United In Anger

United In Anger

Why We Should Be Listening

As far as I'm concerned, it should be mandatory in Queer 101 Curriculum: Come out, get your first boyfriend/girlfriend/public insert euphemism here-and watch part of the ACT UP Oral History Project. It is sometimes part of a travelling exhibit, but much of the project, interviews with surviving members of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, can be found online here; what's not on the website in the form of videos is available in transcript form, downloadable as pdfs. You can pop in anywhere on the site for a story that vividly illustrates what was happening within  and because of ACT-UP during the worst years of the AIDS epidemic. However, if you want to get a more comprehensive picture and understand how ACT-UP changed culture and demanded (and forced) concrete solutions to the epidemic, spend more time with the videos and reading the transcripts. They're not all easy to watch or read. Many of the participants lost many of the people they loved most during the epidemic and though some time passed between the end of the worst years of the epidemic and the interviews, the emotions are sometimes very raw. This is exactly what makes it important for LGBT people especially who didn't live through that time to experience these interviews; to understand not what happened (passively) to our people, but how our people fought back and changed the world.

The ACT UP Oral History Project has also developed into another very exciting project: Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman, who coordinated the project, recently finished the film United in Anger: A History of ACT UP. The film, which uses footage from the oral history interviews as well as archival footage of ACT UP actions, will be featured at the Opening Night of the Museum of Modern Art's (NYC) Documentary Fortnight, on Thursday February 16, 2012. For more information about the film, check out the United in Anger website.