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  WINDY CITY TIMES

LGBT giant Larry Kramer dies at 84
2020-05-27

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The groundbreaking writer and outspoken LGBT- and AIDS-rights activist Larry Kramer died May 27 in New York at age 84.

His husband, David Webster, said Kramer died of pneumonia.

Kramer co-founded the Gay Men's Health Crisis ( now known as GMHC ), a provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy. Kramer also co-founded the direct action group ACT UP, which demanded an end to the tepid response to HIV treatment/research as the AIDS crisis worsened in the 1980s.

He was also a novelist and playwright, with one of his plays being the 1985 work The Normal Heart, which looks at the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City in the early '80s. It was later a Tony-winning 2011 Broadway production; and reworked as as award-winning 2014 TV drama film directed by Ryan Murphy and written by Kramer.

Windy City Times owner Tracy Baim interviewed Kramer in 2011 ( at www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/AIDS-The-angry-Heart-of-Larry-Kramer/31922.html ). At one point, he told her, "When you consider how many of us there are, you think there would be more [activists]. To my dying day I would like to find the answer to that question. I never have been able to. And you'd think that in the mid-1990s—when that was the worst of AIDS, when there wasn't anything and everybody was really dying—there couldn't have been more than a few thousand across the country with all the ACT UP chapters and Project Inform. ... Considering how many of us there are, 10-20 million, it's just amazing that people wouldn't fight to save their own lives."

However, Kramer also acknowledged the impact ACT UP had: "I think it's one of the greatest grassroots organizations that ever was. Every single treatment is out there because of ACT UP. It didn't come from the NIH [ National Institutes of Health ] or government, it didn't come from anybody but a lot if dying men who were scared shitless."

The tributes to Kramer flowed immediately. The organization ACT UP NY tweeted, "Rest in power to our fighter Larry Kramer. Your rage helped inspire a movement. We will keep honoring your name and spirit with action. In the spirit of ACT UP, join us and chant this ( three times ): #ACTUPFightbackENDAIDS #ACTUPFightbackENDAIDS #ACTUPFightbackENDAIDS."

GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, in a statement Windy City Times obtained, said, "Larry Kramer's contributions to the LGBTQ movement and the fight against HIV/AIDS are incalculable. GLAAD and so many LGBTQ people and allies recognize Larry as an undeniable accelerant who not only fearlessly demanded change, but made it come to pass. We send all of our love to Larry's loved ones during this time, and though we are saddened by his passing, we are forever grateful for his leadership and heroism."

PFLAG National Executive Director Brian K. Bond said in a separate statement, "In his lifetime, Larry Kramer urged us forward, made us pay attention, and made us take action. His work turned the tide on the AIDS epidemic and forced the uncomfortable recognition that pandemic does not discriminate, people do. He helped raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, and demonstrated in no uncertain terms that the lives of LGBTQ+ people matter. As someone living with HIV, I am personally grateful for his voice.

"At a time when we again face a public health crisis due to a pandemic, PFLAG turns to Larry's example of courage. We call on our leaders to take necessary steps that will save lives and protect all people. While Larry has passed on, his voice, his words and his urgency to act live on."

"At the beginning of the HIV and AIDS crisis—when thousands of LGBTQ people and people of color were dying—Larry Kramer spoke up when our government was silent," said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. "Larry's unending courage and tireless efforts helped awaken a nation to the urgent crisis of HIV and AIDS and brought us closer to a cure than ever before. Through his life and work, Larry Kramer inspired generations of advocates, many of whom are alive today because he dared to speak out and act up. We mourn the loss of this advocate, and rededicate ourselves to our collective responsibility of ending the HIV and AIDS epidemic—which unfortunately continues to largely impact people of color today—once and for all."

Lambda Legal CEO Kevin Jennings said, "Lambda Legal —its staff and community of advocates for LGBT rights and everyone living with HIV— deeply mourn the passing of Larry Kramer, who fought tirelessly throughout his life to focus resources on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to eradicate the stigma of living with HIV, changing forever the landscape of activism, the LGBT civil rights movement, and the lives of people living with HIV worldwide.

"Larry Kramer has been an endless source of inspiration to our lawyers and our work to help end the HIV epidemic. We owe Larry Kramer an immeasurable debt of gratitude for teaching us how to stand up and fight back, how to survive a plague and how to channel our anger into direct action for social change."

In another statement, NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata said, "I was a kid when I started in the HIV/AIDS movement in the 1980s. Larry Kramer changed my life. Larry's writings moved me and inspired me to take action. When he said, 'If you're not mad as hell right now, we're in trouble,' he motivated me. He was able to put in writing what I needed to hear in order to stand up and fight. It was okay for me to be part of something that was bigger than I was. And I thank him for that."

On Instagram, Murphy called his Normal Heart collaborator "the single greatest and most important gay activist of all time," adding, "I admired him above all others. He deserved the Medal of Freedom," Deadline reported. Murphy also revealed that he and Kramer had planned to work again—this time, on Broadway.

Also see www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/AIDS-The-angry-Heart-of-Larry-Kramer/31922.html .


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