All 50,000+ panels of the 32-year-old AIDS Memorial Quilt are back in the Bay Area, and San Francisco’s largest-ever display of these tear-jerking memoriams will be rolled out April 3-5.
Could anything possibly restrain our joy over a 150-Foot Ferris Wheel Coming to Golden Gate Park to help celebrate the park’s 150th anniversary this April? Yes, there is one attraction that will make everyone cry very hard, roughly 2,500 feet away from where the ferris wheel will be situated. If you’ve ever seen bits of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt at events like the AIDS Walk, you’ve probably broken down sobbing at the touching and extremely personal stories each hand-sewn quilt tells. Those displays are just small pieces of the quilt, and there are now more than 50,000 panels to the overall AIDS Quilt project. And the Examiner reports that the largest-ever San Francisco AIDS Quilt display will also be part of the park’s sesquicentennial “Everybody’s Park” commemoration (April 3-5), as the quilt is nearing completion of its recent permanent relocation to the San Francisco Bay Area.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt was conceived in 1985 by Cleve Jones (seen above), but the nearly 2,000 panels coming to the park will more highlight the recent additions — that is, the more recent victims of the HIV/AIDS virus. “By highlighting the most recent panels, we hope to show the current state of HIV deaths and remind the nation of the ongoing and immediate toll that AIDS is taking today, nearly 40 years after this scourge began,” Jones said at a Tuesday press conference.
So the entire AIDS Quilt will not be on display a la the 1987 Washington DC National Mall display, but 2,000 panels is more than has ever been assembled in this city. The quilt has been fully displayed a couple of times in DC since then, most recently in 2012, but its full-time home has been a warehouse in Atlanta. Yet we learned last November that the whole quilt would be returning to the Bay Area, all 54 tons of it, and kept in a warehouse in San Leandro.
“With the Quilt now back home in the Bay Area, it is possible to display its panels as part of events like Everybody’s Park,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. “This is where the Quilt belongs, on display in public, memorializing lives lost and inspiring us to do the work to get to zero new HIV infections and zero HIV-related deaths. Many thanks and congratulations to the National AIDS Memorial and all those who made the Quilt’s return possible.”
According to the Bay Area Reporter, Cleve Jones was also Nancy Pelosi’s guest at last month’s State of the Union address (which you remember for other reasons). Jones went off on the experience in the above Facebook post, probably pissing off the one of the Quilt’s biggest current corporate benefactors. He ends the above tirade by saying “ I felt a chill and sense of doom deep within my bones. This is Gilead,” a reference to where the Handmaid’s Tale takes place. This could not have pleased Gilead Sciences, the Foster City-based pharmaceutical company that developed PrEP and kicked down $2.4 million for the Quilt’s relocation and maintenance.
If you want to get to know the Quilt a little better before April, Microsoft has developed an AIDS Quilt Touch online tool on which all 50,000+ panels have been digitized.
Image: AIDS Quilt Touch