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'Passionate warrior,' Connecticut activist Shawn M. Lang dead at 65

Activist Shawn Lang died Sunday at the age of 65.
Chion Wolf
Activist Shawn Lang died Sunday at the age of 65.

Longtime AIDS activist Shawn Lang died suddenly Sunday at the age of 65. Until last June, Lang served as the deputy director of AIDS Connecticut, where she had worked since the early 1990s. Lang will be remembered by many for her tireless work on behalf of people with AIDS, opioid addiction and housing insecurity.

With her trademark cargo shorts and salt-and-pepper crewcut, Lang was a force of nature, both out in front as an activist as well as behind the scenes working on public policy.

“I guess the phrase that comes to mind is passionate warrior,” said John Merz, CEO of AIDS Connecticut. “Just a real warrior for justice, and for the underdog. She was maybe 5-foot -2 ... but whenever she walked into the room she commanded an audience, especially when she was passionate about the issue on the table.”

Merz said he saw Lang’s warrior spirit early in her tenure at AIDS Connecticut, when she successfully lobbied against a measure that would have collected the names of state residents living with HIV/AIDS. At around the same time, according to Merz, Lang was instrumental in securing $1.1 million from the General Assembly for AIDS housing.

In a statement, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said, “We grieve the loss of a champion and remember with profound gratitude Shawn’s many efforts to create a more just and equitable society.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut praised Lang as “a true fighter for LGBTQ+ rights, advocating for those with AIDS and HIV and people impacted by opioid addiction.”

Copyright 2021 Connecticut Public Radio. To see more, visit Connecticut Public Radio.

Ray Hardman began his broadcasting career at WFSU in Tallahassee Florida where he served at different times as a producer, Operations manager, and Morning Edition host. Ray joined the WNPR staff in 1996, as a reporter and host. He later became the Music Director for WNPR, and in 2002 he went back to his newsy roots as the host of WNPR’s Morning Edition.