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‘Metanoia’ archival exhibit connects past AIDS activism to present actions

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Photo by Lolita Lens Photography, courtesy of the ONE Archives

Largely relegated to the margins of history and contemporary conversation, the social justice work of Black cis and trans women, as well as cis and trans women of color, gets the front-and-center placement it merits, in “Metanoia: Transformation Through AIDS Archives and Activism.”

On view through April 5 at the ONE Gallery in West Hollywood, the archival exhibition’s collection of posters, newsletters, pamphlets, and other ephemera invites viewers to contemplate community-based responses to the AIDS crisis.

As noted by the curators, “Metanoia” seeks to “draw out the larger context in which Black women with HIV in prison were changed into agents of transformation for themselves, their communities, and all people living with or affected by HIV.”

Culled from the holdings of the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the University of Southern California Libraries alongside those of NYC’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (where “Metanoia” debuted in 2019), the assembled materials focus on the work of those who “strongly advocated for health, well-being, access to HIV medication, and compassionate release for themselves and their sisters experiencing incarceration in the early to mid-1990s.”

“It is not an exhaustive show,” notes NYC-based activist, artist, journalist, and “Metanoia” co-curator Theodore “Ted” Kerr.

“It’s not trying to tell all the history of AIDS activism in California and Los Angeles. It’s trying gesture to two experiences: One, of Katrina Halslip, a Black woman living with HIV, in Bedford Hills [Correctional Facility for Women], who helped change the definition of AIDS to include women, in 1992. And for me, the object that most invites that is a beautiful black and white photograph of taken from a video about women involved in AIDS activism.”

The other experience, notes Kerr, “is about Joann Walker, a Black woman who, once she was incarcerated, found out about her HIV status, and then started advocating for the compassionate release of women living with HIV, so they could die with dignity at home, rather than the hell of prison.”

Walker, notes Kerr, was released from prison “a mere two weeks before her death, barely able to walk.” The item that best exemplifies Walker’s power, he says, is an iPad containing the letters exchanged by Walker and Judy Greenspan (whose holdings are in the ONE Archives). “In these letters,” says Kerr, “we learn that Joann Walker is a smart and funny and fierce woman who is fighting for freedom, for herself and other people.”

“Metanoia” seeks to rectify the marginalization of prison reform advocates by the art world and historians—but it’s not just about legacy: The exhibition also champions the work of contemporary activists in and around the greater Los Angeles area.

“The LA commission made lots of sense to us,” says Umi Hsu, Director of Content Strategy at the ONE Archives Foundation, “because the historical papers [in the NYC version] featured the activism work of two important collectors, Judy Greenspan and Judy Sisneros. They were instrumental in the HIV/AIDS movement, within incarceration activism, and led a lot of work here in California.”

With Greenspan residing in Oakland and Sisneros in Los Angeles, “It was our wish to kind of bring it home, in a sense,” says Hsu, noting that the bulk of the exhibition comes from the ONE Archives’ collection of materials gathered by Sisneros, while objects from Greenspan’s collection came from The Center in New York.  Hsu add that the West Coast iteration of the exhibition is imbued with elements meant to “connect the show and its history to the present. The curators did a really fantastic job of reaching out to HIV activists working in Los Angeles county, that are doing really important work in our current day… so we have these dialogues of past and present.”

In that manner, “Metanoia” sends “a message to the people of California, that there are strong and powerful women, men, and people among them who are doing amazing AIDS activism, who have done amazing AIDS activism,” says Kerr, who curated the NYC and LA exhibitions alongside Katherine Cheairs and Alexandra Juhasz—all of whom are members of What Would an HIV Doula Do?, a collective of artists, filmmakers, writers, and activists committed to, they note, “ensuring that community plays a key role in the current AIDS response.”

“I’m a Canadian living in New York [City],” says Kerr, who “grew up craving more information about HIV/AIDS, in terms of activism, education, and culture. And there wasn’t a lot, and what was available was often about New York City—which of course is such an important epicenter of AIDS activism and culture. But it’s not the only place. So to have an exhibition about California AIDS activism in California is important, to put those people on the historical record.”

What’s more, says Kerr—who teaches a class at NYC’s The New School, on how to memorialize AIDS while it’s still ongoing—the conversation around HIV/AIDS activism is too-often viewed within the context of past efforts.

“Metanoia,” he notes, “connects to what’s being done now, because archives are only as powerful as the people who use them, and how they’re activated in the present… Diving into the most urgent concerns of the present is the best form of memorial, because it’s ensuring that nobody died in vain, and that all the activism of the past is being carried forward, for the benefit of the future.”

