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DAY OF DESPERATION


January 23, 1991   Early morning protests took place downtown Manhattan with AIDS activists protesting the Government's involvement in the Gulf War to the exclusion of vital interests at home. That afternoon--5:00 RUSH HOUR--Grand Central Station was filled with demonstrators protesting under the banners "Money For AIDS, Not For War" and "One AIDS Death Every 8 Minutes".

The night before the Day of Desperation protests, AIDS activists disrupted the CBS News Evening News with Dan Rather (by jumping on-camera as the news began: "Fight AIDS, not Arabs; AIDS is news!") and the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. (Robin MacNeil: "There's been a demonstration in our studio; it was a group of non-violent demonstrators from ACT UP who complained that we and the media are spending too much time and attention on the war in the Middle East which they say will never kill as many people as are dying of AIDS and I told them that this program has spent a lot of time on the AIDS matter and will be covering it more in the future."_Asked by a reporter: "Don't you think this is an immature and silly way to get your point across to the country?" We responded: "No, we think spending hundreds of billions of dollars bombing people in another continent is a immoral way to get a point across."

Evening News Zaps
January 22, 1991

ACT UP zaps the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, protesting the Gulf War and lack of main-stream media News coverage on AIDS.

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LISTEN TO NPR's FATHER DAY STORY >>

"ACTING UP ON THE EVENING NEWS"     modem   broadband    (requires real audio)

mirrored off soundportraits.org  for National Public Radio                          TRANSCRIPT



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Jon Greenberg participated in the Day of Desperation Action at the PBS News Hour Zap. He wrote the following speech for Mark Lowe Fisher's Political Funeral, which was later read by Barbara Hughes at Jon Greenberg's Political Funeral in Tompkins Square Park, Lower East Side, New York City.

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Jon Greenberg  Speech for Mark Lowe Fisher's Political Funeral

On Jan 22nd 1991, Mark, Barbara, Anna, Steven, Laurie, Neil and I sat in the cafeteria of Channel 13, waiting for a signal which would tell us when to take those final steps, walk those final 100 yards which would propel us down the passage and into the studio where Robin MacNeil was reporting on the Iraq War once again.

We were nervous, frightened, fidgety. We were about to push through a social barrier, do what many had only imagined and fly in the face of convention and what was once considered acceptable social behavior: to declare our presence and force the world to take notice. Our country, this world, had lost all perspective. And we were determined, if only for a moment, to reaffirm some truth, some reality into a media event where truth and reality had ceased to have meaning.

We were prepared for everything we could possibly be prepared for, Mark had made sure of much of that. As many variables as we could control we did control, largely because of Mark's extraordinarily anal organizational abilities. But for all that, as we approached that studio door with the red light flashing outside; we, none of us, knew what to expect on the other side. The red light was meant to scare us into staying on our proper side, control our actions with fear. But Mark and the rest of us, in spite of our fear, knew that it was only fear and rather than let that stop us, we used it to propel us into further action, to confront and push through the barrier of our fear and be liberated even as our bodies were being arrested and jailed. there was an otherness about hose moments. We all felt it. We all knew that we had, if only for a moment, an hour, a day, become larger than we had been the day before. We each became part of the other and as a unit our collective spirit crossed an illusory boundary which we only knew was an illusion after we had crossed it. We were each a part of Mark on that day, and he was a part of each of us. Through collective empowerment we declared who we were and how we felt and made a place for ourselves in the universe.

Mark has once again crossed a boundary that each of us will sooner or later have to cross, whether we have AIDS or not, whether we are angry or not, whether we are afraid or not, and whether we have a Republican President or not. The truth is that each of us will one day follow Mark to that ultimate otherness and the final liberation. Mark took that road consciously, let us hope that we can do it as consciously, actively and as well prepared as Mark has. To the end Mark was unafraid of the consequences of his actions, or if afraid, he used that fear to propel him onward rather than to paralyze him and stop him from fully living.

