Stories of Activism Told in Words and Images
While covering stories of LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS activists for 15 years and counting, I’ve always been amazed, mesmerized, and deeply inspired by their courage, determination, and strength. Since October is LGBTQ+ History Month, here’s to the activists who have inspired, mentored, and guided me, and who, oftentimes, gave me a reason to carry on.
Bestselling author Joel Rothschild was one of the first activists I’ve ever interviewed for A&U Magazine–America’s AIDS Magazine. In his book, Hope: A Story of Triumph, Joel writes: “There’s a very fine line between disaster and triumph. That line is hope.” His words come to mind, still, every time I find myself on that very fine line in my own life.
Award-winning, legally blind photographer, activist, and mentor, Kurt Weston, talks about his journey through life and visual art…a journey that, I might add, is empowering as well as inspiring. In his biography, Journeys Through Darkness, Kurt mentions that he “will always be searching for new ways of depicting his reality through his art […]. [His] art is always evolving because ‘it’s not good for anybody to remain static.’ For Kurt Weston, creating visual art will always be an ongoing, life-long process. It will continue to expand and change and show itself in different ways. Ultimately, it will remain inspirational and transforming.”
In an article published in A&U Magazine–America’s AIDS Magazine, actor, comedian, and advocate Steve Hayes talks about Legacy and about a time before and after the AIDS crisis of the eighties. Hayes reminds us that “AIDS united the gay community.” […] “I never went to Vietnam—that was the war of my era—but I didn’t miss the war, because the [early] AIDS years were like a war. So I did everything that I could to help.”
For many years, actor, advocate, and celebrity host Ron B has been Breaking Boundaries with her activism work as well as with her show, No Boundaries Up Close and Personal. She always reminds us that “there are no boundaries to what you can achieve in life!”
“I met [author, artist, and activist] Avram Finkelstein in person in 2014 and witnessed the artist, activist, and mentor in action. He talked about the full meaning of an undetectable status, opened my eyes to what activism is, and discussed collectives and art in public spaces. ‘Collectives are organisms,’ he’d say. ‘Our commons is an exercise in collectivity.’”
The above is an excerpt from my cover story interview with Avram Finkelstein. In the same interview, he also mentions, “Self-care or mourning or memory is an essential part of humankind. But when we confuse the personal side of loss with our communal idea of loss, we lose the ability to act. It’s important to leave room for the personal, but also bear in mind that we’re not only responsible for ourselves, but also for one another. It’s important for everyone else in the world that your voice be heard as a part of the collective voice. We need every voice there is. We can’t afford for people to withdraw from the task at hand, and the task at hand is a better world. I’m firmly convinced that we’re heading for a better world, and I’m really excited about it.”
So, what is activism?
“…Everything about political and social engagement is a part of a process of collaboration. That’s what community and community responses are. That’s what activism is. Activism is a community response to something,” says Avram Finkelstein in a 2018 interview for A&U Magazine. “So, in a way, I feel that the collective, even if it’s a tiny collective, is a bell jar. An experiment in collectivity is an experiment in activism.”
And here I was (bad hair day, lol!), marching in this year’s World Pride 2019, with Visual AIDS, distributing copies of What Is 21st Century Liberation, a broadsheet co-designed by Avram Finkelstein.
Myself, I find myself in awe of activism and activists, and their stories. They do inspire me, and I find myself craving this inspiration. It gets me, us, “fired up and ready to go.”
So, what does activism mean to you? Feel free to share.
Thank you and, as always, appreciate you stopping by and reading this blog.