Category Archives: queersofBlackOUT

2013 Oscar Week: ‘How to Survive a Plague’: When Aging Itself Becomes a Triumph


When the late Ed Koch, former mayor of New York City, saw How To Survive a Plague, journalist/director David France’s Oscar-nominated documentary about ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) New York, he wrote a review for his local neighborhood newspaper. The review was not just a rave but recommended the activists profiled receive Presidential Medals of Freedom! Koch didn’t mention those same people and many others spent much time (including a demonstration documented at the beginning of the film) protesting his administration’s criminally inadequate response to the AIDS crisis. Some of the people he praised in his review, including one of the founders of ACT UP, Larry Kramer, have called him a “murderer.”

Koch is an extreme example of the mainstream’s counterintuitive embrace of this film in particular and ACT UP in general. Although we see video of hateful, reactionary Jesse Helms spewing venom toward the group from the floor of the U.S. Senate we would never know most mainstream (and even some of the gay press’) coverage of ACT UP actions, like the one disrupting a service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (to protest the Catholic Church’s stance on safer sex) or the one shutting down the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — archival footage from both actions is part of the film– was far from laudatory.

Still, France’s overview, fortified by his work on AIDS issues in the gay press during the crisis years, is impressive even to those of us who were there. Though I never attended ACT UP meetings I took part in my city’s ACT UP demonstrations (“demos”), did safer sex outreach with ACT UP members and went to the huge Kennebunkport demo, shown in the film, where George H.W. Bush was hung in effigy.

In the beginning of Plague intertitles and footage of people with AIDS close to the end of their lives set the scene, then archival video (including interviews) from ACT UP’s own media collective takes over most of the narrative. We see a loud, crowded meeting of the group where an action is planned and then the action itself, ending with activists being carted off one-by-one, screaming chants all the way to the police wagon. The film captures in this demonstration and the ones it shows later the camaraderie, exuberance and carnival-like atmosphere of ACT UP’s brand of activism, so necessary in an epidemic which devastated everyone in its path.
AIDS decimated the population of gay and bisexual men during the period covered in Plague, and I’m not sure most young queers realize the effect that loss still has on our community. In the film, I noticed the t-shirts many of the activists wore (the film repeatedly captures on many bodies the unisex, activist uniform of: a t-shirt, motorcycle jacket, jeans and Doc Martins) were unmistakably designed by acclaimed artist Keith Haring (which he did as a fundraiser for ACT UP: he also makes a brief, wordless appearance in a demonstration in the film). The music in Plague is by cellist and vocalist Arthur Russell. Both men died of AIDS in the early nineties. They make up one small corner of the heart of queer culture lost during that time period.
France expertly pieces together newsreel footage and present-day interviews, but for most of the story he culled hundreds of hours of ACT UP’s own electrifying videotape, some of which is also included in United in Anger another film released in 2012 about ACT UP New York. Audiences should see both, because at least as many riveting films could be made about the AIDS crisis as have been made about World War II.
I’ve read some blog criticism that How To Survive a Plague is the rich, white, male version of United in Anger. In contrast to Plague,Anger spotlights many more HIV-positive women and women of color in ACT UP as well as men of color. It also makes clear that part of the schism (also documented in Plague) between ACT UP and the Treatment Action Group (which helped develop protocols for drug trials and accelerated drug approval by working with pharmaceutical companies) was because the latter was made up mostly of white, gay men. But since Plague is, in the end, about (spoiler alert) those who survived HIV, its focus on privileged, white, gay men, while not enviable, is inevitable.
Part of what galvanized these men into action was their outrage that even though they had been bond traders, movie producers, PR executives and Ivy League graduates, because they were gay (or bisexual) and because they were HIV-positive, the medical establishment and the government still treated them as if they were scum. The film documents in interviews with them as well as scientists their tireless work. We see, toward the beginning, a member of the drug buyer’s club rattle off a laundry list of medications before saying, “None of which work, by the way.” Toward the end, years later, we see how the Treatment Action Group helped bring to market the protease inhibitors and combination drug therapies that continue to extend the lives of many people with HIV (at least those with access to these drugs) today.
Those drugs have not eradicated AIDS, but changed it from a virus that killed everyone it infected (we see one man quietly recite the ACT UP chant “ACT UP. Fight back. Fight AIDS,” to end the eulogy he gives at a fellow ACT UP member’s public funeral procession, then see his own obituary in the newspaper) to a disease that many people can now live with for decades.
One of the most moving scenes in the film is close to the end when we see the survivors (many of whom we had seen only in archival footage up to this point) in a series of long, silent close-ups, as they are now, all of those twenty years etched onto their faces and the wrinkles, jowls, grey hair and aging itself becomes a triumph, as it rarely is on American movie screens.
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Karma Sutra and Hookah + Hook-Ups: Talking Sex After Hours

