Saturday, September 5, 2015

Maria Egel writes

For my circle of friends around the AIDS Quilting Table.

In celebrating life
we give homage to those
whose souls have already soared
across the sky

In celebrating love
we gather from it strength and joy
while treating life as the fragile gift it is

In celebrating humanity
we encircle our differences
which vibrate like the brilliance of an
autumn tree

In celebrating life-­‐we live.

1 comment:

  1. Cleve Jones was an organizer of annual candlelight marches in San Francisco in honor of assassinated gay rights activist Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone. While preparing the 1985 event he learned that over 1,000 San Franciscans had been killed by AIDS and asked each of his fellow marchers to write on placards the names of loved ones they had lost. At the conclusion of the event the placards were taped onto the San Francisco Federal Building. Jones thought the wall of names looked like a huge patchwork quilt and began planning a larger memorial. Jones himself created the first panel in what would become the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The quilt, created by volunteers from across the US, was displayed for the first time during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and gay Rights in 1987. It already included 1,920 panels and covered a space larger than a football field; over the weekend half a million people visited the National Mall where it was on display. The following spring, the quilt was taken on a four-month, 20-city tour , and new panels were added in each city. By the end of the tour it had grown to more than 6,000 panels. By the time it was taken back to Washington in October 1988, for display on the Ellipse in front of the White House, it numbered 8,288 panels, and the featured names were read aloud by celebrities, politicians, and loved ones. By 1992 it had panels from every state and 28 countries. The quilt continued to grow, reaching more than 48,00 panels, but it has been displayed in its entirety only five times, all of them at events in Washington; the last display was in October 1996, when the quilt covered the entire National Mall.Afterwards, an additional 1,00 panels were added, and these were displayed again on the Ellipse in 2004 in observance of National HIV Testing Day. Since 1987 over 14 million people have visited the quilt at thousands of displays. It was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989; "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt" won the Oscar for best documentary film that same year. It is the largest community art project in the world.
    Andrew Sullivan recorded his impressions of the quilt in 1992: "Its geography is a kind of chaotic living room in which the unkempt detritus of human beings—their jeans, photographs, glasses, sneakers, letters—are strewn on the ground, as if expecting the people to whom they belonged to return.... The panels themselves are tacky and vital, and therefore more chilling: you are invited to grieve over faded Streisand albums, college pennants, grubby bathrobes, cheesy Hallmark verses, and an endless battery of silk-screen ’70s kitsch. Some panels are made by lovers, others by parents, friends, even children of the dead; and some are made by those whose names appear on them and speak with uncanny candor. “Life’s A Bitch And Then You Die,” quips one. Even the names themselves rebel against any attempt to regiment them. In the program, some people are identified with full names, others with first names, others with nicknames.... You cannot recapture what this horizontal cathedral meant for people at the time it was created and on the occasions when it was displayed. Official America created no monument; this one was a folk explosion of talent and grief. To see it now is to be struck by history; to see it then was to be riven by grief and terror. But it’s that very combination of power and weakness that makes it such a living monument. It spans the universal and the very specific. It memorializes a catastrophe that many at the time saw as God’s punishment. And it is yet utterly unashamed. And in that way, it wasn’t and isn’t just a memorial; it was also a symbol of a growing civil rights movement, its penetration of every corner of America, and its encounter with mass death."


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