STORIES

”Assotto Saint was a poet, publisher and performance artist who died of AIDS in New York City. He was 36 years old.“
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Assotto Saint, 1957-1994
Story by The AIDS Memorial on IG
Read by Sheryl Lee Ralph

Assotto Saint (October 2, 1957 – June 29, 1994) was a poet, publisher and performance artist who died of AIDS in New York City. He was 36 years old.

Born in Les Cayes, Haiti as Yves François Lubin, he moved to New York in 1970 and adopted the name Assotto Saint — choosing “Assotto” which is a ceremonial drum used in Haitian Voodoo rituals and “Saint” after Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture.

In 1974, Assotto graduated from Jamaica High School, Queens before attending Queens College. During the late 1970’s, he performed as a dancer with @marthagrahamdance but stopped after an injury.

In 1980, Assotto met his life partner of 13 years, Swedish born composer Jan Holmgren, pictured right. They collaborated on a number of projects with Holmgren writing songs for all of Assotto’s theatre pieces. They also formed in a “techno pop duo band,” Xotika.

After they were both diagnosed HIV positive, Assotto became an AIDS activist and appeared in Marlon Riggs’ film ‘No Regrets’ (1993). He was also a mentor to Riggs, Essex Hemphill and Melvin Dixon who would all succumb to AIDS.

Holmgren died of AIDS on March 29, 1993 in New York. He was 53 years old. The couple are buried alongside each other at the Cemetery of the Evergreens, Brooklyn.

‘Life-Partners’ is a poem Saint wrote for Holmgren, when Holmgren was dying:

“… between solitudes of illness & beatitudes our lips utter,
evening settles in this exile of senses for our surrender,
one more friend’s death has clocked the day like a tolling bell.
Biding time, we are shadows also shrinking early into destiny,
Let us gather our pills & swallow all regrets with a kiss,
cover each other, then weave dreams of another day to come.”