Jason Heffner

Background: Jason is a 31 year white gay man who grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He was raised in the United Church of Christ, and went to a pre-ministerial program at a southern college. When he had his first sexual encounter with a man and started to come out there, he was forced out of college and moved to Philadelphia to pursue a career in dance by going to the School of the Pennsylvania Ballet. He then transferred to Temple University to study modern dance, get a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree in Education. He also ran a business training executives how to use their then-new personal computers. He sold off his piece of that business and moved to New York, becoming the executive director of the Erick Hawkins Dance Foundation. He also helped run an international youth hostel in Harlem. Particularly being in the dance world, he saw people dying of AIDS early, and he started volunteering at GMHC, doing outreach education work at bathhouses, churches, and other community locations. As he got more involved in AIDS activism, he gave up his dance work. He went to ACT UP in 1987, but left New York because he had a contract to do some touring and some evaluation of some arts programs around the country. When he returned in 1988, he got heavily involved in ACT UP. Jason lives in Queens and has a contract doing training at a large midtown business (where he surreptitiously uses their resources to send out ACT UP correspondence and make copies).

Role in ACT UP: Jason is the current ACT UP administrator. The administrator is not the head of ACT UP, but is elected by the Floor to a six-month term to make the administrative tasks run smoothly. After attending the Coordinating Committee meeting, he sets the agenda for the Monday night meeting and reviews it with the facilitators before the meeting. He arranges for the recording and transcription of the meeting minutes, manages the phone tree, responds to correspondence, and deals with administrative issues that arise.

Groups/friends at the meeting: Facilitators, Coordinating Committee

Specific tasks at the March 13, 1989 meeting: Jason will arrive at the meeting in time to meet with the facilitators 30 minutes before the meeting starts. (Other people can also come if they have items they would like to propose for the agenda). Once the agenda is finalized, he will post it around the room. He will also remind the facilitators that, if all four of them are there, that they agreed tonight that they would each lead half of the meeting in pairs so that Karl would not be facilitating during the election for his replacement. They will all work out what portions of the meeting each facilitator will facilitate. 

Jason will also arrange for someone to take minutes. He will also handle any administrative tasks that need to be handled at the meeting and, together with the facilitators, he will deal with anyone who is misbehaving at the meeting.

Jason is also on the agenda at the beginning of the meeting to talk to the Floor about the on-going work on the phone tree. The phone tree is the way ACT UP gets word out about last-minute zaps. One person calls six people, and they all in turn call another six people, etc. Jason will ask for volunteers to help 1) manage the phone tree, and 2) be high up on the phone tree (i.e., commit to making phone calls when needed). He will also stress that it is important that people let him know if their phone number changes.

Jason will also hold up a "camera" (i.e. cell phone) and remind people that the Floor has decided that there will be no filming at tonight's meeting to protect the privacy of people who don't want to be filmed. Next week there will be a side of the room for people who consent to be filmed. He will say, "Please do not take out a camera while you are in this room for any reason, and if you see someone taking out a camera please ask them to put it away." 

Additional information: https://actuporalhistory.org/numerical-interviews/103-jason-heffner