1987: Larry Kramer
Amends ACT UP's First Flyer
The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power on March 10 turns twenty-five. It was on that date in 1987 that my old friend Larry Kramer gave a speech at the gay community center in New York City, and that meeting is recognized as the first meeting of what was to become ACT UP.
I was at the meeting and involved with the group in the early days, and had a memory of our first flyer promoting a demonstration on Wall Street. The ACT UP name appears at the end of the text on the flip side.
My memory recalled a version of the flyer amended by Kramer, and thanks to my good pal Bill Dobbs, I now have a copy of it. Dobbs recently looked at the collected papers of veteran activist Bill Bahlman that are housed at the Central Connecticut State University, and found the flyer marked up by Kramer. (Thanks Larry, Bill and Bill!)
Kramer typed the following pleas and names on it:
This demonstration is very important! Please! We need you to come! We must show numbers! We must show we are united & strong!
VITO, LARRY & TIM & RODGER BEG YOU TO COME!
Sponsors include: Vito Russo, Larry Kramer, Tim Sweeney, Rodger McFarlane, Michael Hirsh, Blue Fletterich, Vivan Shapiro, Herb Cohen, Chuck Ortleb, Richard Goldstein, Lori Behrman, Chuck Partridge, Ron Najman, Andy Humm, Suki Ports, Marie Mannion, Charles Angell, Joseph Papp, Michael Petrelis, Martin Sheen.
We know it's too early -- but try!
The flyer otherwise lists what were at the time considered very radical demands - quicker drug approval, revamping clinical trials, affordable treatments, massive public eduction, political leadership, an end to discrimination against people with AIDS - and many of the things we wanted came about, through targeted anger and activism.
Quite interesting that the word "gay" is omitted from the flyer, I imagine, because AIDS was seen by many average folks and the mainstream media as a "gay disease" and part of our agenda was to define AIDS as an infection that struck gay and straight people. A virus knows no morals or sexual orientations.
As ACT UP hits 25, let's remember AIDS is not over. ACT UP! Fight back! Fight AIDS! Here's the original flyer, with Kramer's add-ons. Click to enlarge:
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