‘When We Rise’ is a Vital Snapshot of America’s Uphill Battle for Equality


Night III

When We Rise

When We Rise, in addition to being divided into four parts, is further split into two distinct halves. In part three of the series, we leap forward a decade to the year 1992. This half of the miniseries focuses on the fight that finally forms against AIDS and the continuous political struggle for the human rights of members of the LGBT community. Ken and his partner Richard are both HIV positive, along with Cleve and his partner Ricardo. Roma and Diane have formed a family together after Diane gave birth to a little girl as the result of an anonymous sperm donation.

Although the community is now aware of how AIDS is transmitted and is working on ways to live with the disease, an infection has already run rampant through a massive majority of gay men, particularly in San Francisco. Both Ken and Cleve finally begin receiving cutting-edge medication that keeps the symptoms at bay, but not before their partners are snatched away from them.

Roma and Diane are approached by Diane’s daughter Annie about the identity of her biological father, who turns out to be rising political star Tom Ammiano. Thus begins a series of awkward family moments as Annie decides to create and maintain a relationship with her father. The spitfire attitude Annie exudes here never dissipates, and she proves to be quite the handful, not to be diluted by the fact that her “nontraditional” two mother family and the level of intolerance toward lesbians and gays makes her an outcast everywhere she goes.

As we watch these characters continue to balance activism with navigating adulthood, additional eyeopening struggles are highlighted during the never-ending battle for equality. Ken’s partner Richard passes away, resulting in the legal eviction of Ken from their home because of his lack or rights over Richard’s property. Cleve loses his partner to AIDS and as he’s grieving, ends up fostering his neighbor’s infant under the legal radar, only to lose the baby due to Cleve’s AIDS diagnosis once the father is evicted from his home.

On a side note, those who are part of the LGBT community and are terrified of the current political climate and what the future could bring are often criticized and mocked. Pleas with family members and friends not to cast their 2016 votes for a candidate who has surrounded himself by powerful politicians who oppose gay rights for fear that we’ll be rolled back to times when children can be snatched from our arms and partners can be kicked out of our homes –  are often responded to with scoffs and eye rolls. How lovely it must be to be able to quickly forget how recent these injustices occurred.

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