonviolent direct action group that met in Plummer Park in West Hollywood during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, whose administration openly refused to acknowledge the growing AIDS crisis.
AIDS had become an epidemic since the CDC’s first report on June 5, 1981, of the new disease in five gay men in Los Angeles (originally called gay-related immune deficiency or GRID). This anti-gay prejudice and deliberate short-sightedness has caused thousands of people to be infected and die from neglect, greed and social stigma. The public and private health sectors, as well as cultural and religious institutions, have intentionally helped and collaborated in the escalation of the AIDS epidemic and AIDS phobia.
Activists have taken a stand to confront and demand redress for attitudes like those of Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum when he dismissed the County AIDS Commission recommendations by saying, “If you were to question l man in the street, I think you would find the vast majority of the public really has no interest in the subject of AIDS and certainly doesn’t care about public funding, the necessary programs that you have articulated.
ACT UP / Los Angeles was one of the first chapters and differed from many other cities around the world. Notable differences include its intense focus not only on providing a public service dedicated to AIDS that LA County was notoriously absent from, but also the exceptional emphasis ACT UP / LA placed on the lives of women and prisoners.
ACT UP / LA marched on Federal Buildings, State Buildings, LA County and City Government Offices, Insurance Companies, Hospitals, Churches, Prisons, Fundraisers politicians, film and television industries, fanatic homes and traveled out of town to protest in Congress, the pharmaceutical industry, the insurance industry, the CDC, the FDA, the NIH, international conferences on AIDS and Presidential Campaigns and Conventions.
Personal accounts of former ACT UP / LA activists will be kept online so people can learn about the history of the organization’s actions and why members refused to sit down while themselves and their families. and / or their friends and people from other marginalized communities were sick and dying. During the 10 years of group activism, the ACT UP / LA slogan “ACTION = LIFE” has been consistently put into practice.
Interviews with former members have taken place, each providing hours of personal stories of participating in constant activism while enduring endless cycles of mourning. A sample of the results of three interviews can be viewed on the ACT UP LA oral history website: actupla.org.
This project is expected to take approximately 2-3 years, exceeding 100 interviews upon completion. Launched over a year ago, although inspired in part by the similarities and differences between the AIDS crisis and the COVID-19 epidemic, ACT UP / LA’s oral history project was primarily motivated by the continued deaths of ACT UP / LA members whose history has not been preserved.
“Not only have voices been silenced by AIDS, but we now continually risk losing the stories of the people who stood up for their fight – some with HIV / AIDS, some without – but all of the people who stand up for their fight. life and liberty in danger to remedy this loss, ”said Nancy MacNeil, member of the Oral History Project.
She adds, “We have to make sure that the stories are told by the voices who lived them. Everyone has the right to be the author of their own story. To paraphrase the poet Dylan Thomas: “Let those who raged hard have their moment in the light, they did not come slowly into the night.” ”
ACT UP / LA’s many successes include
o Force the LA County Board of Supervisors to add the first AIDS service to the County Medical Center / USC.
o Lobby the California Department of Corrections to meet the health needs of inmates with AIDS.
o Obtain the first compassionate release of a woman with AIDS imprisoned in the United States. o Work in coalition with other ACT UP chapters across the country to expand the CDC’s definition of AIDS to include opportunistic infections in women.
o Challenge Hollywood’s AIDS phobia at the 1991 Oscars because the film industry failed to cope with the AIDS crisis. This action helped erode negative Hollywood stereotypes of the queer community in mainstream media.
o The creation of Clean Needles Now, the region’s first needle exchange program and predecessor of today’s LA Community Health Project. Los Angeles was actually the first city in the country to get government funding for a needle exchange program.
“The ACT UP / LA oral history project is in dire need of donations to fund this important collection of interviews. Without committed financial support, many stories of Los Angeles’ aging AIDS activist community will not be captured and preserved. We are currently in conversation with several nationally accredited archival institutions. We want to guarantee access not only to historians and researchers, but also to the public. the press release read.
For more information, visit: actupla.org or contact [email protected]