ACT UP vs. Paul Ryan

by Dan Royles

Via Joe.My.God.: Two protesters interrupted Paul Ryan at the Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit, shouting, “Corporations are not people! Take the money out!” Although one of the women identified herself only as a “concerned citizen,” the other told reporters that she represented ACT UP Philadelphia, and in classic ACT UP fashion, had a bag full of press releases at the ready.

In the mid-90s, ACT UP Philadelphia began recruiting lower income people of color into the organization while other chapters nationwide went into decline. Along with the shift in membership, which reflected the “changing face of AIDS,” the group intensified its focus on issues of economic inequality in the AIDS pandemic, both at home and around the globe. In 2000, protesters from ACT UP Philadelphia and sister group Health GAP followed Al Gore on the campaign trail, demanding that generic HIV drugs be made available to the developing world. Their efforts have led some to credit the group(s) in part for George W. Bush’s announcement of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003.

R.I.P. Curtis Wadlington

by Dan Royles

I am sad to report that Curtis Wadlington, a longtime human services specialist and AIDS activist, passed away on August 9th. I was lucky enough to interview Curtis a few months before he passed, and he was extremely generous with his time and memories, letting me scan a slew of personal documents related to his work on AIDS education with Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health Issues (BEBASHI) and the Philadelphia school system. During our interview, he made it clear that his Baptist faith compelled him to devote his energy and talents to helping disadvantaged people reduce their risk for contracting HIV, and to give comfort to those living with and dying from AIDS.

I feel extraordinarily lucky to have met Curtis before he passed, and to be able to add his story to this project. There is an urgency that goes along with oral history, a need to capture voices before they are gone, that goes double for this project. In the future, Curtis’ words will be available at the Urban Archives of Temple University to anyone who wants to study his work, or simply be inspired by his example, and that meant a great deal to him. David Fair, another interviewee, has generously shared his eulogy from Curtis’ funeral, which I’ve posted at the African American AIDS History Project. Philly.com and theĀ Examiner have also posted obituaries detailing Curtis’ lifetime of advocacy and activism. Rest in peace, Curtis. You are already missed.