Mark knew he was going to die. We, each of us, will also die. Mark's life and death, if it is to mean anything, cannot be trivialized by wishing it away or by pretending that there could be any other end. Yes, we are in pain. We have lost a precious powerful friend and colleague. But to avoid that pain by blaming it on someone else, robs us of our opportunity to experience and learn from a greater consciousness, a larger self, a fearlessness. Acceptance of our mortality--as Mark accepted his--makes it possible to live life fully, in spite of our fear; makes it possible to live life in real freedom because we are not afraid of the consequences of our actions.

It is only after we see how trivial and illusory are the political, social, religious, and physical barriers of this world can we begin to liberate ourselves from our fears and find our true power, consciousness, action and fearlessness. Mark was honest with himself and with his life. He knew his death was unavoidable, he knew that to believe otherwise was to believe a lie and to give more power to the fear of the unknown than to the courage, strength and love we can choose to face that unknown.

And Mark chose this action today as his memorial, making even his death an act of empowerment for his community and giving each of us an opportunity to publicly declare our presence, our pain, our right to life and our right to be proud of our deaths. We can learn from Mark's death: learn about consciousness, empowerment, fearlessness and action; and follow his lead as I followed him almost two year ago through the barrier of our fears.

Goodbye Mark and thank you for this final act of empowerment and generosity. Mark's final entry into his medical journal was: "mind is clear, feel like a connected whole...."

We honor that connected wholeness in our actions today.




FLYER FOR DAY OF DESPERATION

The AIDS Crisis is Just Beginning

1,175 people died of AIDS last week and you murdered them.

President Bush and Congress murdered them. Within a matter of months the U.S. Government is able to house, feed and provide health care for half a million people in the middle of the desert. But here at home, the Federal Government continues to routinely deny these same basic necessities to people living with AIDS. We wonder--as we fight a war for oil in the Persian Gulf--whether President Bush and Congress are conscious of the desperate state of the AIDS crisis in this country. We are. Through 10 years of this plague and 10 years of Republican administrations, there remains no leadership. After over-whelmingly (and with much fanfare) passing the C.A.R.E. Act (aka the Ryan White Act), Congress and President Bush failed to appropriate the funds necessary to implement this disaster relief. Why is it that when a hurricane or earthquake hits--and causes mostly property damage and relatively few deaths---federal dollars pour in? When a disease devastates whole communities and kills more than 110,000 men, women and children--more than twice the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War--our leaders remain silent. And you remain silent.

       
Silence = Death.

Governor Cuomo murdered them. In order to cope with New York State's fiscal problems, Governor Cuomo is attempting to balance his budget with people's lives. What happened to his five-year AIDS plan? New York's AIDS budget received few cuts, but it is simply not keeping pace with the epidemic. Budgets must be balanced, but not at the cost of thousands of New Yorkers lives. Cuomo has never declared New York State a disaster area. He has never personally gone to Washington to lobby for federal AIDS-relief funding. Mario Cuomo is governor of the AIDS capital of the world. His "family of New York" is dying. Where is the leadership New York needs to weather this storm?
President Cuomo???

Mayor Dinkins murdered them. During his successful campaign for mayor, David Dinkins made many promises concerning people living with AIDS. Dinkins has broken all of these promises, except one: Against the advice of every major authority on I.V. drug use and its connection to AIDS, Dinkins and his inept health commissioner, Woody Myers, scrapped the city's needle-exchange program. They ignore the evidence that needle exchange not only stops the spread of AIDS in the I.V.drug-using communities, but also acts as a bridge into treatment programs. I.V. drug users, their sexual partners and their children have the highest rate of new HIV infection. The cause is clear. The fix is cheap: Clean needles save lives. Dinkins' policy is genocidal.

Did you murder them too? As 1 in 25 New Yorkers is infected with HIV...As more than 10,000 people with AIDS are homeless...As our children become infected...As the Catholic Church continues to interfere in public-health policy...As promising new treatments remain unavailable...As we continue to die... Will you continue to do nothing?

  ACT UP

 


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