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Author Topic: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019  (Read 1528 times)

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Offline Jim Allen

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Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« on: May 15, 2019, 07:18:31 am »
Hi All,
 
Its with regret and, a deep sadness that I am sharing with you today that our dedicated friend & mentor Andrew Velez has passed away.  Over the past weeks I know Ian has kept in close contact for us with Andy's friends & relatives.

Andy has been a member & administrator here since 2001.  Andy was a committed HIV activist since 1987, working with many HIV/AIDS groups and, LBGT community support groups over the years.  To name a few Andy worked with; ACT-UP, Sands House, POZ.com, and as a liaison to the International AIDS Society
 
I know loosing someone is hard and, my thoughts are with Andy's loved ones & friends during this time.
 
Best, Jim
 
Photo Credit: Bill Bytsura/The AIDS Activist Project
« Last Edit: May 15, 2019, 07:42:22 am by Jim Allen »
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Offline Jim Allen

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2019, 07:26:24 am »
Jay Blotcher shared the below obituary with us last night. I know that later today POZ.com will also be publishing on the website some words.

I wish i could say more at the moment, I will deeply miss Andy who I have come to consider a close friend & mentor over the years.   :'(

Best, Jim.


Andy Vélez obituary
Contact: Jay Blotcher

Quote
Andy Vélez, an internationally prominent AIDS activist, whose three decades of advocacy work resulted in improved drug access and civil rights for people living with HIV, especially in the Latino community, died on May 14, 2019 at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. He was 80.

His sons Ben and Abe Vélez said the cause of death was complications arising from a severe fall in his Greenwich Village building in April.

Until his recent accident and despite several health challenges, Vélez had remained consistently active in the AIDS and social justice communities, taking part in protests for ACT UP and Rise and Resist. Vélez was a seminal member of ACT UP, joining the group in 1987, its first year of activity, and played a prominent role in its most notorious demonstrations over the past 32 years.

Vélez was born on March 9, 1939 in the Bronx to Ramon Vélez and the former Dorothy Solomon. The family, including siblings Eugene and Raymond (“Al”), soon relocated to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, where they lived a few years before returning to the Bronx. Vélez graduated from William Howard Taft High School in 1955 at age 16. He attended City College for a brief time, but interrupted his studies when he left home. Years later, after attending night school, Vélez would formally graduate.

Vélez earned a Master’s degree in psychoanalysis in 1976 and worked with the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies under Dr. Phyllis Meadow in the Village. He maintained his own therapy practice for two decades. Vélez had initially explored psychoanalysis for personal reasons, suspecting that he was homosexual. In 1964, he was entrapped by an undercover policeman in a Park Avenue South bar. Vélez spent the night in the jail facility known as The Tombs, a traumatizing experience that would provide the impetus for his activism. Vélez lost his position at the Housing Authority when his boss learned of his arrest. He received a suspended sentence of six months. But when Vélez pushed back legally with the help of a progressive lawyer, his conviction was later reversed.

While he initially hoped to become an actor, and appeared in several off-Broadway productions in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Vélez found success in other careers. He entered book publishing in 1969. Over the course of 16 years he worked his way up to the position of president of the prominent Frederick Ungar Publishing, managing the company until it was sold in 1985. Notable among his literary projects was a 1984 collaboration with screen star Marlene Dietrich to update her 1962 bestseller Marlene Dietrich’s ABC.

Once he was divorced, Vélez began to make active connections with the LGBTQ community. He served as a leader for the Gay Circles Consciousness Raising Group for almost three years. One evening, after his group ended, Vélez walked past the first meeting of a new organization dedicated to addressing government inaction surrounding HIV/AIDS. He was intrigued.

The group soon had a name: ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. Vélez became involved in several ACT UP committees, including the Media Committee and Actions Committee. He was involved in high-profile demonstrations and civil disobedience arrest scenarios that showcased ACT UP’s signature street theatre activism, such as chaining himself in the office of a pharmaceutical company, or covering himself in fake blood to symbolize the lives lost to AIDS because of government negligence.

However, Vélez found his niche with the group’s Latino Caucus, which focused on the raging but neglected epidemic in the Latino community. Significantly, Vélez and his colleagues traveled to Puerto Rico to help organize a local ACT UP chapter in the commonwealth. He was also a founding member of Queer Nation in New York City in 1990.

He was involved in many AIDS educational and service organizations over the years, serving as an administrator and bilingual educator for AIDSMEDS.com for more than a decade. His writing and activism intersected significantly when he moderated a community forum on AIDSMeds.com, where he directed desperate people to lifesaving medical information. Vélez also wrote about the epidemic for numerous community publications, including POZ, Body Positive, and SIDA Ahora. For ten years he moderated the POZ Forum. He took part in aggressive and effective treatment access work with Treatment Action Group, and worked in a New York City HIV clinical trial unit, alerting affected communities to their vulnerability to tuberculosis.

