December 1st may be just another day for those who don’t care. It may have fallen on football Sunday where many in this country are simply concerned with the postseason fate of their respective teams. However, for the past twenty-five years it hasn’t simply been just another ordinary mark on the calendar. It has been a date to remember those who have succumbed to the dreaded disease known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS for short.
Many in this country took part in World AIDS Day activities just as they have every year since 1988. HBO even marked the occasion by airing The Battle of AmFar, And The Band Played On and Angles In America. Yet there is another part of the commemoration of the date that is the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at the City College of New York in two locations.
“Somebody at the beginning of this project told me that the quilt is outdated. It’s from another generation. That nobody’s going to understand it”, said James Robinson Chairman of the CUNY LGBT Task Force. “I’ve heard many times that maybe this project isn’t important because we see people living with HIV/AIDS. I’m here to tell you that there are twenty-eight million people dead and there are thirty-six million people living with this virus. Only one in three of them have it under control. That’s startling and that’s important.”
Robinson spoke of the quilt and its relevancy at the City College Division of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Center for Worker Education to kickoff the viewing of the most world renowned fabric. This will mark the first time the quilt will be on display at the school in the thirty-two year history of the campus. In total 600 panels will be on display at the Center for Worker Education in lower Manhattan campus and at the CCNY’s main campus in Harlem. The dual showings will coalesce to form the largest collegiate exhibit according to the Atlanta-based NAMES Project Foundation – the custodian of the quilt. Each individual panel is 3 feet by six feet which is the size of the average adult grave. To put it in a much broader perspective the full quilt is comprised of nearly 50,000 which would take up to thirty-three days to view in its entirety. In addition all fifty states have contributed to its creation.
The Center for Worker Education will have 120 panels for public viewing on its campus from December 3rd to the 4th. CCNY’s Harlem site will have 480 panels housed on its campus in the Great Hall of Shepard Hall December 5th and 6th. In addition to the quilt the CWE also has the artwork of Chrissy Peña on display and for sale. Her collection entitled “The Rhythm of My Colors” along with the quilt are part of the World AIDS Day program put together by the college.
Although the theme of the exhibit it is to remember those who have been lost to HIV/AIDS and acknowledge those living with it the project does stress another very crucial aspect. That is to encourage people to know their status. A message driven home by each person who took the podium at last night’s exhibit opening. To bolster the memo free HIV/AIDS testing and counseling is being provided by GMHC. Safe sex packets were also available for those who attended the event.