San Francisco to hold massive display of AIDS Memorial Quilt to honor its 35th anniversary

San Francisco to hold massive display of AIDS Memorial Quilt to honor its 35th anniversary
Jada Harris (2nd from left) National AIDS Memorial Call My Name Quilt Program Manager shares stories about two newly created panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt that will be displayed at an historic display of the Quilt on June 11 & 12 in Golden Gate Park, which will mark 35 years since the first panels of the Quilt were first created. From L to R: Alex Kalomparis, Senior Vice President, Gilead Sciences; Jada Harris; Cleve Jones, Co-Founder, AIDS Memorial Quilt; Duane Cramer, Quit Community Engagement Director, National AIDS Memorial; Marvin White, Minister of Celebration, Glide Memorial Church; John Cunningham, CEO, National AIDS Memorial; and Gert McMullin, Quilt Conservator, National AIDS Memorial. Photo: National AIDS Memorial

To honor the 35th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, San Francisco will host a massive 3,000-panel display of the quilt. It will be the largest display in a decade.

The free 35th anniversary event will be held on June 11 and 12 from 10am-5pm in Golden Gate Park. It will include the debut of over 100 new panels. Thousands of people are expected to attend.

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“This year’s historic community display will be a beautiful celebration of life and a recognition of the power of the Quilt today as a teaching tool for health and social justice,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham in a statement.

“The Quilt is an important reminder that the HIV/AIDS crisis is still not over and there is much work to be done, particularly in communities of color, where HIV is on the rise in many parts of the country.”

In a December 2017 interview with Fresh Air, longtime LGBTQ activist Cleve Jones said he came up with the idea for the quilt on November 27, 1985, during an annual candlelight tribute for assassinated gay politician Harvey Milk and then Mayor George Moscone.

Struck by the epidemic’s 1000-person death toll, he had attendees write the names of their deceased loved ones on poster boards that they they posted onto the front of building that housed the Health and Human Services West Coast offices for the federal government, then under the Reagan administration which refused to publicly acknowledge the epidemic until four years after it started.

“I thought to myself, it looks like some kind of quilt,” Jones said. “And it was such a warm and comforting and Middle American traditional family values sort of symbol. And I thought ‘This is the symbol we should take.’ And everybody told me it was the stupidest thing they’d ever heard of.”

While these first panels were made as a way to help ensure that history wouldn’t forget those who had passed, today, the quilt is “the largest ongoing community folk art project in the world.” Its panels have been sewn by families, friends, and lovers to immortalize more than 110,000 individuals whose lives were lost to HIV.

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