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The Heroes of ACT UP Are Dying

The Heroes of ACT UP Are Dying

Mary Lucey and Nancy MacNeil
Mary Lucey (left) & Nancy MacNeil of the ACT UP Oral History Project died within hours of each other (photo by Judy Ornelas Sisneros)

Mary Lucey (left) & Nancy MacNeil of the ACT UP Oral History Project died within hours of each other (photo by Judy Ornelas Sisneros)

ACT UP’s Oral History Project celebrates a funding windfall while also mourning the sudden death of two of its most beloved longtime members.

Earlier this year, the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power Los Angeles (ACT UP/LA) announced it received the first major funding for its Oral History Project, provided by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. ACT UP/LA credited much of this big step forward to lesbian L.A. County supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who lobbied for the funding.

The Oral History Project is “mainly motivated by the continuing deaths of ACT UP/LA members whose histories have not been preserved,” stated a press release. The project — announced on World AIDS Day 2021, by ACT UP/LA members Mary Lucey, Nancy MacNeil, Jordan Peimer, Helene Schpak, and Judy Ornelas Sisneros — aims to capture the stories of AIDS street activism from 1987 to 1997, “from the voices of those people who lived through those times.”

“Not only were voices silenced by AIDS, but we are now continually at risk of losing the stories of the people who championed their fight — some with HIV/AIDS, some without — but all people who put their lives and freedom on the line to address this loss,” said project member MacNeil.

Luis Pardo, one of the activists interviewed for the project, said, “Looking back on the actions we carried out made me remember that AIDS activism was a major part of my life and left me transformed. After leaving ACT UP/LA around 1993, my life changed profoundly. I went back to school in Berkeley... and I joined advisory committees and research task forces focused on finding cures and vaccines for HIV, but of course never felt the same level of excitement as with ACT UP.”

Sadly, shortly following this announcement, tragedy struck. On February 11, MacNeil and her longtime partner and fellow member on the project, Mary Lucey, suddenly passed, sending shockwaves through the community.

In an official statement from ACT UP/LA, their colleagues expressed “shock and deep sorrow at the deaths of co-producers Mary Lucey and Nancy Jean MacNeil…. We launched this project together in 2021. It was an honor to work alongside these two incredible warriors.”

No further details of Lucey and MacNeil’s deaths had been released as of press time.

For more information about the Oral History Project, visit or contact

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