The National AIDS Memorial Quilt definitely returns to San Francisco

This week, 35 years ago, Mike Smith and his friends, Cleve Jones and Gert McMullin, were tired of reading the headlines about other friends dying of AIDS in San Francisco’s Castro District.

Their fueled anger and fear sparked a decision to write down the names of their deceased friends, tag their stories, and post them on the Federal Building in San Francisco. The squares resembled a quilt, and thus the AIDS Memorial Quilt was born.

Part of the National AIDS Memorial Quilt is laid out in Golden Gate Park at Robin Williams Meadow. Featuring 3,000 panels, it’s the largest screen in San Francisco.

“Remember names, remember lives,” said Kevin Herglotz, executive director of the National AIDS Memorial. “Remember what this pandemic was about. We never want to forget the more than 700,000 deaths in the United States due to AIDS.”

“It forced a lot of us into action,” Smith said. “Fear of being forgotten by our government and being left for dead.”

After a 20-year stint in Atlanta, quilting now lives in the Bay Area.

“The outbreak has moved less into the gay community and more into the African-American community and the South,” Smith said. “We wanted the quilt to continue to be relevant.”

Homecoming plans were originally slated for early 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced delays. San Francisco leaders say they’re thrilled to finally bring him home.

“I am really proud that we continue to do this and to fight where we get to this point where not one more life, not one more is lost because of HIV-AIDS, said the mayor of San Francisco, London Breed. “

The signs will remain in Golden Gate Park until Sunday afternoon; the organizers will begin the closing ceremonies around 4 p.m.

Organizers say that in 35 years they have raised awareness but until there is a cure and a vaccine the job is far from done.

“Our work promoting AIDS awareness will continue,” Brown said. “It has to continue.”

About Dwaine Pinson

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