Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Quilt --- 25 years onward

Source: Wikipedia
The brief video (below), put together earlier this month by Sean Chapin to mark a 25th anniversary exhibit in San Francisco’s Castro District of 312 panels from the NAMES Foundation AIDS Memorial Quilt, caught my attention this week.

Twenty-five years. Wow. Silly thought --- I no longer fit into my NAMES Project sweatshirt.Considerably more serious: Roughly 617,000 AIDS-related deaths in the United States to date; more than a million deaths last year alone in Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 23 million people are living with HIV.

Cleve Jones came up with the idea for a quilt during a 1985 march in San Francisco commemorating the assassinations of city Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. The project got off the ground during 1987.

Since then, more than 47,000 panels commemorating in excess of 91,000 souls have been prepared, then assembled into panels of eight each. These panels continue to travel the country for exhibit, although I’m not sure about the last time a display was held in Iowa. I remember several.

The full quilt was spread for the last time during 1996 on the Mall in Washington, D.C. That’s unlikely to happen again. It weighs more than 54 tons. Many panels now are fragile, in the hands of conservators. The NAMES Project and the quilt moved during 2001 from San Francisco to Atlanta.

There’s a good deal of symbolism involved in the quilt. Each panel is 3 feet by 6, roughly the size of a grave. In some instances, the panels are the only monuments to those they honor. It’s not been that long ago that some shamed families declined to claim the bodies of their sons, some undertakers refused to touch them. HIV/AIDS still, in parts of Iowa and elsewhere, is something to whisper about.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, accept our repentance, Lord. (The Litany of Penance)

No comments: