The AIDS Memorial Quilt has returned to San Francisco for its largest showing in over a decade. A part of the Names Project Foundation, each quilt, made by loved ones of the deceased, is twelve-by-twelve feet and constructed of three-by-six feet panels — sized to reflect the length and width of a grave.
Kelly Rivera Hart, a volunteer with the project, said it aims to put a name and a history to the victims of AIDS, driving home the reality of the epidemic.
“There’s a thinking to this day that AIDS is only a gay disease, or it’s only for people in Africa or Russia or India, and that’s not true,” Rivera said. “It’s a virus that is transmitted through blood or through body liquids, no matter who you are.”
San Francisco LGBT groups that contributed to the quilt include the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and the San Francisco Gay Softball League.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence designed a giant sun, with the names of past sisters written on the rays, some intentionally left blank in recognition of the virus’ continued effect on the community.
Gert McMullin, one of the original volunteers and quilt-sewers, said the project has always been about activism as much as it is about memorial.
“At first we were making the panels so that we could lay our dead down in front of the White House, so that they would do something about it,” McMullin said.
McMullin has personally contributed a panel in remembrance of her close friend, Joey. A letter addressed to him and read at his memorial fills the black fabric, a picture of him placed in a corner. She said the quilt has not necessarily healed her, but it’s helped her move on.
The quilts will be on display at several locations in the Castro through February 20th. Schedule and locations here.