ACT UP Inspires Students to Act Out

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP was showed on screen at Pitzer College’s
Benson Auditorium on Sept. 23, followed by a Q&A with filmmakers Jim Hubbard
and Sarah Schulman and a panel of local activists at the college’s yearly Atherton Dinner.

The documentary
focused on the history of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), an advocate group that uses direct action to fight for the rights of individuals affected by AIDS.

Since its inception in March 1987 through New York
City’s Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, ACT
UP has fought against many injustices that have negatively affected the AIDS
population. The group was a driving force in demanding
the Food and Drug Administration’s release of drugs that could potentially
treat AIDS patients in the 1980s and early 1990s, a time when little treatment
was available. 

UP is known for calling attention to these types of issues through powerful
acts of protest. The documentary includes a number of scenes in which the
group members cover their hands in imitation blood and another following the creation of
a fake graveyard to represent the thousands of people with AIDS dying every day due to lack of access to necessary medical treatment.

the panel, Schulman commented on how AIDS patients were “treated as being
dangerous when they were the ones who were endangered” at this point in history.
This negative stereotype has largely changed today, but many
obstacles facing ACT UP advocates remain. 

While different forms of treatment
are now available to AIDS patients, getting patients into treatment and attempting to make resources available to as many people as possible is still a challenge,
according to Schulman. Towards
the end of the dinner, students discussed the potency of ACT UP’s protests in
gathering support and uniting the community. One student shared a personal story of how
powerful she had felt after participating in rallies and protests over the
summer. Many students shared the same sentiment.  

“There is nothing like the energy you feel
when you are surrounded by a group of people who are just as passionate about
something as you are,” Lianne Parker SC ’17 said. 

local activists were happy to hear positive feedback from students throughout
the panel, maintaining that, though social media is a powerful modern
communication tool, there is no substitute for face-to-face activism. Upon
leaving the film screening and panel, attendees felt moved to actively participate in such movements. 

have never participated in a protest, but I was so inspired by the panelists
and their stories,” Tara Dinman SC ’17 said.



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