The City of West Hollywood is co-sponsoring the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) LA’s 35th anniversary and tribute event, which will take place on Saturday, December 2, 2023, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., at Plummer Park’s Great Hall/Long Hall, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. No RSVP required; this event is free and open to the public.
ACT UP LA is celebrating the 35th anniversary of its direct-action activism and this event will also pay tribute to the memories of ACT UP LA activists Mary Lucey and Nancy Jean MacNeil, who died in early 2023. Additionally, the event will raise awareness of ACT UP LA’s history surrounding World AIDS Day and will highlight ACT UP LA’s decade of brave and deeply influential HIV/AIDS activism, which originated in West Hollywood.
ACT UP is a diverse, nonpartisan group of individuals, united in anger, and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis. ACT UP was founded in 1987 in response to the Reagan administration’s blatant refusal to acknowledge the growing AIDS crisis. In December 1987, ACT UP Los Angeles became one of the first chapters established in the world. Regularly meeting at Plummer Park in West Hollywood, ACT UP LA stood out from other chapters with its focus on compassionate release for prisoners with AIDS, fight for clean needle exchange, and taking a national leadership role in the ACT UP Network Coalition for Universal Healthcare.
The 35th anniversary and tribute event will honor two longtime members of ACT UP LA, Mary Lucey and Nancy Jean MacNeil, who both passed away in February 2023. The two were together for more than 30 years and they eventually married when it became legal to do so. Lucey and MacNeil, along with fellow AIDS activists Jordan Peimer, Helene Schpak, and Judy Ornelas Sisneros, launched the ACT UP LA Oral History Project on World AIDS Day 2021 with the goal of documenting HIV activism in the Los Angeles area from 1987 to 1997, with a notable focus on the work of ACT UP LA.
Mary Lucey and Nancy Jean MacNeil both joined ACT UP LA after they attended the first Women’s Caucus meeting in June 1990. Lucey was among the first HIV-positive women in Los Angeles to be out about her status. Fueled by a sense of outrage at AIDSphobia, she fought for several years in ACT UP to expand the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s definition of AIDS to include women’s opportunistic infections and for health care for incarcerated women with AIDS. MacNeil became the founding Executive Director of Women Alive, an organization by and for HIV-positive women with a membership of more than 500 people. She established a treatment-focused newsletter and the first national women’s AIDS hotline.
The ACT UP LA Oral History Project is committed to giving a voice to the activists who constructed regional and national history during the AIDS pandemic. Focused on the lifespan of ACT UP LA from 1987-1997, the intent of this project is to capture the experiences of those individuals whose participation in ACT UP LA led to successes in the community that saved lives, changed the way society thought about people with AIDS, and challenged and changed the institutional biases that allowed the AIDS crisis to explode to such a devastating level.