On Valentines Day, BlackOUT will be providing free HIV Testing in General Classroom Building, Room 431. Afterwards we will be hosting “Karma Sutra and Hookah + Hook-ups: Talking Sex After Hours” at Anatolia’s Cafe and Hookah Lounge on February 14, Valentines Day at 8:00PM

At Anatolia’s, we will be TALKING ABOUT SEX! Each person will receive to pieces of RED paper. On the first, you will be writing your questions about sex. On the second, after introductions, you will write down the name of 1-3 persons, you would like to get to know better. Both pieces of paper will be given to moderator and kept confidential. The moderator will use the questions from the first red piece of paper to facilitate an sensual conversation around sex and pleasure. Later into the night, after the event, the moderator will sort through the second group of red pieces of paper and facilitate and exchange of numbers through the contact numbers given on the sign-in sheet.

*Free Sexy Valentines Goodie Bags!!!!!!!!

  • When:  Feb. 14th – Valentine’s Day!
  • Where: Anatolia Cafe &  Hookah Lounge- 52 Peachtree Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30303
  • (2 min walk from 5 Points train station!!)

RSVP on Facebook!

Join Us- Karma Sutra and Hookah + Hook-Ups: Talking Sex After Hours

Policed Bodies: A Discussion Across Identities

In variations of the county, women a shackled by their ankles, handcuffed by their wrists and forced to wear a belly restraint across their stomach. We view this inhumane act as another form of systematic control, for we are living in a system that’s determined to cut down the most marginalized and under-resourced parts of our communities.

SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW, GSU’s BlackOUT, Lambda Legal, and 9to5 will be hosting a event at GSU to bring awareness and discuss issues surrounding the shackling of incarcerated women and the intersecting oppression among race, class, and gender, and sexual orientation.

TIME: 7:00PM

The conversation begins promptly at 7:0pm.

If your organization is interested in speaking at this event, please contact SPARK Organizer, Bianca Campbell at

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This event leads into the 5th Annual Legislate THIS! –
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Directions available:

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Join Us!!! BlackOUT General Body Meeting: Valentines Edition: Dating 101

Hot Topics: 

  • Where to meet good (wo)men?
  • Requirements in relationships
  • Dating (wo)men with kids
  • Internet Dating
  • How do you keep your dating life interesting?
  • Is talking the same as dating? How/When do you set rules on dating?
  • Dating people who don’t have goals or dreams
  • Dating the Ex once AGAIN
  • Dating (wo)men who are “Friends” with their Ex
  • Dating (wo)men who are co-parenting with Ex Girlfriends
  • Dating Labels: Stud/Femmes, Tops/Bottoms, etc…
  • Dating and adding SEX in the equation
  • How long should you date someone before a relationship begins?
  • Dating and losing friends in the process
  • Long distance dating
  • How long should you wait to date a new person?

Where: 10th Floor Urban Life, Women Studies Conference Room
When: February 2nd, Thursday
Time: 6:30-8:30

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Anti-Shackling Event @GSU : The Shackling of Female Prisoners in Labor

BlackOUT will be collaborating with Community Activist and Organizer, Campbell Bianca of Spark Reproductive Justice Center to bring the issue of Shackling of Female Inmates during Labor to Georgia State’s Campus. We would like to build a coalition of student organizations on and off campus to support and promote this event at Georgia State. We are asking for monetary sponsorship but Spark Reproductive Justice would be welcoming of any donations for the cause. The event will be free and held on Georgia State Campus.

We see shackling as a physical, institutional manifestation of how many bodies are policed. Queer, people of color, female, differently abled bodies, bodies in poor communities and bodies behind bars have been targets for a long time. There is currently a bill in House that will end this practice, so now is the time to speak out and support these mothers!

On Feb 13(14, or 15), BlackOUT and other groups will lend our voices and support to these women. The discussion explores shackled childbirth, including the medical affects, and allows folks from across movements to share how their bodies have been harassed.

