Access Champions

Highlights from Week 8 Mission: How do you make an iconic image?

Learning from Iconic AIDS Activism

This week, team leads Steve, Merith, and Rebecca spoke with Avram Finklestein, the AIDS activist and designer who helped create the famous SILENCE = DEATH image shown above. He’s also the artist behind many other powerful images that have defined AIDS activism. Take a look!

Avram shared lessons learned from his work in AIDS activism, advice on capturing public attention, and ideas for how to do effective work as a collective. Our Lab members took this week to watch or listen to the conversation with Avram, and then began brainstorming their own images and text—keeping in mind three initial key principles: riffing on images already familiar to your audience, avoiding technical or political jargon, and using humor.

They also shared their own takeaways from the webinar with each other. Courtney Surmanek wrote:

Write it all down, and edit later (not during!). We’re all capable of incisive, creative thinking, we’re just not trained to think we are. Reminds me of “yes, and”, the basis of improv, which is what I use to describe the ethos I look for/want to help guide in collaboration.

And how amazing to hear that the infamous SILENCE = DEATH phrase emerged from a quick volley/brainstorm across a dinner table as opposed to a more intensive brainstorming session (or rather, perhaps after the intensive brainstorming session). What’s the online version of the dinner table?

I’ve REALLY love the online platform Icebreaker and want to explore it more to support the brainstorming phase.

Sofia Weiss-Goitandia was reminded of an action she had helped to create with her Friends of MSF group at the University of Cambridge called the No More Tears Challenge. In Sofia’s own words:

Listening to Avram speak about the importance of the opening sentence has reminded me of a campaign our Friends of MSF group created at the University of Cambridge, which I thought might provide some further inspiration. The ‘No More Tears’ challenge was created by our group in order to try and pressure Johnson and Johnson into lowering the price of their TB drug bedaquiline. Basically people have to film themselves eating a chilli whilst trying not to cry, and then it’s shared on social media. This piece of campaigning spread really quickly, and was picked up by the MSF access campaign. What I love about the ‘No More Tears’ tagline is that it’s taking J&J’s own catchphrase, and confronting it with them, which worked really well as an opening sentence.

WATCH: Collectivity and Communicating in Public Space

The webinar has inspired a lot of creativity from our lab members—and it’s simply too good not to share with you in full. You can watch the webinar below, and we’ve also provided a Table of Contents with timestamps to help you navigate to the content you need.

TimeTopic Link
00:00Intro 1
15:30Storytelling in Capitalism
24:55The Opening Sentence
28:13Critical Analysis
29:00Simple but not simplistic 1
36:45Working in Collectives
48:27Plan Campaigns
52:35Growing into your role
1:00:03Working in Public
1:06:35Tips for Collective Projects
1:11:08Q: Doubt the collective?
1:20:39Q: COVID conversations?

Action Updates

This post has been a longer one, but we still have a couple action updates from our Labs that you can’t miss! Some quick highlights for you, this time:

  • The Bisons have sent their first “Free The Vaccine” themed sleeping mask and box to Dr. Atul Malhotra, a pulmonologist specializing in sleep medicine. They’ve also created a Twitter account, so give them a follow!
  • With Avram’s lessons in mind, our Labs have already drafted some awesome images with which to reach out to their target scientists! Here are just a couple examples:
A draft poster by Fiona from the Seal team.
Some draft postcard ideas by Mahima and Elin from the Fox team.
  • After learning that Dolly Parton had donated $1 million to vaccine research at Vanderbilt University, the Zonkeys decided to build a campaign focused on Dr. Naji Abumrad, her friend and a scientist at the Vanderbilt Institute for Infection, Immunology, and Inflammation, in whose honor she made the donation. The Zonkeys have worked with Vanderbilt students to reach out to the university’s technology transfer office about the Open COVID Pledge, as well as Dr. Abumrad’s son Jad Abumrad, who is a host for RadioLab. They’ve asked him to share their message through a podcast episode. And they also have something super creative in the works, so stay tuned

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