Respect for the present tense begins before you enter the actual gallery, says Kerr. “You are invited in by this bright yellow wall that’s facing the windows, and on that wall are nine portraits of amazing activists from New York City and Los Angeles, who are doing intersectional activism that’s saving people’s lives every day… and there are photos and bios and interviews.”

That supporting text is an important example of contemporary archiving, says Kerr, “because it’s not enough to say someone’s name. We wanted the tactics they used to survive and thrive, to also be part of the historical record.”

NYC’s Lolita Lens and LA’s Black Queen Photography  are the artists who shot the documentary photographic series, whose subjects include Chela Demuir, Krystal “Krys” Shelley, Sabel Samone-Loreca, and Yuè Begay—activists in LA working on issues related to HIV/AIDS.

“Then you go inside,” says Hsu, of the ONE Gallery, “and you’re encouraged to get close to the wall, to this intimate history. The space is set up so visitors can have a proximity to historical objects as well as reproductions, documents, and papers.” Visitors also, they add, “are able to experience large-scale blowups and projections of maps, that locate where the demonstrations were happening in the past.”

A sticker made by the curators, handed out during the opening night program to go along with the protest chant. (Image courtesy of the ONE Archives)

A Jan. 17 opening night program brought together all of the activists whose portraits comprise the yellow wall series. “They gave remarks,” recalls Hsu, “speaking on their experiences of doing activism work, and how activism and intersectionality play a large role in each of their personal and activist lives.

Two-spirit Navajo activist and LA county resident Yuè Begay began the program with a Land Acknowledgment ceremony—another instance, says Hsu, “in which the exhibition connects across different social groups, while resonating on the history of HIV/AIDS, and the People of Color’s experience.”

The program concluded with, notes Hsu, “Jana Zainabu, a Black woman poet who has been active in the spoken word and poetry scene for decades,” and wrote original poetry “in response to the exhibit.”

Hsu added that during the program, they were “particularly moved by a handout with a very provocative [imprisonment-themed] activism chant,” from the 1990s work of ACT UP Los Angeles.

“This is something,” says Hsu, “that spoke to me, especially when the curators led the chanting with our audience. It really, truly created an experience of connecting with the past, with the history.”

Greenspan, Hsu notes, “who probably led some of the chants” in the ’90s, “ended up leading and modifying the chants, and making them more relevant to current incarceration rights issues.”

Noting that Greenspan “cringes” at the use of the word “inmate,” Kerr says she asked that the audience replace the chant’s original phrase “Inmates with AIDS under attack!,” with “Prisoners with AIDS under attack!”

In doing so, says Kerr, “It reminded us that as much as we were a bunch of people standing in a West Hollywood art gallery, we’re also people with political power—and our language has an effect on what we do, and how we can create change.”

“Metanoia” is on view through April 5, at the ONE Gallery (626 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood). Hours: Fri.-Sun., 11 AM – 2PM and 3PM – 6 PM. For info, call 323-968-0410. For more info, visit onearchives.org/now-open-the-one-gallery-in-west-hollywood.

NOTE: On Tues., Feb. 11, (6:30 PM reception, 7 PM screening), the ONE Archives Foundation will co-host an event with the Foundation for the AIDS Monument: A screening of “Poz Roz,” a digital comedy series exploring the life of twentysomething Rozzlyn Mayweather, after an HIV+ diagnosis rocks her already shaky world. The event takes place at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, inside Barnsdall Art Park (4814 Hollywood Blvd.). After the screening, a panel discussion will be moderated by Tony-nominated actress, singer, author, and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph. Panelists include “Poz Roz” creator, writer, director, and producer Carlton Jordon, “Poz Roz” star Chauntae Pink, HIV/AIDS activist and APLA Health Outreach Worker Porchia Dees, and HIV/AIDS activist, artist, and blogger Lynnea Lawson. Admission is free, but tickets are required. For ticket info, click here.