From the 1990s through the 2010s, Vélez returned to his first love of theater by covering the scene for several LGBT magazines, as well as by conducting interviews with jazz greats for All About Jazz and the New York City Jazz Record. He penned liner notes for the CD reissues of several Broadway musical classics, such as Finian’s Rainbow, The Pajama Game, and Saratoga. He also provided liner notes for vocal collections by legends such as Doris Day, Fred Astaire, Ella Fitzgerald, and Artie Shaw. From 1990 to 1992, he taught courses in musical theater at the New School. Among his in-class guests from the golden age of Broadway: Barbara Cook, Sheldon Harnick, Elaine Stritch, John Kander and Fred Ebb. He was included in the anthology Cast Out: Queer Lives in the Theater, a collection focusing on out lesbians and gays currently working on the American stage.

Vélez became a prominent presence on the international AIDS scene for more than two decades, working with co-organizers of the International Conference on AIDS to guarantee the inclusion and active participation of people with HIV. He also served for several conferences as the official liaison to the activist community. He served as a consultant to the Latino Commission on AIDS, and was a guest speaker on HIV/AIDS issues at high schools and colleges across America.

Years ago, when asked how he would like to be remembered, Vélez replied, “As someone who was able to help.”

Andy Vélez is survived by his sons Ben and Abe, both of Brooklyn, his daughter-in-law Sarah, his granddaughter, his younger brother Eugene (“Gene’) of Alamo, California, as well as thousands of comrades in the global AIDS and LGBTQ activist communities.

Funeral services will be private. A public memorial service will be held this summer.

Donations in Vélez’s memory may be made to ACT UP New York, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and the Latino Commission on AIDS.


Andy Vélez, presente y pa'lante!
« Last Edit: May 15, 2019, 07:43:23 am by Jim Allen »
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Offline Jeff G

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2019, 09:09:00 am »
 I got to know Andy during my time here as a volunteer, he was always there for me during the good or bad times. He was always the same loving man no matter what we talked about where it be his art collection or his granddaughter he doted on or some of my troubles that seem so far away now. I will never forget him and what he did for our community.

Andy was someone who was able to help and he did it with grace and charm few men can muster.
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Offline Wade

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2019, 09:22:47 am »
Andy was a fierce advocate,but also a kind, generous and loving man.
I also got to know Andy while volunteering here and our conversations and words of wisdom will be forever treasured. He touched so many lives including mine and he will be sorely missed.
A very special sole left us yesterday, and he will never be forgotten.
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Offline Ptrk3

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2019, 09:26:44 am »
I'm very sorry to read the news.

Andy will be sorely missed by all who were touched by his humanity.

My deepest sympathy to his family, friends, and those who loved him most.

May he rest in peace after a long journey, well traveled.
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Offline Jim Allen

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2019, 11:15:28 am »
Andrew will be deeply missed, still digesting this sad news myself.

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Offline leatherman

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2019, 11:48:07 am »
Very sad news.  :'(

Quote
For ten years he moderated the POZ Forum.
Oh it was way longer than that! A quick look showed that Andy was answering AII? questions back in 2006 when the forums were switched over to the SMF platform. I'd bet if he wasn't officially "moderating" the forums before that (did we even have mods back then in the late 90s?) he was answering questions and becoming the very model for the role that would be known as "moderator".
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Offline CaveyUK

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2019, 01:24:25 pm »
Massively sad news. Andy was clearly someone who gave a damn, and more importantly did something about it....helping so very many people in the process.

If I can do a hundredth of the good Andy has done to the HIV/AIDS community, I will be happy.

So sad, and thoughts are with his family

RIP

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Offline Jim Allen

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2019, 01:35:48 pm »
POZ.com Publication:

R.I.P. Andy Vélez, Longtime AIDS Activist and Moderator of POZ Forums
https://www.poz.com/article/rip-andy-velez-longtime-aids-activist-moderator-poz-forums

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Offline iana5252

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2019, 01:46:10 pm »
Thank you Andy for everything you did for the HIV/AIDS community and POZ Forums. You will be missed  :'(
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Offline iana5252

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2019, 01:53:32 pm »
Here's what AIDSmeds Founder Peter Staley posted to his Facebook wall about Andy's passing.

--------------------------

I have never known a single LGBTQ activist that has shown up and marched at more demonstrations for our community than Andy Velez. He was at ACT UP from the get-go, and was still going to meetings until his recent health issues. I got closer with Andy during my AIDSmeds.com days, when he became a loving moderator on the site's very busy community forums. Folks from around the world got to know and love Andy online.

A huge thanks to his sons, Ben and Abe, for letting me say my goodbyes to Andy three weeks ago at Bellevue. He was so fucking proud of you both.

