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Hey kids, Apologies because I also posted this under nightclubs, but thought it was important. ...Check out this movie about ACT UP & many folks who helped make the world a little safer for your fun... (By the way, do any of you get the feeling, lately, that people don't remember the struggle before, or even understand continuing danger...??)

Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman host a tour through their ACT UP Oral History Project film. To date, they have conducted 63 long-format interviews with surviving members of The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, detailing the strategies and tactics that made the direct action movement so effective.
Thursday, April 14th at 6:30 pm
Fales Library
(3rd Floor, Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South)

Streaming clips from many other interviews in the film (besides those in the preview airing tomorrow)are now up on the ACT UP Oral History website.
Go to and click on the
picture of the interview you want to hear. Interviews include Larry Kramer, Michelangelo Signorile, Ann Northrop, Jay Blotcher, Andrew Velez, Maria Maggenti, Michael Petrilis, and me (running around in my lawyer pumps, getting arrested ACT UPers out of jail.)

Check it out. It's important not to forget...
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In terms of actual meetings, it's still sort of around, but really just a few stragglers. But you know so many early ACT UPers gave birth to or branched out into other AIDS organizatins (Housing Works, GMHC, TAG, etc.)And a lot of us have continued the work. Not to mention that it changed our thinking (mine at least) about community responsibility, the efficacy of direct action as a really viable means of political change, oh, and HIV and AIDS, of course. --For me that was the beginning of the end of thinking "identity politics" was the most important issue. Kind of pales compared to life or death and who will take care of use when we're sick (no matter what our background/orientation is)...

But I don't know. I still wonder if there's been a bit of a backslide amongst the younger club kids, etc. --Maybe I'm just victim to media slant like everyone else? ...??
False disappearance. A media phenomenon. As if when the media turns its spotlight somewhere else then you do not actually exist anymore.

It raises the interesting question of whether a direct action requires the media attention to be effective at all.

The media never could put its spotlight on all the FAX barrages ACTUP orchestrated, but did that prevent those actions from being highly efffective? No.

Take a lesson, would-be militants. Those who are still operating as ACTUP, and those who have developed their participation in to other organizations and even personal acts. THAT IS COMMITMENT.

If you want media attention you can just do a cabaret show.
generational shifts create the constant learning curve, how to move, how to explain, how to engage as an artist in the world around us -- where there is always someone just turning 16 or 39 for the last time. while we seem to speak of ACTUP as we might have once spoke of hippies. lables that make storage easier as you said seven. these days we can witness fads and cultural icons with their famous corporate spokes models making it all too easy or is it making us all too busy mixing and matching.
Hmmm... I think I was misunderstood. ACT UP meetings on Mondays used to draw 200 or more. Now the actual "meetings" of the "official ACT UP" are small. That's all I meant in response to the question.

But, yes, soooo many ACT UPers have gone to continue the work, most often with other groups, including direct action. Many were at the screening of the ACT UP oral history project last night. (It was like a "reunion!") --Check out the interviews on the website, and you'll see just how many could not rest after the ACT UP heyday, and continue the struggle.

Honestly, the discussion I had hoped to engender here was about nightclub activity, unsafe sex, crystal meth, complacency and the like. I don't hear a lot of the kids I dance with talking about HIV. It feels strange to me sometimes, given my background. ("Silence equals death" and all that.) And, I'm not a young gay man (well, I'm not "young" anyway!), so I only go by distant observation. But, I admit, sometimes I worry. --Soooo, any thoughts about THAT?? Am I a victim to media slant wanting to paint queers as "irresponsible?" Or is there actually some anaesthetizing (or even just ignorance) going on?
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I think,as much as it might be said that the 'information' is intended to raise awareness (which would just be the media co-opting ACTUP's message for other purposes)all the media talk about 'backsliding' -curious term for the phenomenon huh- is just a very shallow excuse for the media to raise the question of morality with regards to gay people. How much comparable media time is given to the rise of STD's in the straight population?Or are 'their' diseases morally superior? But the media could be doing the right thing for the wrong reason. But that just means their motives still need a big change that isn't going to come tomorrow.
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Yes, I definitely see your point about the media grabbing onto disparaging sensationalism (& maybe accidentally getting some good information out in the process). And I see all the good points above about media erasure of ACT UP and other direct action.

But, oh dear, a good (gay) friend of mine (not that young, even, 31) just asked me to "remind" him, "what was ACT UP again?" He asked me if it was a 12-step group. --Compare that to this direct quote from Larry Kramer in his ACT UP oral history interview: "I have no doubt in my mind, those [HIV, AIDS] drugs are out there because of ACT UP."

