Letters to the Editor

  • Wednesday March 28, 2012
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Letters to the Editor

Long live activism

Thanks to the Bay Area Reporter for covering the 25th anniversary of ACT UP, a truly momentous occasion �" especially when you pause to reflect on all that ACT UP accomplished ["25 years later, activists recall ACT UP's legacy," March 22]. The brilliant strategy, militant and creative tactics, fierce commitment, and significant success in changing the way the public, medical establishment and government responded to the AIDS crisis are lessons since taken up by other movements for justice.

An important piece of information so that our history in San Francisco is correctly recorded: ACT UP/San Francisco did not spring from ACT UP/New York, as is commonly assumed. In 1986, Keith Griffith asked me to work with him in putting together what we called the AIDS Action Pledge. We modeled it on work I had done with the Pledge of Resistance, a group formed to resist U.S. intervention in Central America. We brought in Michelle Roland (who later became director of California's Office of AIDS). The three of us organized the first San Francisco meeting at precisely the same time �" and with quite similar politics �" as ACT UP/New York. We asked everyone to "pledge to join others in fighting for all our lives and liberties during the AIDS crisis" and to commit to defeating AIDS by whatever nonviolent means necessary (from getting arrested to drafting legislation, lobbying Congress, writing letters to the editor and speaking out as HIV-positive). A movement was born in San Francisco and took off like wildfire, with many becoming initial members and new activists.

The AIDS Action Pledge then partnered with ACT UP/New York in creating ACT NOW, a national network of ACT UPs (and an organizing tool to form new ACT UPs) during the 1987 March on Washington for [LGBT] Rights.

The AIDS Action Pledge eventually changed its name to ACT UP/San Francisco in order to fully reflect our common politics and unity with ACT UP/New York and the many new ACT UPs around the country.

Long live activism!

Eileen Hansen

San Francisco

Together we can solve this

In response to Tommi Avicolli Mecca's column, I am confused ["Ending poverty in the LGBT community," Guest Opinion, March 15] . The kind-hearted activists on the front lines of the war on poverty should not be criticizing the landlords and businesses that are successful and pointing at them as the reason that these marginalized groups are caught in a never-ending cycle of poverty. Society cannot help those who need it the most without successful people and businesses �" those same people and businesses are the ones that are paying taxes, and spending their time and hard-earned money buying sponsorships and tickets to charity fundraisers. Wouldn't you want someone in our community to be successful and encourage them and cheer them on so they have the ability to give back? Why is being successful a bad thing?

The boom of the late 1990s (and eventual burst of the dot-com bubble) actually helped our local economy. Would it really have been better to have stagnant or even negative growth just so we could keep rents low?

To lay the number one blame for LGBT homelessness on "landlords anxious to rent to dot-comers with big bank accounts" is misguided and just wrong. The majority of landlords in SF who own small two- to four-unit buildings live with ever increasing maintenance and operating expenses and live month to month for the rental check to pay for the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and expenses. Instead of excoriating the hard-working people who give us a roof over our heads, how about easing up on the layers of bureaucracy and ever-changing laws that chip away at our small businesses?

I must defend Supervisor Scott Wiener's position on the middle income households; if we do not shore up that section of the community and we let it fail (move away in droves as it is happening now) there will be no one left to help the poor. The shrinking middle class is by far one of the biggest threats to increasing the number of households that will be under the poverty level in this city. Instead of Avicolli Mecca's analogy of "Imagine two people calling for help in a lake: one can't swim and is clearly drowning, the other is sitting in a life raft and though not in danger of drowning, is tired of waiting to be rescued. Whom do you rescue first?" why not look at this way? You are on an airplane that drastically loses cabin pressure �" who do you help first, you or the people that cannot put the oxygen mask on? Of course put yours on first then help all those you can. You can do no one any good if you have passed out!

Anyone who is successful or advocates for business and free enterprise should not be an automatic target of the very poor and those working on their behalf. That is just biting the hand that could possibly feed you.

I want to be very clear here, the work that Avicolli Mecca and Gabriel Haaland do is amazing and invaluable and I fully support it. But it does not serve their cause if they are critical of the people that can help them the most. Pointing the finger and blaming gay marriage proponents, landlords, or the people that created the tech industry is not a solution and they are not the problem. I do not pretend to know the solution to poverty in the LGBT community (besides working hard, earning money, and giving back to my community) but I do know if we start blaming each other we will never get out of it and prosper. Together we can solve this.

Bill Hemenger

San Francsico