A replica of one of three handouts in the exhibition, used by ACT UP LA to protest the treatment of prisoners. (Image courtesy of the ONE Archives)

Krystal “Krys” Shelley, activist and storyteller. (Photo by Black Queen Photography)

Sabel Samone-Loreca, HIV prevention and care worker. (Photo by Black Queen Photography)

Yuè Begay, Program Coordinator of the Red Circle Project at APLA Health,. (Photo by Black Queen Photography)

Original artist unknown, text by Joann Walker; from the Judy Greenspan Papers (Image courtesy of The LGBT Community Center National History Archive)

Chela Demuir, Founder & Executive Director of Unique Woman’s Coalition. (Photo by Black Queen Photography)

San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper clipping. “To Die in Chowchilla,” 1994. Article by Noelle Hanrahan; from the Judy Greenspan Papers. (Image courtesy of The LGBT Community Center National History Archive)

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Sports

San Diego runner celebrates the end of their trailblazing season

Nikki Hiltz came out as trans nonbinary this year and is aiming to compete in the next Olympic Summer Games scheduled for Paris in 2024

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Nikki Hiltz (Photo Credit: NYRR Media Relations)

SAN DIEGO – Sunday marked the last race of 2021 for Santa Cruz native Nikki Hiltz, and they described their season on social media as “filled with ups, downs, and a whole lot of self discovery.” Hiltz, who came out as trans nonbinary in March, reflected on all they’ve achieved.

Far from their home in San Diego, the 26-year-old Adidas sprinter finished second on Sunday in the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile in New York City, with a time of 4:23.0, just over a second behind first-place finisher Olympian Jemma Reekie of the United Kingdom. Shannon Osika of Ann Arbor, Mich. was right on Hiltz’s heels to finish third.

“I think with any sport, especially running, you bring your whole self to the starting line,” Hiltz told the Los Angeles Blade. “It’s not like I’m bringing just the athlete part of Nikki; I’m bringing my whole identity.” 

Their coming out as trans nonbinary, they said, definitely impacted her performance. 

“The closer I can be to myself and stay true to myself, the faster and the better I run, essentially,” said Hiltz. “I am someone that runs with a lot of emotion and grit. And so when I’m at war with myself or when I wasn’t out of the closet, it really shows on the track. And then when I’m at peace with myself and I’m living my most authentic life, that also really shows on the track.” 

Off the track, Hiltz has been exploring their passion for the LGBTQ community and their interest in pushing for equality and justice, much like out San Diego Loyals midfielder Collin Martin. As the Blade reported last week, Martin has joined Common Goal, a partnership with Adidas and soccer players around the world working toward ending gender inequality, combatting HIV/AIDS and other causes. He’s also pledged 1% of his salary to Play Proud, a project aimed at improving LGBTQ+ inclusion in soccer.

“Within the past two years, I’ve really leaned into advocacy and fighting for things that I believe in,” Hiltz told the Blade. “That has been really fulfilling when I have been injured or when COVID happened and I couldn’t race.” 

Hiltz organized her own event for its second year this summer, a race in which all the proceeds benefited the Trevor Project

“I put on a Pride 5k and that was so fun,” they said. “Whether I had a good or bad performance, the highlight of every race this summer has been meeting and connecting with members of the Pride 5k family from across the country. They can always so quickly put everything into perspective. This community seriously means the world to me.”

The Nikki Hiltz Pride 5K on July 17 in Mission Bay, San Diego, raised $42,270 for the Trevor Project, the largest national nonprofit dedicated to crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth. 

“I think that’s something I want to continue to do when my running career is over. I love running and I love the community and I love everyone that calls themself a runner.”

Next up for Hiltz is to train for the Olympics. The next Summer Games are scheduled to be held in Paris in 2024, followed by Los Angeles in 2028. But they told the Blade that at age 26, they know they’re not getting any younger. 

“Professional middle distance runners usually retire early 30s-ish, 30 to 33, or they switch events and move up to the 5 or 10K or marathon event. But I think for me, you kind of go through Olympic cycles. So I think, if I were to retire, it would be in 2024 or 2028. And I think when I get to 2024, I’m going to reassess. ‘Am I still happy doing this? Do I still love it?’ And if it’s anything less than, ‘Yes!’ Then I think it’ll be time to retire.”

For now, Hiltz is focused on celebrating the end of the 2021 season with their girlfriend, collegiate runner Emma Gee, a graduate student at Temple University and the first out LGBTQ athlete at Brigham Young University. 

“I can’t think of anyone better who has been more supportive throughout this whole journey,” said Hiltz.

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The New Balance 5th Avenue Mile 2021

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Online Culture

Twitch goes after two originators of “hate raids” against LGBTQ+ streamers

‘Hate raids’ are organized attacks which bots flood chats streamers with racist, homophobic, sexist and other harassing content

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(Los Angeles Blade Graphic)

SAN FRANCISCO – In attempt to shut down repeated malicious attacks on groups of its marginalized users known colloquially as ‘Hate raids,’ Amazon’s Twitch video live streaming service has filed suit against two users for what the company says have targeted those marginalized streamers, specifically LGBTQ+ and people of color.

