This Is The Real Life Story Behind The Activist Group Pray Tell & Blanca Join In ‘Pose’

Pose may feature fictional characters, but almost everything about its premise is rooted in reality. The 80’s ball culture drama returns for Season 2 on June 11 and will dive deeper into the lives of Blanca, Damon, Angel, Pray Tell, Lil Papi, Ricky, and those around them as they deal with the real issues faced by the LGBT community during the late 80’s and early 90’s, particularly AIDS/HIV and the misinformation and stigmas surrounding those who were diagnosed at that time. Per TV Line, Pose Season 2 will introduce ACT UP, a real-life organization that advocates for people with AIDS, and the people who were behind this group during its early days.

According to Britannica, ACT UP, which stands for AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, was formed in Manhattan, NY in March 1987 as a reaction to the government’s failure to respond to the increasing rates of deaths from HIV and AIDS. At the time, many people perceived it as a “gay” virus that could only be contracted in and affect the LGBT community. And, those who were diagnosed often had to keep their status to themselves in fear of being ostracized in general society.

The same article revealed that prejudice against the LGBT community led to little funding, research, and development of drugs to help those who were infected, so the community came together to advocate for themselves via nonviolent protest and civil disobedience. They fought against false reporting about how the virus could be spread and stood for the rights of those who were discriminated against because of their status. Since then, ACT UP has become a global advocacy group that still fights for the rights of those affected by AIDS/HIV.

Per History.com, the group’s symbol is a pink triangle, which originated from World War II when homosexual people in Nazi concentration camps were forced to openly identify their sexuality with the symbol. The slogan “silence = death” was started by six men before ACT UP was formed to protest several prominent organization’s silence about AIDS and encourage people to speak up about injustice lest they want oppression towards gay and trans people to continue. The men went to an event where activist Larry Kramer spoke about the health crisis and later asked the audience about forming what would become ACT UP.

During a Pose set visit, co-creator/Executive Producer Steven Canals said he wanted to tie the history of ACT into the characters story to educate viewers. “We see our group getting involved with ACT UP,” says Canals. “My art has always lived at the intersection of entertaining and educational and I hope that the show is the beginning of a conversation.”

There are certainly viewers who are not familiar with ACT UP, so this season’s deeper dive into the AIDS/HIV epidemic through Blanca and Pray Tell’s own diagnoses can give insight into the organization. In the Pose Season 2 trailer, Pray Tell is seen with several ACT UP members chanting during a meeting while Blanca still grapples with her declining health. Blanca showed her activist spirit last season when she took a stand against a White gay bar, so it won’t be surprising to see her protesting this season with ACT UP in hopes of a better future for her children.

It’s not clear if the show will include any of the real-life people (like Kramer) behind ACT UP, but it will strike a chord with viewers as they explore the heartbreaking and terrifying reality that many people faced as they dealt with their own diagnosis or watched those around them die. And, hopefully Pose Season 2 will lead to more people developing a greater understanding about an epidemic that affects people around the world.

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