Square # 18: Donít Let AIDS Make You A Memory
In 1987, a group of strangers met in San Francisco in hope to make a memorial for those lost to AIDS and help people understand what AIDS was doing. This meeting served as the foundation for the NAMES project AIDS Memorial Quilt. The Quilt was started in 1985 by a gay rights activist named Cleve Jones. He helped organize the candlelight marches for two gay men who were assassinated. While Jones was planning the march, he learned that over 1,000 San Franciscans had died from AIDS. He asked his fellow marchers to write the names of people they had known who had died from AIDS. After the march, they hung the placards on the San Francisco Federal building. The names looked like a patchwork quilt. Inspired, Jones and his friends started to make a panel. A year later he had created a panel for his friend Marvin Feldman. In 1987, he teamed up with Mike Smith and began the NAMES project AIDS Memorial Quilt.
In October 1987 the quilt was displayed for the first time in Washington D.C. It contained 1,920 panels and over half a million people came to see it. The response led to a twenty city tour of the U.S. The tour raised nearly $500,000. More than 9,000 volunteers helped on the tour. In each city panels were added making the total number of panels over 6,000 by the end of the tour. A year later the quilt returned to Washington D.C. with 8,288 panels. The reading of names is now a tradition followed at nearly every Quilt display. The next year, a second tour occurred adding nineteen new cities. In October of that year the quilt returned to Washington D.C. By 1992, the AIDS Memorial Quilt included panels from every state and 28 countries. In October 1992, the entire Quilt returned to Washington, D.C. The last display of the entire AIDS Memorial Quilt was in October of 1996. The Quilt covered the entire National Mall in Washington, D.C.
There are now 50 NAMES project chapters in the U.S. and 36 Quilt affiliates in the world. 13 million people have visited the Quilt all over the world since 1987. The NAMES project has raised over 3 million dollars for AIDS. The quilt has only been seen in its entirety in Washington D.C. dung the years on 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, and 1996. The quilt today is 792,000 square feet and weighs more than 50 tons. It has 44,000 panels and over 83,000 names on the quilt. Since the quilt is so large and continues to grow, the quilt wonít be displayed in its entirety again. Yet they continue to send the panels to different areas and hope the word about AIDS will be spread and help prevent future cases.