October 11: AIDS Memorial Quilt (1987)

The Quilt is a powerful visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic. Today, more than 48,000 individual 3-by-6-foot memorial panels — most commemorating the life of someone who has died of AIDS — have been sewn together by friends, lovers and family members. The Quilt was conceived in 1985 by long-time San Francisco gay-rights activist Cleve Jones. While planning the 1985 annual candlelight march, Jones learned that over 1,000 San Franciscans had been lost to AIDS. He asked each of his fellow marchers to write on placards the names of friends and loved ones who had died of AIDS. At the end of the march, Jones and others stood on ladders taping these placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. The wall of names looked like a patchwork quilt. Inspired by this sight, Jones and friends made plans for a larger memorial. A little over a year later, he created the first panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. In June of 1987, Jones teamed up with Mike Smith and several others to formally organize the NAMES Project Foundation.

On October 11, 1987, the Quilt was displayed for the first time on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It covered a space larger than a football field and included 1,920 panels. Half a million people visited the Quilt that weekend. In the accompanying photo, Epiphany’s panel can be seen in the upper right hand corner and surrounding panels for parishioners including Larry Smith, David Pickford, and Stephen Scott. Today there are NAMES Project chapters across the United States and independent Quilt affiliates around the world. Since 1987, over 14 million people have visited the Quilt at thousands of displays worldwide. Through such displays, the NAMES Project Foundation has raised over $3 million for AIDS service organizations throughout North America. The Quilt remains the largest community art project in the world. A memorial, a tool for education and a work of art, the Quilt is a unique creation, an uncommon and uplifting response to the tragic loss of human life

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