Category Archives: News

Celebrate Pride!

Heritage of Pride logo

This month we celebrate Pride and the progress and achievements made by communities working together to effect change.  We feel hopeful, yet we know that the inequity and injustice wrought by capitalism continues.  In the United States the number of people living with HIV has increased since 2010; with the highest rates occurring in the South, where LGBTQ+ and vulnerable communities face deep-rooted prejudice and lack of access to healthcare.

Celebrate pride with events in New York City this weekend  https://reclaimpridenyc.org and  https://www.nycpride.org/events and continue the fight for health justice for all.

 

Lorraine O’Grady: Both/And

Lorraine O’Grady is a conceptual artist and cultural critic.  The exhibition, Lorraine O’Grady: Both/And, opening this week at the Brooklyn Museum, is the first retrospective of over four decades of work.  Her work often explores the ways in which hybridity has shaped the modern Western world.

In 1983, O’Grady invited 28 artists, 14 of whom were Black and 14 white, to participate in her exhibition and conceptual art piece, The Black and White Show, including Keith Haring.  The exhibition was a response to the intransigent segregation of the art world, and its purpose was to materialize equality.

The exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum highlights O’Grady’s long engagement with art historical omissions and institutional failings related to those excluded from the canon.

Learn more about the work of Lorraine O’Grady, and visit the exhibition Lorraine O’Grady: Both/And at the Brooklyn Museum, open March 5 through July 18, 2021.

“I don’t believe anything dies. It all goes in circles.”

Keith Haring, Untitled, 1989

Keith Haring died on February 16, 1990.  In a discussion some time after Keith’s diagnosis with AIDS, Tullio Francesco DeSantis, an artist, writer, and friend of Keith Haring, asked Keith “Is there anything that doesn’t die?” to which Keith responded, “I don’t believe anything dies. It all goes in circles.”

Tullio recounts this conversation in his article, “Through art, Haring confronted death,” which appeared in the Eagle Times, February 1990, written on the occasion of Keith’s death.  You can read the full article below, which reveals a touching and intimate account of a human being confronting their mortality.

Keith Haring: Street Art Boy

American Masters –Keith Haring: Street Art Boy premieres nationwide beginning November 28 on PBS (check local listings) and streams Friday, December 4 at 9 p.m. on pbs.org/americanmasters and the PBS Video app.

Between 1980-1990, Keith Haring established himself as an art world celebrity and pop culture icon with a distinctive and instantly recognizable style that came to define the decade. This new documentary film is the definitive story of the artist in his own words. Following Haring’s AIDS diagnosis, he told writer and art critic John Gruen the story of his life in intimate and candid detail in 1989 for his biography. These previously unheard interviews form the narrative of American Masters –Keith Haring: Street Art Boy.

World AIDS Day

Designated on December 1st every year since 1988, World AIDS Day is an international day dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and for mourning those who have died of the disease. This year’s theme is “global solidarity and shared responsibility,” and is a call for global unification to work together to help beat the coronavirus, end AIDS, and guarantee the right to healthcare for all.  You can learn more about World AIDS Day at the UNAIDS website here.

Keith Haring died of AIDS-related complications at the age of 31 on February 16, 1990. Throughout his life he used his art to call attention to social inequity, including the United States government’s disastrous response to the AIDS crisis in the early 1980’s.  On December 4th you can stream the new documentary Keith Haring: Street Art Boy as part of PBS American masters series here, and learn about Keith’s life, art, and the efforts he made to confront injustice.

Silence = Death

David Dinkins, 1927 – 2020

David Dinkins, New York City’s first, and thus far only, Black mayor, passed away on Monday, at the age of 93.  Dinkins held the mayoralty from June, 1990 to 1993, in the midst of the nation-wide recession, and governed the city through a myriad of problems resulting from the economic crisis. Throughout his career Dinkins acted with patience and dignity, seeing himself as a conciliator, and striving to be the voice of calm and reason during a tumultuous time.

Dinkins famously said in his inaugural address on January 1st, 1990,

“I see New York as a gorgeous mosaic of race and religious faith, of national origin and sexual orientation, of individuals whose families arrived yesterday and generations ago, coming through Ellis Island or Kennedy Airport or on buses bound for the Port Authority.”

You can read more about David Dinkins life here.

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were pioneering activists and leading figures of the gay liberation and transgender rights movements.  Johnson and Rivera were drag queens and survival sex workers, and both lived lives impacted by the systematic poverty and racism endemic in the United States.

Johnson was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, and is remembered as one of the most significant activists for transgender rights, although the term “transgender” wasn’t commonly used during her lifetime, and Johnson identified as a transvestite, gay and a drag queen, and used she/her pronouns.  She was on the front lines of protests against oppressive policing, including the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, and advocated tirelessly on behalf of sex workers, incarcerated people, and people with HIV/AIDS.

