June 3, 2017 at 1:37 pm PDT | by Karen Ocamb
Lesbian/Queer Women’s Activist History Reclaimed

Photo: Lynn Ballen, Susan Forrest, Mary Lucey, Keiko Lane, Alice Hom, Judy Sisneros, Marsha Schwemer (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

History has a selective eye, especially when presented from the point of view of outspoken men who believe they speak for an era. How many women do you remember from ACT UP? Ann Northrop, Maxine Wolfe, Sarah Schulman may come to mind as kick-ass activists seen in documentaries about ACT UP/New York.

But what about Los Angeles? How many remember the hard frontline work of such ACT UP/LA and Being Alive activists as Mary Lucey, who is HIV-positive, and her wife Nancy MacNeil, who started the Women Alive newsletter? They not only endured rough arrests by the LAPD but also worked “on the inside” the late L.A. City AIDS Coordinator Ferd Eggan?

Photo: Nancy MacNeil, Mary Lucey and JT Anderson (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Friday night, the couple reconnected with fellow women warriors from the late 80s/early 90s activist days of ACT UP/LA, Queer Nation, the Dyke March and Lesbian Avengers at Lesbians to Watch Out For: ‘90s Queer LA Activism, a multimedia History & Art exhibit at the historic Long Hall in Plummer Park, West Hollywood.

Photo: Among the attendees where original Lavender Menace Ivy Bottini, 91, kicking it with filmmaker Betsy Kalin. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

The exhibits were homages to the women of such activist groups as United Lesbians of African Heritage (ULOAH), Los Angeles Asian Pacific Islander Sisters (LAAPIS), Lesbianas Unidas (LU), Bi-Net, Transgender Menace, among others.

Sheri Lunn, former longtime organizer of the LA Dyke March. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

“The exhibit goes beyond the histories usually told,” co-organizer Lynn Harris Ballen says in a press release. “It focuses on Protest, Street Activism and Grassroots Community Groups, and we gathered material from personal collections and oral histories to tell these stories.”

The event offered an opportunity to remember some of those stories and to share the kind of love and respect warriors feel after surviving in the tranches of warfare.

Photo: Mary Lucey hugs Susan Forrest at Lesbian Pride Kick-off event in West Hollywood (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

“From the AB101 protests to Hollywood Homophobia actions to organizing for the ’93 LGBT March on Washington, ’90s lesbian and queer women’s activism in LA reflected the energy of the decade: dyke visibility marches, public kiss-ins and declarations of “we recruit!” says co-organizer and ACT UP activist Judy Sisneros.

The gallery show also features The Lesbian Avengers: 25th Anniversary Exhibit commemorating the founding of the fire-eating Lesbian Avengers during the historic National Dyke March in Washington DC.

EZ Tiger (photo by Karen Ocamb)

The event, which included music from EZ Tiger, served as a kick-off for LA Pride and the #ResistMarch in Hollywood on June 11. On June 14, the are presenting what promises to be an extraordinary panel discussion: GRASSROOTS ORGANIZERS TELL ALL! What worked, what didn’t, what can we learn from then that can help us now – in the current Resistance?  

ACTUP/LA’s David Reid, longtime activist (and birthday “boy”) Lee Mentley, ACT UP’s Helene Schpak. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Announced panelists are: Liz Friedman (Queer Nation), Alice Y. Hom (API groups), Lisa Powell (ULOAH & BLU), Helene Schpak (ACT UP) and Anne-Christine d’Adesky (Lesbian Avengers) with moderator Professor Yetta Howard, San Diego State University, former Lesbian Avenger, Boston chapter. The event is in the Community Center, Rooms 5&6 – Plummer Park / West Hollywood, starting at 7:00pm.

The Lesbians to Watch Out For: ‘90s LA Activism exhibit is part of the City of West Hollywood’s One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival,  That started on Harvey Milk Day (May 22) and runs through the end of June Pride month. You can follow on social media @WeHoArts.


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