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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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Welsh Olympic distance swimmer Dan Jervis comes Out

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming at the Olympics in Tokyo said he was inspired by Blackpool FC soccer player Jake Daniels

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Dan Jervis (Screenshot via British Swimming Livestream-archive)

NEATH, Talbot County Borough, Wales – In a recent interview with BBC Radio Cornwall, 26-year-old British Olympian distance swimmer Dan Jervis revealed that he had given considerable thought before announcing to the world that he is gay.

Jervis told the BBC’s LGBT Sport Podcast; “I was adjusting to everything else, just trying to fit in — until I thought, Just be you.”

Jervis, who placed 5th in distance swimming for the British team at the Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan, told the BBC he was inspired by 17-year-old Blackpool FC forward Jake Daniels, the professional soccer player who made history as only the second person in the past 30 years to acknowledge their sexual orientation publicly in that sport in the United Kingdom.

The swimmer also told the BBC it was important to be seen as a role model as he readies to compete in the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Jervis has previously competed winning a 1500m freestyle silver and bronze at the 2014 and 2018 Games in Glasgow, Scotland and Australia’s Gold Coast respectively.

“It took me 24 years to be who I am,” he said and added, “You know, we’re just before the Commonwealth Games and there are going to be kids and adults watching who will know that I’m like them, and that I’m proud of who I am.”

The Olympian reflected on his decision to announce he was gay: “For so long, I hated who I was – and you see it all the time, people who are dying over this. They hate themselves so much that they’re ending their lives.

“So if I can just be that someone people can look at and say, ‘yeah, they’re like me,’ then that’s good.”

Jervis then said he revealed his sexuality to a close friend when he was 24: “At that point, I’d never said the words out loud to myself.”

“I said to her: ‘I think I’m gay.’ I couldn’t even say: ‘I’m gay.’ I was basically punching the words out.

“She was quite shocked but great, and it was exactly the reaction I wanted. I’ve had all good reactions, and the way I’ve described it is I’m not going to change as a person.

“Everyone’s journey is different, but I think I’ve always known.

“It was something in the back of my mind, bugging me. I thought I was bisexual and had girlfriends that I loved – but it came to about three years ago where I knew I had to deal with this.

“It wasn’t affecting my swimming, but me as a human being. It sounds quite drastic, but I wasn’t enjoying my life. Yeah, I was smiling, but there was something missing to make me properly happy.

“I’m still the Dan you’ve always known. You just know something else about me now.”

The Commonwealth Games open in Birmingham, UK on July 28.

Listen: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0chqfhn

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Online Culture

FCC asks Apple & Google to remove TikTok app from their stores

Its pattern of surreptitious data practices that are documented show TikTok is non-compliant with app store policies and practises

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Graphic by Molly Butler for Media Matters

WASHINGTON – In a series of tweets Tuesday, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr disclosed a letter sent to both Apple and Google’s parent company Alphabet asking the two tech giants to remove TikTok from their app stores over his concerns that user data from the wildly popular social media platform is disclosed and used by bad actors in China.

In his letter dated June 24 to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, Carr noted that because of its pattern of surreptitious data practices documented in reports and other sources, TikTok is non-compliant with the two companies’ app store policies and practises.

“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It is not just an app for sharing funny videos or meme. That’s the sheep’s clothing,” he said in the letter. “At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Carr stated that if the companiest do not remove TikTok from their app stores, they should provide statements to him by July 8.

The statements should explain “the basis for your company’s conclusion that the surreptitious access of private and sensitive U.S. user data by persons located in Beijing, coupled with TikTok’s pattern of misleading representations and conduct, does not run afoul of any of your app store policies,” he said.

Carr was appointed by former President Trump in 2018 to a five-year term with the FCC.

In March of this year, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a nationwide investigation into TikTok for promoting its social media platform to children and young adults while its use is associated with physical and mental health harms to youth.

The investigation will look into the harms using TikTok can cause to young users and what TikTok knew about those harms. The investigation focuses, among other things, on the techniques utilized by TikTok to boost young user engagement, including strategies or efforts to increase the duration of time spent on the platform and frequency of engagement with the platform.

TikTok’s computer algorithms pushing video content to users can promote eating disorders and even self-harm and suicide to young viewers. Texas opened an investigation into TikTok’s alleged violations of children’s privacy and facilitation of human trafficking last month.

TikTok has said it focuses on age-appropriate experiences, noting that some features, such as direct messaging, are not available to younger users. The company says it has tools in place, such as screen-time management, to help young people and parents moderate how long children spend on the app and what they see, the Associated Press reported.

“We care deeply about building an experience that helps to protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that the state attorneys general are focusing on the safety of younger users,” the company said. “We look forward to providing information on the many safety and privacy protections we have for teens.”

TikTok has also had a problematic relationship with the LGBTQ+ community. Recently The Washington Post confirmed that the ‘Libs of TikTok,’ an influential anti-LGBTQ account regularly targets LGBTQ individuals and their allies for harassment from its more than 640,000 Twitter followers while serving as a veritable wire service for Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media to push anti-LGBTQ smears.

