The “AIDS DIVA: The Legend of Connie Norman” film screening and advocacy panel was held on Thursday, June 30, 2022 at the UCLA Fowler Museum from 6 to 8pm. The community event was planned and organized by the UCLA CHIPTS Community Advisory Board in partnership with UCLA Family AIDS Network, REACH LA, and Northeast Valley Health Corporation. The film was selected because it gave a historical overview of AIDS Advocacy in Los Angeles County through the life story of Connie Norman, a leader of ACT-UP. The film aimed to motivate and encourage those in attendance to be ready to speak up about issues that improve prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS as well as LGBTQ rights.
The hosts were thrilled to host 60 attendees – community members, students, and representatives from AIDS service organizations such as the Black AIDS Institute, JWCH Institute, Bienestar, Watts Health Corporation and more, to be inspired by a powerful documentary that brought LGBT rights and HIV Advocacy to the forefront.
The event was moderated by James Aboagye and Eddie Sanders, CAB Co-chairs of the CHIPTS CAB, a group of community leaders and advocates, who advise CHIPTS scientists on research, dissemination of results and other activities that are relevant to the lives of diverse communities impacted by HIV/AIDS.
The event concluded with a reflective discussion session led by the film’s advocacy panel consisting of Dante Alencastre, award-winning documentary filmmaker and LGBT community activist, Rabbi Robyn Podolsky, Los Angeles Program Manager for At The Well organization, and Tony Newman, Interim Chief Executive Officer and President for the Black AIDS Institute. See panel members’ biographies below.
To learn more about the film, AIDS Diva, visit the website: https://www.aidsdivaconnie.com/
The advocacy panel consisted of Dante Alencastre, Film Maker, Rabbi Robin Podoloky, and Toni Newman, Executive Director and Advocate.
- Dante Alencastre is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and LGBT community activist based in West Hollywood. His filmmaking and work on the boards of Los Angeles LGBT arts organizations, and political and community groups is focused particularly on the overlapping Latinx Transgender and Gender non-conforming sub-tribes within the community. He is currently director of the California LGBT Arts Alliance. Dante found his personal calling documenting the lives of LGBT individuals and communities during a trip to his native Peru, resulting in the 2007 award-winning filmEn El Fuego (In the Fire ) (2007) (LA Outfest Audience Award), and later, El Fuego Dentro (The Fire Inside) ( 2012), documenting the lives and struggles of a group of trans activists in Lima. Dante’s film,Transvisible: Bamby Salcedo’s Story ( 2013), documented the powerful Trans Latina activist embarking on her community-based work. Raising Zoey (2016 ) follows the story of a 13-year-old Latina trans girl and her highly supportive mother, through discrimination towards advocacy. Both premiered at Outfest and toured widely. This film, AIDS DIVA: The Legend of Connie Norman (2021) revives a remarkable figure in AIDS activism and early trans advocacy and her continuing influence on her surviving activist colleagues today.
- Rabbi Robyn Podolsky is the Los Angeles Program Manager for At The Well, a Jewish women’s wellness organization. She was interviewed in the film as a former ACT-UP LA member and someone who had worked alongside Connie. Robin serves on the Board of Governors for the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din, writes at TribeHerald and jewishjournal.com, and serves as writing facilitator and dramaturg for Queerwise, a spoken word and writing group. Her most recent academic article, “Sumud Freedom Camp: Levinas’ Face-to-Face in Praxis” was published in Religions, Vol.10, No. 4. She conducts workshops, rituals and study sessions, for Jewish holidays and other occasions, that combine modalities: text study, personal work and small group sharing, writing (except on Shabbat and Yom Tov), prayer and meditation.
- Tony Newman is the Interim Chief Executive Officer and President for the Black AIDS Institute Black AIDS Institute (BAI). She was the Interim President for LYRIC, and a faculty member at the Transgender Strategy Center and Chair of the Board of Directors for TransCanWork. Toni is a graduate of Wake Forest University and current candidate for her Juris of Doctorate (JD). Toni was the Interim Director of Employment Services at the SF LGBT Center, Executive Director for St. James Infirmary and the Director of Development for Maitri Compassionate Care, and previously served as the Interim Director of Development & Communications at To Help Everyone Health and Wellness Centers and as a Strategic Fundraiser, Volunteer Recruiter, and Legislative Aide for Equality California. Additionally, Toni is a best selling author, noted for her memoir I Rise -The Transformation of Toni Newman released in 2011. Her memoir was based on the poem I Rise by Wake Forest University Reynolds Professor, Dr. Maya Angelou, who Toni interviewed with in 2012. She and her partner are currently working on a feature film, Heart of a Woman, based on her memoir I Rise.