Harry Wieder (1953-2010)

Keith_and_Harry.jpg
Harry was always an activist (here he is saying hello to the late Keith Cylar)


ADDENDA: I've now located* the original full image of the photograph I included above when I first did this entry, as well as the text which accompanied it, from a pre-summer issue of OutWeek published almost twenty years ago; this is Keith Cylar and Harry Wieder's reply to the photographer and activist Michael Wakefields's question about their ideal getaway:

"We would live in a world where we would then have the freedom to do more than just fantasize, where our fight to end AIDS has brought a reality, and there are countless sexual possibilities, especially for a militant sexual dwarf"

I've also added an image further into the entry, of Harry inside the maw of the beast, an ACT UP Monday night meeting


He described himself as a “Disabled, gay, Jewish, leftist, middle aged dwarf who ambulates with crutches", but Harry was much more. He was the essential activist, and he was much loved.

I first met him through ACT UP, where I sat next to him at a Monday night meeting, and after that he seemed to be everywhere, especially wherever there was something to be said to power. I was deeply proud to call him a friend.

I hadn't yet heard his own multifarious description of himself, but as I came to know better both the man and his work I watched his identity as an activist and as a man gradually enlarge in my own consciousness. Eventually I seemed to have assembled an image of all of his various hats and identities on my own, even adding "person of color" in my enthusiasm. I can't account for that add-on. Harry might have been a bit "swarthy", but I think it was his compassion and his natural affinity for the issues which affected blacks, or maybe there was even an ambiguous word from Harry himself. Then, only years later, when he told me where he then lived on the Lower East Side, in a home for the deaf, did I realize that his physical challenges included a hearing disability.

The news magazine OutWeek called Harry a “militant sexual dwarf” in a 1991 article which included the photo above. He's seen peeking into the swimsuit of Keith Cylar, one of the co-founders of Housing Works. Barry remembers, "he was [certainly] aggressively flirtacious".

We all loved him.

During all of his active life he worked to improve transportation for all so there was more than a little irony in the fact that he was struck down the night before last by a taxi on Essex Street, on the Lower East Side where he lived. It's one of the most dangerous of the stretches which had attracted his latest traffic-control activism, virtually up to the moment of his death. He was leaving a regular meeting of Community Board 3, one of several groups which has been concerned with the neighborhood's safety.

Board 3 will be joined by Community Board 2 at a public hearing scheduled by the NYC Department of Transportation for next Thursday on the issues of traffic and safety in the Village and the Lower East Side. Harry will certainly be a part of it.


Harry_Weider_1990_ACT_UP_meeting.jpg
Harry, waving from the front row during a 1990 ACT UP meeting [detail in a still from a video]


For more details: DNAinfo; The New York Post; Wall Street Journal (blog); the Lo-Down; Gothamist; The Edge (for starters)


*
EDIT:
When I first published this post I was unable to locate Michael Wakefield's original, uncropped image, but Bill Dobbs located it in the OutWeek archive and pointed me to it (it's on page 36); it now appears here at the top


[first image by Michaeld Wakefield from the OutWeek archive; the second from James Wentzy]

hey james,

just came across this remembrance of yours, and wanna let you know it touched me. yes, our pal harry was one of kind, and i feel blessed to have fought the good fight with him, back in the day, and to run into him in the past few years. god broke the mold with harry!

best,
michael