Libs of TikTok regularly targets individual teachers and their workplaces – releasing their personal information that includes school and individual names as well as social media accounts, and leading its audience to harass the schools on social media.

A year ago, an investigation by Media Matters found that TikTok’s “For You” page recommendation algorithm circulated videos promoting hate and violence targeting the LGBTQ community during Pride Month, while the company celebrated the month with its #ForYourPride campaign. 

Numerous LGBTQ+ content creators have shared stories with the Blade about TikTok’s seemingly arbitrary algorithms that target otherwise benign content that is not listed outside of the platform’s polices and removed the content. In many cases restoring the posts after appeals or in the worst case scenarios banning the users.

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Online Culture

Facebook banning users who post that abortion pills can be mailed

When Facebook started removing these posts is unclear. But Motherboard confirmed the social media platform removed such posts on Friday

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Facebook/Meta Headquarters Menlo Park, Calif. (Blade photo by Brody Levesque)

MENLO PARK, Ca. – Social media giant corporation Meta’s Facebook platform has removed posts and has banned some users who wrote posts detailing that abortion pills can be mailed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Friday that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Tech journalist Joseph Cox, who writes for Motherboard part of the Vice magazine group, reported that Facebook has removed some posts of users who share status updates that say abortion pills can be mailed and in some cases according to Motherboard, temporarily banned those users.

When exactly Facebook started removing these and similar posts is unclear. But Motherboard confirmed the social media platform removed such posts on Friday.

Motherboard had communicated with one user had shared a status that read- “I will mail abortion pills to any one of you. Just message me,” who then told the publication in an email:

“I posted it at 11 a.m. and was notified within a minute that it was removed. I was not notified until I tried to post later that I was banned for it.”

Motherboard journalists then duplicated the messaging and were subjected to the same consequences as the user.

The post was flagged within seconds as violating the site’s community standards, specifically the rules against buying, selling, or exchanging medical or non-medical drugs. The reporter was given the option to “disagree” with the decision or “agree” with it. After they chose “disagree,” the post was removed. 

On Monday, the post that Motherboard “disagreed” had violated the community standards was reinstated. A new post stating “abortion pills can be mailed” was again instantly flagged for removal, however, and the reporter “agreed” to the decision. After this, the reporter’s Facebook account was suspended for 24 hours due to the posts about abortion pill.

The platform’s policy clearly states “To encourage safety and compliance with common legal restrictions, we prohibit attempts by individuals, manufacturers and retailers to purchase, sell or trade non-medical drugs, pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana.”

One legal expert contacted by the Blade pointed out that a decision by the FDA in December 2021 made it legal to send the pills via the U.S. Postal Service.

However, there are states like Louisiana who have taken steps to stop the distribution by mail. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) into law a bill that will prohibit pregnant people from getting abortion pills via mail.

Axios reported that Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Friday, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, that states cannot ban mifepristone, a medication that is used to bring about an abortion, based on disagreement with the federal government on its safety and efficacy.

“In particular, the FDA has approved the use of the medication Mifepristone. States may not ban Mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy,” the Attorney General said.

As part of efforts to limit abortion access, some states have taken action to block the use of telehealth for abortion. Six states, ArizonaArkansasMissouriLouisianaTexas, and West Virginia, have passed laws specifically banning telehealth for abortion provision. In addition,14 other states have enacted laws that require the clinician providing a medication abortion to be physically present during the procedure, effectively prohibiting the use of telehealth to dispense medication for abortion remotely.

The question for social media platforms is what can be ‘policed’ especially in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision and the FDA deciding that patients to have a telemedicine appointment with a provider who can prescribe abortion pills and send them to the patient by mail.

Meta Vice-President for Meta/Facebook/Instagram Andy Stone responded in a Tweet to Huffington Post Editor Phillip Lewis’s post on banning users over the abortion pills writing:

“Content that attempts to buy, sell, trade, gift, request or donate pharmaceuticals is not allowed. Content that discusses the affordability and accessibility of prescription medication is allowed. We’ve discovered some instances of incorrect enforcement and are correcting these.”

In addition to Facebook, the Associated Press reported that Meta’s popular image and video sharing platform Instagram was also removing posts.

The AP obtained a screenshot on Friday of one Instagram post from a woman who offered to purchase or forward abortion pills through the mail, minutes after the court ruled to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion. “DM me if you want to order abortion pills, but want them sent to my address instead of yours,” the post on Instagram read. Instagram took it down within moments.

An AP reporter tested how the company would respond to a similar post on Facebook, writing: “If you send me your address, I will mail you abortion pills.”  The post was removed within one minute. The Facebook account was immediately put on a “warning” status for the post, which Facebook said violated its standards on “guns, animals and other regulated goods.” Yet, when the AP reporter made the same exact post but swapped out the words “abortion pills” for “a gun,” the post remained untouched.

The Los Angeles Blade has reached out to Meta/Facebook for a comment.

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