T0: District Attorney Morgenthau
FROM: Jon Nalley
RE: Affidavit on Grand Central Disobedience Action
DATE: February 12, 1991
I was arrested, with 262 of my comrades from ACT UP at the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street, during the early evening of January 23. Like the others arrested, I was crying out for action from a government and society whose inaction to the AIDS crisis has been nothing short of criminal. To bring to bear the tragedy of ,AIDS upon an unresponsive government and public, we had to disrupt the lives of others in an act that would symbolize the permanently disrupted lives of tens upon tens of thousands.
At this writing I am 32 years old, and it is not quite nine years ago that I graduated from my undergraduate program at Michigan State University (MSU) in June, 1982. Yet, at last count, I have lost 12 friends from college to AIDS. These are not numbers, but people I loved and cared about. (I'll spare you the body count of neighbors, coworkers, and political colleagues in New York that I have lost to AIDS,) Let me share a little about my college buddies with you. Maybe then you will realize what January 23, and indeed all ACT UP actions are all about.
Rick David Rapaport was my first friend to die of AIDS-related complications-on May 4, 1985 (the 15th anniversary of Kent State. Damn, he cared so much about people! A talented journalist and creative administrator, he marched for peace, abortion rights--you name it, and not for ideological posturing, but because of true humanity. Like me, Rick was of mixed WASP and Jewish ancestry. Furthermore. he was the big brother I never had and always wanted. That this sensitive caring person could be taken from this world in his early 30s--a person who taught me and many others about what real sharing is; what real giving is--is nothing short of an outrage. 'What is even more outrageous is that, because the United States government didn't take immediate steps to educate the public about AIDS transmission as did many governments in Western Europe), Rick died with his family and only exceptional gay friends keeping vigil. Most of his gay' brothers shared the dangerous ignorance and fear existing in the larger society.
Jim Dawson moved to Chicago upon graduation where he tried to pursue writing out of his father's shadow. Jim, although published, and with a great flair for his craft, switched to singing. A WASP who attended inner-city schools, Jim had a great love for African-American gospel music and , before he died, his music group-- into "integrated American folk"-- had received a recording contract. I can't begin to describe the amazing talent lost to the world when Jim died in the summer of 1985
Roy Reinholtz was 24 years old when he died during Christmas time in 1985. Like me he was from a small town in Michigan attempting to pull it together and survive in New York City. While students at MSU, we both worked after classes in an East Lansing import store. The last time I spoke to him was during the summer of 1984 in Central Park.
Steve Franklin moved to Texas from Michigan during those economically rough "Roger & Me" years. He had organized cultural activities in East Lansing for lesbian/gay pride events--taking them from college kivas into a Lansing city-run cultural center. He was a waiter in a gay disco and many of us will fondly remember his wry and exuberant spirit, humor, and energy'.
John Mathiseson was one of the first gay men that I met upon "coming out" in 1 978. One who was active j n the anti-war and other movements. he was a real bridge to me--a real child of the 1970s. Through John, I felt a connection with the activism of the late 60s and early 70s. He was sensitive. caring, and he taught me how to give back rubs. I ran into his panel almost instantly after entering the AIDS memorial quilt in Washington, DC. during October 1987. The latter was part of a National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights outpouring of 700,000, people that was either ignored or trivialized by the murderously homophobic media, government, and larger society.
Ben Lowery came to my Brooklyn apartment in March 1987. Desperate to find some kind of available therapy that the FDA had mired in red tape, he was on his way to Europe. The English wouldn't even let him off the plane. In his mid-30s. Ben looked more like an old man in his 80s and it broke my heart. I hadn't seen Ben since he'd graduated in 1981 and moved to Arizona. He returned home to the rural Michigan town in which he was raised and died in May 1987, the day after the GMHC AIDS Walk that--with 11,000 participants --received scant attention from the culpable New York Times.
Jim O'Connel grew up in Queens but settled in Lansing. Like most of us, he suffered many disappointments, but for]Jim it seemed as if there was no getting past them. A most vivacious, giving, caring, passionate person--yet, at the same time, very introspective--we were devoted to this defiantly proud gay man who wore buttons promoting battered women's rights to self-defense. He worked for the university, but was planning to follow friends to San Francisco when he died in July 1987. I'll remember Jim's dancing, gardening, and beautiful stained-glass work..-A Vietnam era veteran. it was Jim who turned me on to Nina Simone, and he shared my passion for Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughn.