Rivera was a tireless champion for the rights of people of color and low-income LGBT people, calling for unity and sharing her stories, pain, and struggles to show her community they are not alone. She amplified the voices of the most vulnerable members of the gay community, and fought for the inclusion of transgender people in the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in New York.

Together, in 1970, Rivera and Johnson founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). STAR offered services and advocacy for homeless queer youth and, according to the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, was the first LGBT youth shelter in North America and the first organization in the United States led by trans women of color.

Even within the community of gay rights activists, Johnson and Rivera were often sidelined. They quarreled with gay political leaders who excluded transgender rights from their priorities, with Rivera memorably warning at one point, “Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned.”  They were advocates for unity, and in an interview from 1992 Johnson asks, “How many years does it take for people to see that we’re all brothers and sisters and human beings in the human race? I mean, how many years does it take for people to see that we’re all in this rat race together.”

These are just two of the countless extraordinary leaders of color from groundbreaking social movements who are all too often excluded from our national memory.  Learn more and become involved.

Sylvia Rivera Law Project https://srlp.org

Marsha P Johnson Institute https://marshap.org

 

RESIST!

Michael Stewart – USA for Africa, 1985

On September 28, 1983 Michael Jerome Stewart, a young Black artist, died after spending 13 days in a coma as a result of a brutal arrest for writing graffiti in New York City.  Only 25 years old, Michael Stewart was student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and well-regarded in the NYC arts scene.  Numerous artists and musicians made work in response to his horrific death in an effort to draw attention to the systemic and institutional racism endemic in our society.

Over the past week, we have witnessed a deepening of our national trauma. The unconscionable deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, and too many others, continue and amplify a long history of racism, injustice, inequality, and violence. They come at a moment when the global pandemic is having a disproportionately devastating impact on Black and brown communities.

There are many ways to express grief and outrage in response to these injustices, making art and participating in peaceful protests can serve as powerful methods.  Confronting and taking action against systemic racial and economic injustice is the right thing to do; do it safely, and know your rights.

Visit Indivisible to learn how you can take action in defense of Black lives.

Following is information from the ACLU about your right to protest:

  1. The right to protest is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment.
  2. If you get stopped, ask if you are free to go. If the police say yes, calmly walk away.
  3. You have the right to record. The right to protest includes the right to record, including recording police doing their jobs.
  4. The police can order people to stop interfering with legitimate police operations, but video recording from a safe distance is not interfering.
  5. If you get stopped, police cannot take or confiscate any videos or photos without a warrant.
  6. If you are videotaping, keep in mind in some states, the audio is treated differently than the images. But images and video images are always fully protected by the First Amendment.
  7. The police’s main job in a protest is to protect your right to protest and to de-escalate any threat of violence.
  8. If you get arrested, don’t say anything. Ask for a lawyer immediately. Do not sign anything and do not agree to anything without an attorney present.
  9. If you get arrested, demand your right to a local phone call. If you call a lawyer for legal advice, law enforcement is not allowed to listen.
  10. Police cannot delete data from your device under any circumstances.

Learn more about your constitutional and civil rights from the ACLU.

 

 

Larry Kramer, June 25, 1935 – May 27, 2020

Larry Kramer was a writer and activist who fought fiercely for people with H.I.V. and AIDS, first as a founding member of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and then through the more protest-oriented AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, ACT UP, which he co-founded in 1987.  Though sometimes considered controversial, his passion and dedication as a public health advocate and LGBT activist was tireless and unwavering.

We urge everyone to learn about the life and work of Larry Kramer, and the ways in which we can work together to effect positive change, even in the midst of a global health crisis.

ACT UP FOR LIFE!!, 1989 Invitation to a Benefit Dance Party for ACT UP

Happy Birthday Keith!

Keith Haring would have been 62 years old today had he not succumbed to HIV/AIDS related complications in 1990.

Body Positive Cover
Photo by Kevin B. Smith

Keith was an activist as well as an artist, and frequently used his artwork to help draw attention to a variety of issues, including the call to end apartheid, nuclear-disarmament, and the HIV-AIDS epidemic.

In a statement in the magazine Flash Art in 1984, Keith wrote “I think the contemporary artist has a responsibility to humanity to continue celebrating humanity and opposing the dehumanization of our culture.”  His well-documented history of social activism shows his commitment to this belief.

Free South Africa rally
End Apartheid rally in Central Park, NYC, 1985.  Keith and friends distributing posters which he designed and printed.  Photo by Tseng Kwong Chi, 1985 © Muna Tseng Dance Projects Inc., New York
Anti-nuclear rally, Central Park, NYC, 1982. Keith and friends handing out posters which he designed and printed.  Photo by Joseph Szkodzinksi
AIDS mural Barcelona
Together We Can Stop AIDS, 1989, mural in Barcelona