Today is World AIDS Day, a day that reminds me of a trip I took to Washington, D.C. more than ten years ago. There are some sights that can only be adequately described in photos or in words–a person has to see them for the full effect. These are the sights that take your breath away. The Grand Canyon, the statue of David and the Names Project Quilt are the three that have moved me the most.
In 1996, when I stepped out of the metro at the Mall and saw the sea of fabric rectangles sewn together into panels that stretched in every direction–each individual panel the size of a grave, I was stunned. Where does one start to take in such loss? I started by looking for my dad’s first cousin who had died of AIDS. My father’s cousin did have a panel that friends of his had made for him. Among the sea were several friends of my brother’s as well.
Even though the Names Quilt has grown in size beyond the boundaries of the Mall–it’s currently made up of 40,000 panels– it’s possible to see sections of it throughout the year. Here’s a link to the list of current locations where parts of the quilt are on display. Most states have at least one location.
You can also visit the The NAMES Project Foundation headquarters in Atlanta where it’s possible to view specific sections of the quilt if you contact the foundation ahead of time.
Until you’re able to see part of the quilt in person, here’s a tribute I came across. The song “The Morning Train” sung by Kickin Grass Band reminds me of southeastern Kentucky where another cousin–my mother’s first cousin, is buried in the family cemetery. He also died of AIDS.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. A friend of mine lost a dear friend to AIDS this year. So did my cousin. I don’t know if someone has made a quilt panel for either of them, but panels continue to be made each year and added to this body of work. Perhaps, in your travels you will come across a section of the quilt. Although the quilt is too large to be displayed in any one place, sections of it are sent to various locations so they can be viewed by the public. Some displays may include only a few panels, while others are enormous.
With World AIDS Day tomorrow, here is a tribute thanks to a YouTube video by David Viney Birmingham that presents a brief history of the Names Project and a montage of various panels.
One of the activities I enjoyed the most when I lived in Singapore was volunteering for Action for AIDS, the main AIDS organization there. It’s the only organization in Singapore that provides anonymous HIV testing. I wrote articles for their magazine and was a counselor who did intake interviews, signing up people up for an AIDS test if they wanted one–or just answering their questions.
One World AIDS Day, I helped pass out candles to those who came to participate in a candlelight vigil. Back then, there were about 250 people who gathered near Orchard Road for a service that paid tribute to those Singaporeans who had died of AIDS. As a person not from there, I did not feel like an outsider at all. Actually, this was the one place I felt I was engaged in the fabric of Singaporean life. One of my fondest memories was sitting at KFC after a meeting talking with other volunteers while sharing french fries.
Like many large cities, it is easy to live in Singapore and skim across the daily occurances. It is possible to go for weeks without talking to one person outside the realm of the people you have to talk with. This is not a place where people chat it up with strangers while riding on a bus. Observing is more of the norm.
With Action AIDS I belonged. Perhaps, it was because this group of people were also on the outside because of their activities. The Singaporean government had just begun to acknowledge that AIDS had something to do with Singapore, as well as the rest of Asia. In Changi Airport, billboards went up beseaching businessmen to remember their families when they were away. I heard more than a couple stories of women who became infected by a wayward spouse.
So, here it is. Another World’s AIDS Day is almost here. Instead of a candlelight vigil, this year Action for AIDS is sponsoring an AIDS Walk and a Flirt Party on December 2. There are other events listed on the calendar.
I came across this blog by Peter, an American who was living in Singapore at the time of his post. The Singaporean response to AIDS is something he is interested in.
December 1st is recognized as World AIDS Day and as a traveler of this great big planet I saw it fit to post a short something on the deadly epidemic which has killed 25 million people to date according to the United Nations. Yahoo News has an article that summarizes the very basics on areas with high HIV numbers, how you can lend a in helping eliminate AIDS or find a cure. Fighting the battle against HIV/AIDS doesn’t have to involve a coach class flight into Africa to help and teach orphans or teens about the disease, you can start right here, right now, where ever you are. I think many Americans are starting to discover AIDS is hitting a lot closer to home than they previously thought. Wake up and be smart folks. That’s my word and now I’m off to the Red Hot & Riot show at Brooklyn Academy of Music.
When I read the news on the Red Hot & Riot Live concert going down at the Brooklyn Academy of Music next weekend, December 1 & 2, I nearly flipped my wig. With a friend of mine leaving for Africa today to play in a series of concerts (one of which includes a World AIDS Day show) and this too-good-to-be-true-to-believe concert line-up right in Brooklyn I could barely contain myself. Not only will my friend and I be connected in spirit by an echoing drum beat moving waves across oceans, we’ll be celebrating and contributing what little we can to help the AIDS situation in Africa and locally. I can’t speak on the details of the show my pal will be performing at only because I do not know, but I can share with you all that I know about the one going down at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Performers for the two-night event include Tony Allen, Amadou & Mariam Cheikh Lo, Dead Prez, Keziah Jones, Les Nubians, Meshell Ndegeocello and Yerba Buena. Created as a tribute to the late Fela Kuti and Afrobeat music, the two nights of music will bring acclaimed African artists together with a younger generation of international artists in addition to raising HIV/AIDS awareness in the community. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the African Services Committee. The organization is NY based and promotes the health and self-sufficiency of local African and Caribbean immigrant communities through the provision of HIV/AIDS care and support services. In other words you’ll want to be there if your calendar happens to be bare on December 1 and/or 2, 2006. I’ll be in the building both nights.