In court documents filed last Thursday, Sept. 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the company listed two individuals as defendants by their usernames, Cruzzcontrol from the Netherlands and CreatineOverdose from Vienna, Austria.

In an email to Wired magazine a spokesperson for Twitch noted, “We hope this Complaint will shed light on the identity of the individuals behind these attacks and the tools that they exploit, dissuade them from taking similar behaviors to other services, and help put an end to these vile attacks against members of our community.” 

‘Hate raids’ are organized attacks on various Twitch channels in which bots flood chats streamers with racist, homophobic, sexist and other harassing content in violation of its terms of service. It’s been a problem for months, but didn’t come to widespread attention until this past month PC GAMER reported, when multiple targeted streamers planned a one-day boycott of the platform, using the #ADayOffTwitch hashtag.

Even though few big-name streamers took part, Twitch saw a significant decline in viewership on the day of the protest.

According to the court documents filed against the two users named in the suit, they created multiple Twitch accounts and thousands of bot accounts to create the hate raids. The lawsuit also stated that Cruzzcontrol and CreatineOverdose can “generate thousands of bots in minutes” for these hate raids, citing that Cruzzcontrol alone is behind about 3000 bots.

Buzzfeed highlighted one user who tweeted;

“These attacks obstruct the chat so significantly, victimized streamers are unable to engage with their community through chat for the duration of the attack, and some even choose to avoid streaming altogether until the attack ends,” the lawsuit read.

In addition, the company alleges in its suit that these relentless ‘Hate raids’ creates an atmosphere where the discouraged users quit streaming altogether “eliminating an important source of revenue.”

“Despite Twitch’s best efforts, the hate raids continue,” the lawsuit states. “On information and belief, Defendants created software code to conduct hate raids via automated means. And they continue to develop their software code to avoid Twitch’s efforts at preventing Defendants’ bots from accessing the Twitch Services.”

PC GAMER reporter Andy Chalk noted; “The lawsuit seeks a legally-binding injunction that will prohibit the defendants from using Twitch, as well as various sorts of damages and legal fees. But it has some high hurdles to clear before it gets there, including determining the real identities of the defendants, who are currently known only as CruzzControl and CreatineOverdose. That in itself may not be a major issue—lawsuits are often filed against anonymous “Does” (Bungie and Ubisoft’s joint suit against cheat-makers, for instance, names 50 of them)—but there may also be jurisdictional issues, as CruzzControl is believed to be a resident of the Netherlands, while CreatineOverdose is from Austria.”

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Celebrity News

Lil Nas X wins the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards Best Video of the year

The Out artist has been receiving extreme backlash after the release of “Montero,” from anti-LGBTQ groups who labeled the video demonic

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Screenshot via YouTube

NEW YORK – The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards were presented Sunday in the Brooklyn borough of New York City with musical artists Lil Nas X, Justin Bieber and first time nominee Olivia Rodrigo, winning the top awards. This year’s ceremony marked the 40th anniversary of MTV since its inaugural broadcast in 1981.

Out artist Lil Nas X took home the top prize of the evening with the MTV Moon Person for Video of the Year trophy award for his “Montero: Call Me By Your Name.” He also won an award for Best Direction; “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” Directed by: Lil Nas X and Tanu Muino. 

Canadian transplant Justin Bieber received a trophy for MTV Artist of the Year award and he also secured an award for Best Pop video for his collaboration with Daniel Caesar, Giveon for the song “Peaches.”

Olivia Rodrigo secured three awards for Song of the Year for her song, “drivers license,” Best New Artist and also an award for Push Performance of the Year.

CBS News reported during during his acceptance speech Lil Nas X shouted; “First I wanna say thank you to the gay agenda. Let’s go gay agenda!”

The openly Out artist has been at the receiving end of harsh critique and extreme backlash after the release of “Montero,” including from anti-LGBTQ groups such as the Washington D.C. based Family Research Council, Colorado Springs, Colorado based Focus on the Family and the Tupelo, Mississippi based American Family Association who have all labeled the song and the video demonic.

The song debuted at No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and according to CBS Entertainment, the music video made headlines after its premiere for its depiction of Lil Nas X sliding on a stripper pole to hell, where he proceeds to give Satan a lap dance.

The altered Nike Air Max 97 shoes accompanying the song’s release were dubbed the Satan Shoes and caused Nike to file a lawsuit against the company that produced them. 

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Lil Nas X – MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) (Official Video)

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