Vito Russo (July 11, 1946 – November 7, 1990), was a visionary, a humanitarian, an evangelist and a activist. Everyone who met him became part of his campaign group, whether that campaign was about LGBT rights or about the provision of medical aid to cover AIDS in the USA during the time of the Regan administration.
He was a writer, a historian, and an acclaimed presenter on ‘The Celluloid Closet’; he travelled the length and breath of the USA educating and trying to galvanize people into fighting for their rights and to stand up for themselves.
He was in the forefront of the battle to get the US administration to invest in developing a medical solution to AIDS and also in the provision of support for those suffering from this disease – President Reagan did not recognise the LGBT lifestyle, and through his direction the administration did nothing to help those suffering from ‘the gay plague’. Indeed Vito’s partner later developed AIDS, as did he himself some years after Jeff’s death.
Vito was a great orator, who had the ability to bring people from all walks of life on board to the campaigns – gay straight, black, white, red – the ordinary man and woman on the street to high profile stars like Liz Tayle or Lily Tonlinson – and through this ability society recognised the injustice of the administration’s stand and practice.
Vito was born in New York City , and grew up in East Harlem, graduating from New York Universityand died in 1990, having been in slow decline due to AIDS for some years. The LGBT community, indeed a much wider community than this, came out for his funeral and expressed their feelings at the loss of his life – his life stands out for those who have listened to him speak, watched him campaign and read his writings; indeed he is comparable to Martin Luther, Ghandi and others who stood up and fought injustice I believe.
I would urge you to make the time and find his book, watch him on YouTube and read about his life – become inspired to fight injustice no matter where you see it – your life will be enriched and so will society’s.