Scott Evan Flack died in August 1987 at 27. A fraternity brother (in Sigma Alpha Mu or "Sammies"), Scott was a friend and political confidante. He came to MSU from Northbrook, Illinois and went to law school at Rutgers. He was just beginning his legal career in Washington. DC. and on his way to putting his strong sensitivity to the needs of society's less fortunate to work when he was taken from us. Intensely political, Scott came to his views with a great deal of deliberation. I'll think of Scott whenever I hear I hear the music of Jane Olivor, Bob Marley, and Michael Franks (to which he introduced me).
Michael Bennet was an old stalwart in the East Lansing gay political community when I first became involved. His intensity and intolerance of my less liberationist more moderate politics (at the time) put me off, but I respected his action and contributions to our community. Very involved in environmentalist politics, he was organizing a Michigan Green Party when he died in October 1987.
Wade Keas died during the week before Christmas in 1988. Born in 1957, Wade was from a small town in Western Michigan. We met at meetings of MSU's Lesbian/Gay Council, became good friends, and shared a house together during the summer of 1979. A hopeless romantic, Wade wrote beautiful and sensitive love poems--almost always unrequited. I treasure every, moment that I ever spent with him--whether dancing in discos, over afternoon vodka tonics while listening to Grace Jones, discussing literature and politics, or at demonstrations. Like me and many other lesbian and gay activists in East Lansing, Wade was devastated by the 1978 murder of openly-gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and the lenient verdict given his murderer. That homophobic incident, hundreds of miles from East Lansing, sent us into shock and outrage that has continued to color our political perspectives about how we as queers stand in relation to our larger society. Wade spent his last few years in Texas and Alabama.
Michael McDonald (Shuty) died peacefully of PCP in his sleep at home with his lover in 1988. Michael, who loved the outdoors and fishing, was a talented and sensitive artist who left school in 1980 and resettled, like many thousands of Michiganders, in Texas. Ending up in Houston he worked in a contact lense firm. Upon Michael's diagnosis, his company's insurance was canceled--taking away his ability to see a specialist and throwing him at the mercy of the barbaric healthcare available to "indigent" people in the US.
Kraig Debus and I were the same age but, unlike me, he graduated on time in 1981 We met in a writing workshop and later worked at the same bar in Detroit during a summer break . An advertising executive, he was a kind, friendly person who died (during the summer, of l990---cared for by friends in Chicago, particularly by a close friend attended MSU.
There is not a day that goes by, Mr. Morgenthau, that I don't think about one of my lost friends. Had the Reagan administration supported education and research in l 982-83, some of my friends need not have died and I might not have become HIV positive Alas, those of us getting AIDS have been treated by society as expendable. lust look to the government response to Legionnaire's' disease toxic shock syndrome and the Grenada and Panama a invasions for contrast
With every new infection. rash, or blemish. I wonder if "this is it." I and my friends live in fear and anger while life goes on--in a most surreal way--in the society. around us. To this I will not remain silent. It is now 1991 and double the number of Americans have died from AIDS than were killed during the entire Vietnam war. How obscene that our govern mere has been able to find funds necessary to house, feed, and provide health care for a half million people in the middle of the Arabian desert while it has denied those same necessities to people at home--particularly those living with AIDS.
If it is necessary to drag America, kicking and screaming, to a humane, quality, and accessible health care system for all Americans then so you had told me four years ago that I would end up being arrested five times in AIDS activist actions, 1 would have said you were joking. Well, I will continue to take appropriate action until I feel our society is doing everything it can to fight AIDS, and indeed until all Americans have access to quality health care. 1n doing so, 1 am upholding the higher principles of this nation and its constitution.
Jon Nalley is the figure described in Sarah Schulman's Rat Bohemia (Dutton, 1995, p.163) as saying the Kaddish at the political funeral. The event happened much as Schulman describes it, except that it was Jon Greenberg's funeral, not David Feinberg's (who the character "David" is based on).