Civil rights

Urvashi Vaid, legendary HIV and civil rights activist, dies at 63

This article first appeared in the lawyer. You can read the original story here.

Longtime activist Urvashi Vaid, leader of many LGBTQ+ organizations and other social justice organizations, has died aged 63.

Vaid died Saturday at her New York home, according to the National LGBTQ Task Force. Vaid was executive director of the group, then known as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, from 1989 to 1992. Before that, she was its media director.

In 1990, as executive director, she made a statement during President George HW Bush’s speech on AIDS with a sign: “Talk Is Cheap, AIDS Funding Is Not.” His criticism made waves, disrupting the press conference and highlighting the failures of the Bush administration.

Her time on the task force “saw her bring all aspects of queer life and struggle into the public eye,” the group’s press release notes. She co-founded her Creating Change conference, now in its 33rd year.

“We are devastated by the loss of one of the most influential progressive activists of our time,” Kierra Johnson, current executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in the press release. “Urvashi Vaid was a leader, a warrior and a force to be reckoned with. She was also a beloved colleague, friend, partner and someone we all admired – a brilliant, outspoken and deeply committed activist who wanted full justice and equality for all.

“His leadership, vision and writings have helped shape not only the values ​​and work of the task force, but our entire queer movement and the broader progressive movement,” Johnson added. “We will strive every day to live up to her ideals and show the courage she showed every day as an activist and a person. We will miss her deeply. I miss her already.

Other major LGBTQ+ groups also mourn her. “Urvashi Vaid was a visionary whose leadership and analysis inspired a generation of LGBT activists, including myself,” said Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal. “Urvashi’s intersectional approach to liberation made the necessary connections between issues of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, gender, class and other systems that interact to create a system of oppression that harms us all. An eloquent thinker, organizational leader, mentor, writer and speaker, Urvashi was a pioneer whose contributions to our movement transformed our world. This is a huge loss for our community. »

“The world has lost a giant in the movement for LGBTQ freedom, justice and equality. After a valiant battle with cancer, Urvashi Vaid passed away today,” said Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

“I first met Urv in the early 1980s when we were both young lawyers and lesbian activists in Washington, DC. As we became friends and eventually colleagues, I admired her leadership and all that she has accomplished, both inside and outside of our movement for queer people, for women, for people of color and against poverty. She has continued her work to advance fairness and justice to the very end.

“I will always be grateful to Urv for being one of the people who encouraged me, in 1992, to accept the position of director of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. And when the national LGBTQ task force faced serious financial difficulties in 2001, she played a key role in recruiting me to step in and help change things, supporting me every step of the way.

“Over the years, we spent many hours laughing and intriguing about ways to advance the causes we held so dear. Urvashi was a visionary. But she was so much more: brilliant, hilarious, charismatic, loving , determined and above all courageous. She has made life better for all of us. Our community and our nation owe her a huge debt of gratitude. Our hearts go out to Urvashi’s wife, Kate Clinton, and all who love her If there is a paradise, Urv is already organizing the angels.

Vaid, a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law and Vassar College, began her career as an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, where she pioneered the group’s work on HIV and AIDS. in jails.

Her time on the task force “saw her bring all aspects of queer life and struggle into the public eye,” the group’s press release notes. She co-founded her Creating Change conference, now in its 33rd year.

Vaid served as executive director of the Arcus Foundation, a global funder of LGBTQ social justice and great ape conservation, from 2005 to 2010. She was deputy director of the Ford Foundation’s Governance and Civil Society Unit. from 2001 to 2005, and served on the board of the Gill Foundation from 2004 to 2014. In 2012, she launched LPAC, the first lesbian super PAC, and it has since invested millions of dollars in contestants who s are committed to social justice through legislation.

She was most recently President of the Vaid Group, a social innovation company that works with global and national organizations to advance equity, justice and inclusion. She was co-founder of the Donors of Color Network, the first interracial network connecting people of color to leverage their gifts for racial equity, and the National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network, National LGBT/HIV Criminal Justice Working Group , of the Federation for Equality, the national roundtable of religious leaders. She played a leadership role in the development of the currently ongoing national survey of the LGBTQ women’s community.

She had been a senior scholar and director of the Engaging Tradition Project at Columbia Law School‘s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, exploring how tradition-based resistance inhibits projects aimed at advancing gender, sexual, and racial equity. Previously, she was a senior research fellow at the Social Justice Sexuality Project at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

She was also an award-winning author and researcher. His published work includes books, reports, articles and columns; for several years she was a columnist for The Lawyer. She is the author of the books Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class, and the Assumptions of LGBT Politics (2012), and Virtual Equality: Mainstreaming Lesbian and Gay Liberation (1996). She co-edited an anthology with John D’Emilio and William Turner, titled Creating Change: Public Policy, Sexuality and Civil Rights (2000).

In virtual equality, “She criticized the idea of ​​’mainstreaming’ what was and is, in fact, a civil rights movement,” the task force’s press release notes. “Rather than tolerance, she argued, the goal of the movement should be fundamental and achievable change. This was not an immediately popular notion, as media representation of queer people was just beginning to take shape, even if it was, for her, of great moral importance. Virtual equality won the Stonewall Book Award in 1996.

Vaid was the aunt of activist and performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon, who survives him, along with his longtime partner, political comedian Kate Clinton.

Vaid and Kate Clinton at the 2007 GLAAD Awards/Getty Images

Vaid with Kushner Clark RosenVaid with (left to right) Jerry Clark, Rachel Rosen and Tony Kushner. Courtesy of the National LGBTQ Task Force

Sharon Kowalski and Urvashi Vaid

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum with Vaid. Courtesy of the National LGBTQ Task Force

Urvashi Vaid at creating changeVaid speaking at Creating Change, a conference she helped found. Courtesy of the National LGBTQ Task Force

Lorri Jean Rea Carey Urvashi Vaid Matt ForemanFour executive directors of the task force (from left to right): Lorri L. Jean, Rea Carey, Vaid and Matt Foreman. Courtesy of the National LGBTQ Task Force