BY MELANIE RAIBLE
To celebrate LGBT History Month, Salisbury University is hosting a section of The AIDS Memorial Quilt. Throughout the month of October, the quilt will be located in the Guerrieri Academic Commons across from the Library Service Desk.
SU was able to display the quilt thanks to the partnership of SU Libraries’ Diversity & Inclusion Committee, SU student organizations LGBTQ+ Alliance, Sexual Health and Advocacy Group (SHAG) and Sexuality and Gender Awareness (SAGA).
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is a tribute to the men and women who have died from AIDS and is a way for people to understand the devastating impact of the disease. This particular section of the quilt was created by the Women Prisoners of F.C.I. in Danbury, CT in 1996.
On October 5th, a reception was hosted by SU Libraries’ Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which allowed students and the public to discuss the history and the importance of The AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Angeline Prichard, SU Libraries’ Diversity & Inclusion Committee Chairman, described the history of the quilt.
“In 1865, activist Cleve Jones came up with the idea of the AIDS Quilt. He was attending a march in honor of Harvey Milk, who had been assassinated for being the first openly gay politician in California in 1978,” said Prichard. “Jones had become aware of how many people died from AIDS and wanted to create a memorial to remember them.”
Prichard then went onto explain that while planning for the march, Jones had learned that more than 1,000 people in California had been lost to AIDS. In their honor, he asked his fellow marchers to write down the names of those lost on placards and carry the cards with them through the march.
At the end of the march, Jones and other participants taped the placards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. When looking at the finished walls, Jones began to see a resemblance to a patchwork quilt. It was this vision which created the idea for the notorious AIDS Memorial Quilt.
People from all over the United States have donated handmade panels to the quilt. Today it consists of 49,000 panels, with over 97,000 names of loved ones who have died as a result of the disease. The quilt weighs over 54 tons, and if every panel were laid out end to end, the length of the quilt would extend over 51 miles.
This quilt is a symbol of hardship and strength and of loss and love. The display of this quilt on SU’s campus can help family members and friends impacted by AIDS know they are not alone.
Camaren Rogers, a student attending the event, has personal connections to people who have battled AIDS disease.
“A few of my family members have battled HIV and AIDS and I’m glad that it’s still an issue that’s being talked about,” Rogers said. “The AIDS Memorial Quilt is so special because it shows the amount of people who have been impacted by AIDS, and gives me comfort knowing I’m not the only one who has lost loved ones from this disease.”
In addition to showing support for those impacted by AIDS, it also increases awareness that HIV/AIDS is still an ongoing issue.
Senior Danielle York, vice president of SU’s LGBTQ+ Alliance, explained why SU chose to feature part of the quilt.
“I think that having this piece of history at SU is so important because it really reminds students about the effects that AIDS can have,” York said. “A lot of people aren’t aware of how common this disease actually is, and this is a good way of educating people on the reality behind AIDS.”
The LGBTQ+ Alliance has many upcoming events for the month and urges everyone to attend.
“Attending these events is a great way to show your support to the LGBTQ+ community,” York said. “Our student organization isn’t huge on campus, and I’m hoping these events will encourage more people to join.”
Some of the upcoming events include a bake sale, a motivational seminar and a drag show put on by students focused on teaching the history of drag.
If you can’t make it to any of these events, try and find time to check out The AIDS Memorial Quilt, which will be displayed until Oct. 31.