December Holidays: World AIDS Day, International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and International Migrants Day
Welcome to our digital exhibit celebrating holidays in December. This page is a companion to the physical display in the Harvard Kennedy School Library, last available in December 2022. Harvard affiliates can request books via HOLLIS, for pick-up at the library of your choice.
Throughout this digital exhibit, you'll find selections from our Political Buttons at HKS Collection. The collection includes over 1,500 political buttons from the 20th and 21st centuries, representing U.S. political campaigns at every level, ballot initiatives, social issues and movements, and political demonstrations. Buttons in this exhibit are taken primarily from our 2019 digital exhibit Decades of Resistance: Political Movement Pins.
Observed since 1988, World AIDS Day is the first ever international day for global health. It is a day of solidarity for individuals and communities worldwide affected by HIV/AIDS, uniting to commemorate the over 32 million people who have died from AIDS-related illness. World AIDS Day is also an opportunity to continue fighting for an end to HIV, and an end to the stigma associated with the illness.
HIV/AIDS was identified in the early 1980s but has likely affected humans since it jumped from other primates in the early-to-mid 20th century. It is a spectrum of conditions spread through unprotected sexual contact, exposure to infected blood such as through needle-sharing or unsterilized medical injections, and from parent to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. HIV/AIDS has historically affected people who are part of already marginalized communities, including people of low socioeconomic status, LGBTQ people, intravenous drug users, and sex workers. This concentration has exacerbated discrimination against people with AIDS (PWAs), especially when the illness was not well-understood. For example, because early identified AIDS cases were concentrated among homosexual men, users of intravenous drugs like heroin, Haitian immigrants, and hemophiliacs, the illness was initially deemed the "4H" disease.
Following this discrimination and galvanized in the U.S. by the Reagan Administration's dismissive response, worldwide protest movements like the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in the U.S. and the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa arose. These groups pushed for urgent government research, developed community-led health education resources, and lobbied against discriminatory legislation.
Today, women in Sub-Saharan Africa are the most affected by HIV/AIDS. To address this and other AIDS-related inequities, UNAIDS has declared the theme of Worlds AIDS Day 2022 to be "Equalize." Their goal is to increase the availability and quality of services worldwide, reform policies that lead to stigma and exclusion, and ensure technology-sharing between the Global South and North.
The resources in this display highlight historical responses to HIV/AIDS in the U.S., by both activists and traditional power-holders.
First proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1992, International Day of Persons with Disabilities "promote[s] an understanding of disability issues and mobilize[s] support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities." These efforts are critical given historical treatment of people with disabilities, which favored a eugenics-driven approach of institutionalization, incarceration, and sterilization based on discriminatory fears that offering medical and social services to people with disabilities would "lead to the denigration of the human race." England's Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act of 1970 was the first in the world to recognize the rights of people with disabilities and offer governmental assistance. Other countries followed suit over the coming decades, including the U.S. with the American Disabilities Act of 1990.
At the grassroots level, movements of disability rights and disability justice have since the 1960s been leading the fight against systemic ableism. These movements have been vital in popularizing a social model of disability, which redefines a "disability" not as biological or medical impairment, but as a socially constructed state that results from a dominant framework which normalizes certain bodies over others. The disability justice movement in particular was also pivotal in developing an intersectional model of disability that examines the relationships between ableism and other forms of oppression.
The books in this display highlight the experiences and sociopolitical frameworks of people with disabilities, primarily from a disability justice perspective.
First proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2000, International Migrants Day serves as a global moment to rally behind the freedoms of people seeking safe passage across international or regional borders, often in search of a better quality of life. International Migrants Day recognizes that while a complex combination of socioeconomic factors have spurred the large and growing number of migrants worldwide, the ultimate driver is a widening opportunity gap between wealthy and poor countries. Further, International Migrants Day emphasizes the need for robust policies to support international migration, especially as an alternative to fearmongering and scapegoating.
As of 2020, countries with the largest international diasporas include India, Mexico, Russia, China, and Syria. In contrast, countries hosting the largest number of migrants include the United States, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United Kingdom. In the U.S., migration has shaped the country since the 1700s when the first colonies were settled by European immigrants on indigenous land. Nevertheless, U.S. policy has remained ambivalent on migration, historically favoring migrants considered to be white while limiting or excluding migrants of color. More recently, while the 9/11 attacks exacerbated public sentiment against migrants of color, more than 80 U.S. cities have enacted sanctuary policies - especially in light of former President Donald Trump's "zero-tolerance" border policies.
More from Decades of Resistance: Political Movements and Protest Pins since 1960: "During the 2016 election, Donald Trump embraced a growing opposition to immigration and immigrants to gain support. Preventing immigration, particularly by Central Americans, Muslims, and refugees, and punishing immigrants regardless of status became a central pillar of Donald Trump's presidency. One of his signature promises was to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, which he insisted would be funded by the Mexican government. Trump also imposed a travel ban on citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries, attempted to end the DACA program, and imposed a "zero tolerance" policy on anyone caught crossing the border without legal status. Under the Trump administration, thousands of migrant children were separated from their families. There was significant public outcry against these policies and the deliberately inhumane treatment to which immigrants were been subjected."
The resources in this display highlight the experiences and sociopolitical frameworks of immigrants to the U.S. and first-generation Americans.