THANK YOU, ANDY, FOR FIGHTING FOR ALL OF US EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE!
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Offline BT65

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2019, 04:03:31 pm »
I am saddened by this. I got to know Andy during my volunteer time here and was not expecting this. He was a gentle man and a wonderful advocate. Andy, you will be missed.
I've never killed anyone, but I frequently get satisfaction reading the obituary notices.-Clarence Darrow

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Offline Tonny2

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2019, 05:34:29 pm »


       ojo.      I'm so sorry to hear about Andy's passing. RIP

Offline harleymc

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2019, 08:17:05 pm »
My thoughts are with Andy and his families both birth family and his chosen family.

He will be sorely missed.

Offline J.R.E.

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2019, 08:56:32 pm »

Such deep sorrow, in reading about Andy's passing.  We lost a true fighter, and a man, so dedicated to the cause, and to these forums.  I am at a loss for words. Andy will be missed but never forgotten, the countless people that he had helped throughout the years and decades, and fought for, have so much to be grateful for.

My condolences, and peace to his family, and to the many close friends in Andy's life. His family and friends has much to be proud of. 

In Sadness---Ray  :'(
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Offline Raf

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2019, 11:06:59 pm »
Descansa en paz Andy.

My condolences to his family and friends.
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Offline joemutt

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2019, 12:56:53 am »
Very sad news.  :'(
Oh it was way longer than that! A quick look showed that Andy was answering AII? questions back in 2006 when the forums were switched over to the SMF platform. I'd bet if he wasn't officially "moderating" the forums before that (did we even have mods back then in the late 90s?) he was answering questions and becoming the very model for the role that would be known as "moderator".

Thank you for pointing that out.
I joined 2004/2005 on the old board aidsmeds.com and was warmly welcomed by him and others. That site was some kind of a lifesaver for me back then, connecting to people with aids/hiv.

I will remember his kindness, his frankness, his clarity.
Rest in Peace, Andy.

Offline em

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2019, 09:04:12 am »
even though I had not had the opportunity or privilege  to  know him other then on this website. I  hope and feel in my heart he new  how importation the work he did was to many of us struggling to scratch out a place in this world.  His giving of his time through his patience in giving  help for others was a gift to the world A model to  emulate an achievement few would have that level of  compaction or ability to take on.  I hope but from what  I have read from him over the years in this forum I am sure  he realized the importance he held in the lives of those he helped by being here for those of us like myself who needed  someone to shine a light in the darkness.


all of us who he had spent his time responding too have been helped by his giving to us. I hope those of us he has helped over the years pass on the wisdom and help others the same way he has given us by paying it forward to others. Making the world a better place by continuing the  great appreciated work he has started.   
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 09:06:50 am by em »

Offline Jim Allen

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #18 on: May 16, 2019, 09:31:14 am »
I've seen hundreds of posts on Social Media of people sharing memories of Andy.
Wanted to share the below tweet here, its great photo's of Andy in action.

https://twitter.com/actupny/status/1128661084410470400

« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 09:33:22 am by Jim Allen »
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Offline OneTampa

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #19 on: May 16, 2019, 09:51:55 am »
Andy was an Angel on Earth and helped so many.

I recall reviewing one of Andy's videos when I first joined
the Forums.  Even then I told Andy that he exuded warmth
and caring. Not to mention he knew what he was talking
about and presented it with authority and sincerity.
Andy also looked great on camera. 



Forever Grateful,

OT


"He is my oldest child. The shy and retiring one over there with the Haitian headdress serving pescaíto frito."

Offline Jim Allen

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #20 on: May 16, 2019, 03:21:42 pm »
Hi All,

A while back I watched an interview that Andy gave about his life and, his civil rights/HIV activism. Very insightful stuff.

I reached out to, Blaine Stevens this week, who conducted the interview for the "The Acute Project" and, with her permission I'm sharing the link to the interview here.

Interview with Andy Velez (February 11th, 2018; Greenwich Village)
https://vimeo.com/256517860

Best. Jim

https://acuteproject.com
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 03:25:57 pm by Jim Allen »
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Offline Assurbanipal

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #21 on: May 16, 2019, 08:11:27 pm »
I read the article in POZ and wanted to offer my condolences to Andy’s friends on the Forums and his family if they read these. 

Andy was a warm and welcoming presence on the Forums when I joined. His evenness was very reassuring at a time when many things were in flux for me. I only met him in person once, when Jody introduced us at a march in Manhattan, but he was welcoming then ( even while clearly very busy).

Rest peacefully, warrior

A
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Offline crisbarcelona

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #22 on: May 19, 2019, 07:51:57 am »
We need people like him. My best wishes and condolences.

Offline DANIELtakashi

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Re: Veteran AIDS activist Andy Velez, 1939-2019
« Reply #23 on: June 26, 2019, 11:28:55 pm »
How saddened I am to have found this checking this site after a long time.
Andy sent me kind messages when I was having trouble and he was always willing to help.   And if my memory is correct, he came to Yokohama Japan for a conference more than two decades ago.   May he rest in peace.
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