Isn't there a danger in the very people whose community benefits from those drugs not knowing where they came from? Is it purposeful ignorance based on some sort of despair (wanting to pretend we aren't really outsiders after all; we're mainstream now, the government will take care of us)? And maybe it's also just fear (what 22 year old wants to think about real mortality issues)? --We all know who Rosa Parks was, so why are people closing their brains to the equivalent in the struggle about AIDS? Isn't the price for that ignorance pretty high?

Have we really reached an era when queer folks feel fine relying on mainstream media for information about our origins, community, safety and all of it? I never even considered that an option! --Is this lack of awareness of the origins of something so crucial to gay/other queer/many peoples lives, really all the fault of the media?

I was young for an ACT UPer and I'm on the "not young" end of club life, so maybe this is just my first experience with that cliche feeling: "Kids these days! They take so much for granted! They have no idea the sacrifices we made so they could have their fun!" --It's just that obliviousness in the new generation (even, apparently, people less than a decade younger than a lot of ACT UP) doesn't seem to me to be a "funny little phenomenon" that we can afford in this case.
A few thoughts:

I went to the preview the other night; I left there somewhat emotional, mostly because of the rather glaring absences of those who galvanized a movement during such heady times, what some would call the global shift in attitudes on HIV/AIDS, and the value of those who were most affected, namely gay men. There are many more interviews on the web site, yet some have "gone on with their lives" or passed away. The life-or-death urgency is no longer fashionable. My personal involvement with ACT UP stems from activity in the Atlanta chapter, following the leads of so many of you who lived here.

As for "kids today," these things are cyclical. When their friends begin suffering due to lack of information or apathy, the urgency will become fashionable again. Sounds harsh, perhaps, but it's merely an observation. A promoter friend of mine (and many on the Boards, actually) recently told me that he's observing one of the messiest times in recent memory in nightlife. By "messy," he means that there is definitely a new recklessness going on whereby people are falling by the wayside with too many drugs, too much careless sex, too much too fast. Maybe it's a product of the culture, the "instant coffee" variety of fun - that coffee never tastes as good, though; once it's in us, we realize how much better a nicely percolated brew tastes that was worth the few extra minutes of waiting.

But getting back to life-and-death issues, the most effective way to draw attention to a problem, as we all learned from ACT UP, is to show the the people how it affects their wallets, or in these times, their portfolios. I'd be curious to hear from Michael Madison on this topic with his PETA experiences.
the messsage has to change for each new group, some say it's generational? phft. we saw this when we made ourselves happy chating details and nuance before the election, only to realize the topic was us and not what we were talking about - they made it gays against religion. LOL, can you imagine they won with that one? can you imagine they won election at all?

so when everyone is shouting something, what's left to promote anything? when all loudness is called rude unless you charge and are calling it a performance, what is left to get people's attention? collapse of the system?

as the country is going broke and no one notices, as the country is killing off it's young while not seeming to care (bush has not attended one funeral of a fallen soldier), as the country intentionally under-educates children to create a better homogenized religious community, where is the edge on which to pin our hopes for a better tommorrow?

ACTUP, scared us, shocked us, and made us think. the huge condom on the bushie plantation in maine was major. and yes that is the past.

they recently praise a dead religious leader as a visionary! a world leader in morality and concern for the world, the same leader who would not allow the discussion of the use of condoms or safe sex. it was on his watch millions of africans became infected with aids........

where is this edge to threaten to jump off of to get attention anymore while america tries to restrict the usage of the words gay aids and condom in health brochures. and yes, there does appear to be a whole generation of homosexauls that look like mtv backup dancers
I'm very grateful to have this forum to air my concerns and get feedback! (Thank you Johnny and Chi Chi). As for "ACT UP being past and erased" maybe it's something as simple as not *enough* time has gone by (so it isn't "officially recorded" yet, etc.) There were some academics at the Oral History screening, and one said transcripts from the ACT UP film are going into a new history book. Because really, the ACT UP hey day was *not* a "generation" ago. It's only been a few years! --Maybe more and more people will start to hear about as time goes by?

I know I started it, but these "theories" don't seem as crucial to me as just action to help ensure accurate information and community safety. So a word about "messiness." I don't advocate ANY sort of "morality police." God knows in ACT UP there was a *huge* amount of sex going on, and a lot of drug use in the community as well. Far be for ME to judge other people's habits in ANY way. All that would result from lectures about drugs or sex being "bad" is that friends would stop confiding in me, AND that they could throw back in my face my own 87,000 strange quirks and habits and neuroses.(Just last night, at the really fun Charm School party, I was bouncing around all tipsy like a 12 year old in her first aerobics class, tugging up my tube top which is forever slipping down when I bounce! Someone could easily post a topic about being "worried" about people like me.)

All I'm saying is, the ACT UP dissemination of information about safety was never about "judgment." I'm sure a lot of people feel they can use this or that drug recreationally in relative safety, and for those who eventually decide on their own that they can't do it, & they need help to stop, it certainly isn't going to be because they got this or that lecture from me or anyone else. --People are also going to have the sex they are going to have. ACT UP was all about harm reduction, needle exchange and the like, NOT about enforcing sobriety or abstinence.

