Our guests on this episode of Queering Left are long-time activists Mary Patten and Jeff Edwards; both of whom have many years of experience in movements for racial, social, and economic justice. Our focus is on their work in ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power).
Mary Patten is a visual artist and a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently involved with the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials project. Mary’s activism goes back decades and includes work in solidarity with South Africa, Puerto Rico, Black liberation and other anti-imperialist struggles. As a result of an anti-apartheid direct action at Kennedy International Airport in 1981, Mary served one year in Rikers Island Jail in New York.
Jeff Edwards is the staff organizer at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) United Faculty. Jeff began his activist work in Minneapolis in the 1980s where he too was involved with anti-imperialist struggles such as ending US intervention in Central America. He began working on AIDS activism while still in Minneapolis and moved to Chicago in 1986.
ACT UP Chicago, like many chapters around the country, was formed in 1987. It emerged in Chicago from other AIDS activist work like Chicago for AIDS Rights and DAGMAR. Mary Patten was one of the founders of ACT UP Chicago and that is where she and Jeff met.
Jeff and Mary will discuss how they came to AIDS activism and some of the ways that AIDS activism was informed by their earlier solidarity work.