Photographer and activist shares memories and photos of ACT UP Seattle

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Dana Schuerholz

Dana Schuerholz uses her photos from the early years of the AIDS crisis to show us “activism through images.” In 1988, Dana started photographing the group ACT UP in NYC, about a year before it started here in Seattle. One of her earliest memories was a “bedsheet action” where activists held a “die in” on Fifth Avenue, in the heart of New York City. Dana became a part of ACT UP Seattle and went with the group to San Francisco in 1990 for an International AIDS Conference. The power and passion of the US and International ACT UP groups led to a take over of the conference, and they held nighttime workshops and committees where they shared information and organizing tips. In January 1991, ACT UP Seattle held an action at Pike Place Market and Dana documented Rev. Jeffries, an African-American preacher who highlighted the racial and economic injustices and inequities faced by minority communities and women. Later that year, the local ACT UP Youth Caucus, went to a Bush For President Rally in Colville, WA, and helped educate Bush supporters on AIDS, Safe Sex, and Homophobia. By 1993, the largest AIDS march (at that time) was the March on Washington. At the Holocaust Museum in D.C, ACT UP chapters from the US and their allies advocated for basic rights, and showed how the SILENCE=DEATH wording and pink triangle logo had their origins in the Holocaust. Dana notes that in her photos, those who were living and dying of AIDS made the effort to join in the ACT UP actions, knowing that it might be their last event, but never giving up. And while some are gone now, we must continue to work together to fight for justice and equality.

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