My worry is just that I wonder if good information floats around. Like, "the risk of this drug is X and, if you choose to do that drug, here's how you can reduce that risk...and if and when you decide you want to stop, here's where you can go, ...and this is how to reduce risk when you have sex, and if you have questions, here's who you can call..." etc. etc. etc. --We all used to talk about all that all the time. --My wish is that we get to that again, constant free-floating accurate information, because I love my friends, and I don't care WHAT their habits are (they put up with MY insanity, after all) long as they stay safe.
Yeah. Stay safe.

There is just no social structure to dispense sex and drug advice. One because anyone or group doing that now would be accused of promoting bad behavior. Two, this society doesn't provide for sex and drug mentors. Very few people are lucky enough to have a mentor or tutor when they first start having sex or doing drugs, or both. Everyone just bungles through it. And for everyone who is no longer a virgin there still isn't anyone who gives out info on safety. The gay and lesbian community has always been way ahead of general society when it comes to health organizing and information dissemination about all sorts of issues that affect people. But to do the kind of education you are describing you need to start teaching young kids that as soon as they become sexually active or become exposed to the prospect of doing drugs. And that kind of education is not going to be instituted very soon.
Hmm... Sadly, I see your point, Seven. Definitely it is silly of me to think there could be a lecture or pamphlet or whatever saying, "if you're going to do this drug, you should know..." without the sponsor being accused of promoting drug use. (It's funny, too. Even my most distant acquaintances know I'm about as likely to promote drug use as your most conservative great great grandmother.)

Sadly, though, I think maybe you're right that even if I'd worded it more intelligently, like "these are the risks associated with these drugs, and here is where to go if you want to stop using," all in one pamphlet/lecture, the Powers-That-Be might still mischaracterize that as "promoting drug use." One reason I think that, is because of the "abstinence only" lessons now given in high schools...many school districts simply pretending kids aren't having sex, rather than giving them much needed information about safety. --i.e. Information about safety does not seem as important to good ol' U.S. society right now as turning a blind eye, preaching morality, and letting folks get HIV or pregnant when they're 16.

Still, back when I was a whipper snapper in ACT UP, the information was all there. So I think it can be done. It just has to be an "inside job" maybe. --Just from sitting in those meetings I couldn't help but absorb everything about safe sex between men, safe sex between a woman and a man who sleeps with men, and safe sex between women. And, of course, drugs and risk, the immune system, AIDS, comparative treatments, the emotional fallout of being positive, of being negative, everyone's symptoms, and all of it. Everyone trusted the information, because it was from the community. --I still remember how hilarious we all thought someone's attempt to promote "vaginal condoms" was. We were like, "yeah, that's gonna happen." --Pretty much the same with "dental damns." i.e. It was all about what people were *really* doing, so we trusted it and were honest about our habits. It wasn't coming from some outside source preaching without even really knowing what we were about.

So, diehard utopian that I am, I still hold out hope that that could happen again. --People need to *want* the information though. --I guess maybe Mr. Joe is right. They'll want the information when things go from a little scary to really bad. --BUT maybe as soon as we see it starting, it's our responsibility to start the talking? ...??
Last edited by Karen M.
the ingrediant missing when actup was 'somebody' in the public conciousness, was the lack of organized resistance to actup and the ideas promoted by actup. now we see how organized the conservative minority really is. for they are the ones in power that are outlawing the very conversation we are having and their information IS intentionally faulty.

yes safe sex information could be available to everyone and it isn't. yet the concept of mentoring and apprentiship is not strong in america. look how poorly america treats it's most experienced elderly. the government is not just pretending with kids that they don't have sex, the government is actually teaching children they can get std's by touching themselves (masterbation) and pregnant from kissing. the rewriting of most of the health department websites to reflect this, is a sign of an attempt to change the subject on sex and not allow the discussion we are having to happen.

the misinformaiton is real. so until the government starts thinking of protecting people rather than shaping and forcing people into religious myths that separate us, to save people from themselves, we will get the BIG LIES in place of reality. a vision of the world as lolli-pop trees along the sweet molasses river on sugar mountain.

the biggest myth about sex being promoted and accepted today, is that there is such a thing as GAY sex. there is NO gay sex, there is only ADULT SEXUALITY. and we, yes all of us, have the same kinda sex no matter who the partner is........ think about how we have been told differently and now consider that we are all same no matter our orientation.

so to give life saving sexual tips is to promote sex in the minds of the moral minority; and to promote sex is a sin; and that sin is being turned into laws against the rest of us.

so what are WE gonna do about it? not just the much missed ACTUP, what are we doing? we found out pointing things out and discussing them seems not to impress the professionally misinformed.

in love,


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