In conclusion, I would first like to start off by expressing my appreciation to the NAMES Project Foundation and to Rody Williams. None of my research on the impact of activism on AIDS and LGBT rights would have ever been possible without access to the NAMES Gallery and without the help of Rody Williams. I am extremely grateful to the NAMES Project Foundation for allowing me to tell the story of two courageous individuals.
David Feinberg is an author like no other. Turning his battle with AIDS into a platform for humor, rawness, and hope. Feinberg knew that AIDS was an issue that had the ability to affect generations. He knew that by speaking out, people would pay attention. It wasn’t about whether people would agree with his message that concerned him, it was about getting people to look up from their day to day lives and see a bigger struggle. Feinberg wanted individuals to know that AIDS was deadly, and it sometimes was tied to a lonely life. However, in the midst of personal struggle, Feinberg reminded us to laugh and enjoy life. For he did just that through his novels. Without the work of David Feinberg, AIDS research may never have become a priority.
Rob Eichberg left behind a movement that is still relevant today. As October 11th is National Coming Out Day, it is also a day where we see how much progress we have made as a society. Eichberg had the vision that one day, being gay wouldn’t be an issue. Each year, we move closer to Eichberg’s vision. However, we have a ways to go. Eichberg lived in a time where opposition was towards gay individuals was loud, yet he wasn’t afraid to make his voice heard amongst an ocean of hate. Without the work of Dr. Rob Eicbberg, gay individuals might never have obtained a platform, and LGBT empowerment might never have arisen.
The NAMES Gallery is a living and breathing source of history. It brings the stories of AIDS victims to life. It recognizes the value of each individual that many in the past failed to. The NAMES Foundation has a platform for awareness and acceptance. The gallery serves as a chance for each of us to reflect on the mistakes of the past. It serves as a teacher, with the hopes that we can learn from our mistakes, improve the lives of individuals with AIDS today, and ensure a bright future for generations to come. The NAMES Foundation embodies art, acceptance, history, and thousands of voices that ring loud today.
In short, without the work of Feinberg and Eichberg, we may never have arrived at where we are today. It is courageous individuals who stood up and said enough that have moved us forward. Activism is a tool that is relevant today. From the March for Our Lives Movement to the Women’s March, even to the Tea Party Movement; activism is a tool that demands to be heard. Without the role of activism in American history, from the Civil Rights Movement to the Women’s Suffrage Movement, it begs the question of where we would be as a nation if BOLD activist had never stood up and demanded their message be heard.
Activists are not extraordinary in the sense of riches, wealth, or privilege. Activists are extraordinary in the sense that they are YOU. Activists are the common individual who stands up for what they believe in. Activists are the weaker man in society who is tired of feeling unheard. Activist are the ones who write history. Activism is history, and you yourself have the ability to write history. Activism is a tool that is relevant and a force to be reckoned with. Let us not forget the lives lost due to AIDS, but use our voices to spread their messages, for we have the power to stand up and be heard.
Maybe speaking up and standing up was our purpose all along.
Thank you, David Feinberg and Dr. Rob Eichberg for your tireless and selfless work. Without your work, we would not be where we are today. Today, we remember.