Thursday, January 28, 2016
SILENCE = DEATH by ACT UP
I'd seen this poster multiple times before without context, often not giving it a second thought. It was three years ago that it was given meaning in my first LGBT class at UCLA with my introduction to the ACT UP organization. When the AIDS crisis first broke out, President Ronald Reagan refused to comment on the issue at hand. His silence led to the dissemination of misinformation, ignorance, and the deaths of thousands. Further, his lack of speech slowed down national efforts to begin testing and finding a cure for the new disease. This led to the slogan "SILENCE = DEATH". Doing some research, it seems the main question/cry for help behind this slogan was "Why aren't you doing something?", leading to the notion that inaction causes deaths.
The ACT UP poster draws some inspiration from World War II, where the Nazi regime required marginalized groups to wear triangles of different colors to identify people. Use of a pink triangle in the poster allows gay people to take back a symbol that was regularly used against them during a dark time in history and use it as a source of empowerment and social justice. This simple, yet powerful poster sends a clear message with a horrifying history. In addition, it empowers gay people to take action within their communities and to use their voices as a tool for justice.