Organizations of Georgia State, Lets come together in bringing Awareness to Georgia State’s Campus.


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History of Marriage??

Any comments/discussions are welcomed =)

Book Signing at Charis Bookstore in Atlanta! Join Us!

Join us FRIDAY @7:30 at Charis Bookstore, the oldest and largest feminist bookstore in the South,  as we celebrate the release of Georgia State University professor Layli Phillips Maparyan’s newest book,” The Womanist Idea”!!!

Following on the heels of The Womanist Reader, The Womanist Idea offers a comprehensive, systematic analysis of womanism, including a detailed discussion of the womanist worldview (cosmology, ontology, epistemology, logic, axiology, and methodology) and its implications for activism.From a womanist perspective, social and ecological change is necessarily undergirded by spirituality as distinct from religion per se which invokes a metaphysically informed approach to activism.

Linda Costa, the cover artist for the book, will also be with us to talk about her work. This event is co-sponsored by Charis Circle’s Founding the Future of Feminisms Program. The suggested donation is $5, though no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

***Event begins at 7:30 and Ends at 9:00

Directions Using Marta:
Take the Eastbound train to the Iman Park/ Reynoldstown stop,
The bookstore is walking distance, however you can catch the #6 Emory bus at Iman Park/ Reynoldstown station, and ride it onto Moreland Avenue. Pull the string to stop the bus when you see yourself approaching Zestos Ice Cream store which will be on the right. Walk from Zestos Ice Cream to Charis Book store, continue down moreland avenue and turn right at the nex
Address: 1189 Euclid Ave Ne, Atlanta, Ga 30307t intersection, Euclid Avenue. Charis Bookstore will be the Lavender-coloured building on your right.

Meets Us at the Rustin/Lorde Annual Breakfast for MLK Day

Please come out to the Rustin/Lorde Annual Breakfast on 01/16/12 at 10am! queersofBlackOUT will be there documenting this monumental celebration of these two phenomenal activists. In addition, the documentary “Outsider Brother,” focusing on the life of Bayard Rustin, will be screened at the breakfast and screened again next week on Thursday, Jan. 26th at Georgia State University. Anyone and EVERYONE is welcomed to come to this event and are allowed to bring guests with them. This event will be FREE of charge, plus refreshments included! Stay posted for the flyer and more updates of the time and location!!!

via Facebook:

Originally named the Bayard Rustin Breakfast, this important annual event was founded in 2002 in order to acknowledge the important contribution of black gay social activist Bayard Rustin to the community-driven struggle for Civil Rights.In addition, this event was used as a “gathering time” for the LGBT community to come together in fellowship, activity, and fun before participating in the an…nual MLK, Jr. Parade. It has offered free breakfast, lively conversation, community education, and motivation for ongoing participation in social justice issues in Atlanta and beyond.Over the years, this event has expanded in many ways, including most importantly the addition of Audre Lorde as a focal ancestor for the event. Now known as the Rustin/Lorde Annual Breakfast, the event brings together hundreds of local activist, scholars, community members and allies to honor the life and work of Audre Lorde and Bayard Rustin during the MLK celebration.
The breakfast was founded in 2002 to achieve the following goals:
(1) to provide attendees the opportunity to connect before participating in the Martin Luther King Jr. March;

(2) to educate communities about the life and contributions of Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde and other activists;

(3) to enhance mutual support and continued learning among participants working for social justice.


We Congratulate Dr.Layli Phillips Maparyan for Beckman Award!

We would like to acknowledge and indeed CONGRATULATE *Dr. Layli Phillips Maparyan* for being honored with the prestigious Elizabeth Hurlock Beckman Award! We are all SO proud of her and blessed to have her as our adviser. Thanks for truly being such an inspiration in our lives, and most importantly, providing your wisdom, encouragement, strength, and much needed support.

Jeremy Craig from GSU News explained: “The honor is awarded to current or former academic faculty members who have inspired their students to establish, on a lasting basis, a concept, procedure or movement that benefits the community at large. She joins 15 distinguished professors from across the country in garnering the award, and is the only awardee from Georgia. ‘The Beckman Award means a lot to me because it really validates the central mission of my teaching from day one – to inspire social change by providing students with the information and perspectives that make it possible,’ Maparyan said.”

We are forever grateful for such gifted, spiritual, and phenomenal woman!!