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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

Mavericks’ Reggie Bullock, finalist for NBA award for LGBTQ+ advocacy

The NBA announced this week the guard-forward is one of the finalists for its 2022 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award

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Reggie Bullock (Dallas Mavericks/YouTube)

DALLAS – While San Francisco is celebrating the Golden State Warriors’ huge Wednesday night Game 1 victory over the Mavericks in the NBA Western Conference Finals, LGBTQ groups in Dallas are cheering on Dallas’s Reggie Bullock for his work off the court. 

The NBA announced this week the guard-forward is one of the finalists for its 2022 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award, which honors players who have made strides in fighting for social justice and advocating for equality.

Other finalists include the Milwaukee Bucks’s Jrue Holiday, the Memphis Grizzlies’s Jaren Jackson Jr., the Minnesota Timberwolves’s Karl-Anthony Towns and the Toronto Raptors’s Fred VanVleet.

The NBA said Bullock’s push for LGBTQ equity stems from the 2014 murder of his sister, Mia Henderson, a transgender woman.

“Bullock has focused on acceptance of all people by working to create truly inclusive communities through neighborhood engagement and national efforts around the LGBTQ movement, including participating in the NYC Pride March, the GLAAD Media Awards, and NBA events for LGBTQ youth and allies,” according to an NBA news release. “Most recently, as part of the Mavs Take ACTION! initiative, Bullock participated in a courageous conversation as part of the HUDDLE series to uplift the trans community, amplify community organizations who are working to support and protect LGBTQ individuals, and create opportunities for allyship.”

Since joining the Mavs a year ago, Bullock, 31, has teamed-up with groups that include Abounding Prosperity, Dallas Southern Pride, House of Rebirth, The Black-Tie Dinner, the Resource Center, as well as the Muhlaysia Booker Foundation. That organization was founded in memory of a trans woman murdered in Dallas.

On this year’s International Day of Trans Visibility, March 31, Bullock joined the founder of the Muhlashia Booker Foundation, Stephanie Houston, and Leslie McMurray, Transgender Education & Advocacy Associate for a session titled, Voices Unheard, Uplifting Trans Perspectives. 

He shared memories of his sister Mia and how her murder motivated him to use his platform as an NBA player to fight for equal rights and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community.

Bullock has also started his own charitable organization, RemarkaBULL, which provides housing and support to members of the LGBTQ+ community in need. Through RemarkaBULL, Bullock wrote an open letter to the NCAA protesting Idaho’s anti-trans student-athlete House Bill 500, which was signed into law by Gov. Brad Little in March of 2020. The law is on hold pending a review by a federal court.

The winner of the Social Justice Award will be announced during the Western Conference Finals, now underway. The winner receives $100,000 donated to the charity of their choice, and the other finalists receive $25,000 donations for their organizations. Bullock’s charity of choice is Kinston Teens, which empowers young people to engage in activism and community development.

In Wednesday night’s Western Conference Final game 1, Bullock scored 12 points, shooting 3/10 3-pt and 3 rebounds in the Mavericks’ 87-112 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Game 2 is set to tip off Friday at 9 p.m. ET, Golden State leads 1-0.

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Television

New trailer gives first glimpse into new ‘Queer as Folk’

The highly-anticipated return looks poised to make some welcome improvements as it reinvents the beloved series for a new era

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Courtesy of PEACOCK

HOLLYWOOD – Depending on who you ask, the soon-to-be-dropped reimagining of “Queer as Folk” could well be the biggest LGBTQ television event – or the biggest mistake – of the year.

The groundbreaking original British version of the series, created and written by Russell T. Davies in 1999 (decades before his recent triumph with “It’s A Sin” introduced him to a new generation of queer viewers), has already had an American adaptation in 2000, and each of these installments has its own legion of fans – many of whom have expressed their qualms (to put it mildly) over the entire idea of a new reboot.

That, however, hasn’t stopped Davies from joining forces with writer/director/creator Stephen Dunn (“Closet Monster”) to executive produce one for Peacock. 

Shade from old-school fans aside, the highly-anticipated return of the franchise looks poised to make some welcome improvements as it reinvents the beloved series for a new era. This time, the story promises to deliver a much more diverse assortment of characters than the group of predominantly white gay men featured by its predecessors, with a story centered on a group of LGBTQ friends in New Orleans as their lives are transformed in the aftermath of a recent tragedy.

The new iteration also scores points by employing queer actors to portray all its queer roles – resulting in an impressive lineup of names on its cast list including Ryan O’Connell (“Special”), Johnny Sibilly (“Pose”), Devin Way (“Grey’s Anatomy’), Jesse James Keitel (“Alex Strangelove”), Fin Argus, Candace Grave, Benito Skinner, and Juliette Lewis, and even Kim Cattrall as a “martini-soaked, high society Southern debutante with trailer park roots.” 

Of his reason for getting on board a new adaptation of his show, Davies says, “I’m very proud of what we achieved in 1999, but in queer years, that was a millennium ago! As a community, we’ve radicalized, explored, opened up, and found new worlds – with new enemies and new allies – and there was so much to be said.

Stephen pitched a brand new version of ‘Queer as Folk’ with so much imagination, insight, and crucially, joy, that I simply couldn’t resist. I thought it was about time the title belonged to a whole new generation. The 2022 show is more diverse, more wild, more free, more angry – everything a queer show should be.”

As for Dunn, he explains, “I wanted to create a new groundbreaking version of this show for this moment. Our new ‘Queer as Folk’ is set in New Orleans — one of the most unique queer communities in North America – and I am immensely proud that the new series is comprised of an electric ensemble of fresh characters that mirror the modern global audience.

If there’s one person who is able to see ‘Queer as Folk’ and feel less alone, or who now feels more supported and seen, our job is done. In the true spirit of the original, our show doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of our community, but above all else, the series is about people who live vibrant, vital, unapologetically queer lives.” 

Jacklyn Moore, who co-wrote the new series with Dunn and Executive Produced alongside him and Davies, adds, “I believe deeply in the power of storytelling to make people feel seen, but all too often I feel as though queer and trans representation in art is limited to extremes. We are either shown as saintly heroes bravely surviving a bigoted society or two-dimensional queer-coded villains that feel airdropped in from some previous era. With ‘Queer as Folk,’ we aimed to depict queer characters who live in the messy middle. People who are complicated. Who are funny and caring and flawed and sometimes selfish, but still worthy of love. Still worthy of narrative. As a trans woman, I’m excited to take steps to move past telling stories that seem to just be arguing for our basic humanity. My hope is that Queer as Folk is one such step.”

We’re sure we speak for the rest of the eagerly-waiting fans when we say that we all hope that, too. We can all find out together when Peacock begins streaming the new “Queer as Folk” on June 9.

Queer as Folk | Official Trailer | Peacock Original

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Events

The universe comes out to jazz and violins and you’re invited

LA prides itself as home of the stars. Don’t limit yourself to the mere mortal stars of Hollywood, when the universe is opening its doors

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Past Sunday Afternoon Concerts in the Dome (2018) Photo credit: Irina Logra

LOS ANGELES COUNTY – Starlight, starbright: Bathing yourself in the magnificent skies has returned to Los Angeles as the historic Mount Wilson Observatory announces… shall we say it… a heavenly lineup for its 2022 program.

The program offers something for everybody: From the universe-fascinated who want to observe and soak up astronomical knowledge to the bright light and musically discerning who are there just for the mind-blowing beauty alone. 

Since its founding in 1904 by astronomer and visionary George Ellery Hale, Mount Wilson Observatory has played host to some of the most important discoveries in modern astronomy. Located on Mount Wilson, a 5710-foot (1740-meter) peak in the San Gabriel Mountains of the Angeles National Forest, Mount Wilson Observatory (MWO) features the Snow Solar Telescope (largest in the world from 1905-1908 and the mountain’s first installation), a 60-inch telescope (the world’s largest operational telescope from 1908-1917), and the 100-inch Hooker telescope (which featured the world’s largest aperture from 1917-1949). Mount Wilson Institute has independently operated and maintained the Mount Wilson Observatory since 1989 under a long-term agreement with the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

The observatory offers a series of tours throughout the season for the scientific tourist in you. For the mechanically inclined, you can take an engineering tour of the huge telescopes and understand how they have enabled historic discoveries. For the stargazers, there are public and private tours to actually use the telescopes and peep in on our nearest planetary and constellation neighbors. For the gazers who want to keep things even closer to home, take a look right into our own Sun with the Lunt Telescope.

There is no better way to observe the universe than to do it wrapped in gorgeous music. The observatory steps up and takes advantage of the dome’s sensational acoustics by presenting Sunday Afternoon Concerts in the Dome. Top jazz, violinist, brass talents and more will perform in events at 3:00pm and 5:00pm May 22- October 21. The season aesthetics are capped off with [email protected] Observatory in the later summer months which explores sound art in the dome, plein-air painting and sculpting.

It would be a shame to visit the observatory for its visual and auditory sensual offerings alone, however. For those who want to deepen their mind, the season also offers an incredible roster for the astronomy intellect. Lectures from the top experts include discoveries of the deep space mission, women scientists at the observatory, the work of George Ellery Hale, and more.

The gates to Mount Wilson’s acreage opens at 10:00am every day and close at 5:30. Visitors can hike the grounds, gaze at the telescope domes that dot the landscape, and browse through the Historic Museum in the Lecture Hall.  Members from the Los Angeles Astronomical Society will gather around the grounds during each of the events during the season and set up specialty telescopes for a view of various night sky objects while attendees await their turn to look through the grand telescopes in the domes.

Los Angeles prides itself as home of the stars. Don’t limit yourself to the mere mortal stars of Hollywood, when the universe is opening its doors to experience stellar wonders that will really blow your heart and your mind. We hope to see you at the observatory to experience magnificence together.

For more information:  

Concerts: https://www.mtwilson.edu/concerts 

Engineering Tours: www.mtwilson.edu/engineering-tour

Public Ticket Nights:  mtwilson.edu/public-ticket-nights

Private Telescope Reservations: mtwilson.edu/observe

Solar Viewing: mtwilson.edu/solar-observing

Tours: mtwilson.edu/weekend-docent-tours

Mt. Wilson Observatory: https://www.mtwilson.edu 

MWO Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WilsonObs 

MWO Twitter:  https://twitter.com/mtwilsonobs MWO Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mtwilsonobservatory

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