What Have We Learned?

12 Jun

This morning I attended the opening ceremonies for the display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. My friend Marjorie and I arrived at Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park as Quilt co-founder Mike Smith addressed the assembly. The quilt lay in sections, folded, each within a grassy rectangle demarcated by vinyl walkways. The day has been beautiful throughout. The vistas Golden Gate Park affords were particularly sharp today. The gathering was calm, peaceful, reflective. Toward the end of a succession of speakers’ addresses attendants began the ritual of unveiling the quilt sections while the names of those individuals represented by the displayed quilts were spoken. Only six percent of the entire quilt was on display.

“Today, the AIDS Memorial Quilt is an epic 54-ton tapestry that includes nearly 50,000 panels dedicated to more than 110,000 individuals. It is the premiere symbol of the AIDS pandemic, a living memorial to a generation lost to AIDS and an important HIV prevention education tool. With hundreds of thousands of people contributing their talents to making the memorial panels, and tens of thousands of volunteers to help display it, the Quilt is considered the largest community arts project in history.”

As I listened to the names I remembered a past visit to the Washington Mall when the Quilt was on display during the March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights in 1987. Names were also read there. I was able to speak my godfather’s name from the podium during that event as volunteers read portions of the list of names of those who had died of complications from HIV/AIDS.

I also remembered the earliest time when the gay and lesbian community could respond to the unnamed, unknown disease that was killing gay men. I was living in New York. There had not been any formal response from any government, local or national, to address the beginning of this pandemic. Rather, individuals such as myself came together to discuss the care of our afflicted brethren. We met in private homes and mapped out strategies and duties to assist those we knew were sick.

Today Cleve Jones, another co-founder of the Quilt, asked us what had we learned? He spoke to the anger and despair that consumed him during that earliest time. He spoke of the Quilt and its development. Jones reflected on the power of that community-driven response and its legacy. But he reminded us that we learned nothing from this experience. Citing the cultural climate surrounding our response to COVID-19 we have learned nothing at all. He told us how the Quilt has transformed his heart into love and hope. He encouraged us to continue to address HIV/AIDS as it continues to infect and kill, especially in communities of color across the nation, particularly in the Southern states where people have little access to affordable and comprehensive care and live with the stigma of disease.

As Marjorie and I were leaving we stopped at a tent for Kau’aina Associates. Kua’aina seeks to preserve the wisdom of the ancestors through traditional and contemporary arts by assisting indigenous communities with program development and special projects. The woman who spoke to us explained their mission and shared with us various online projects developed to document the experiences of indigenous people and their communities with HIV/AIDS. There were ribbons suspended from a tent display with Post-It notes. Each note contained a handwritten name. Marjorie and I were invited to add the name of a loved one lost from AIDS to their ribbon display. Thus, Marjorie was able to speak her brother’s name today as I was able to speak my godfather’s name, Alfred Garcia.

Quotation source: “The History of the Quilt,” National AIDS Memorial; https://www.aidsmemorial.org/quilt-history

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The Morning After

14 May

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North Beach

11 Apr
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Mission at 16th

11 Apr
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Breath of Air

11 Apr

Visit to Tiersa’s Studio

30 Jan
Views of SFArtsED space during Tiersa Nureyev’s final day of residency.

Those Silly Attempts to Avoid Vaccination

10 Jan
Cant we jus pay the $110?

It’s my bleeding heart liberal impulse to reach out to those who want to pay $110.00 for a four-and-a-half ounce bag of BOO (Black Oxygen Organics) dirt to cure themselves of COVID-19: drink, cook, soak, snort, slather, to paraphrase Brandy Zadrozny. That’s a lot of money. Think of those who cannot afford the price. They may go to extremes to obtain any magic dirt. And we’re not talking pushers at street corners. They may sneak to the perimeter of the magic field wherein BOO once found its miracle cure, apparently next to a toxic dump site.

Brandy Zadrozny, ” ‘Magic dirt’: How the internet fueled, and defeated, the pandemic’s weirdest MLM. Black Oxygen Organics became a sudden hit in the fringe world of alternative medicines and supplements, where even dirt can go for $110 a bag.,” NBC News, December 2, 2021; https://www.nbcnews.com/news/magic-dirt-internet-fueled-defeated-pandemics-weirdest-mlm-rcna6950

Magnetic

28 Nov

Earlier this year I became aware that a strange condition is afflicting people here in the United States who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Joanna Overholt, a registered nurse, explained to the Ohio House of Representatives Health Committee on June 8th that her body was now magnetized. To prove her point she placed a key against her chest. She then tried to demonstrate that it would also stick to her neck. After several failed attempts at securing the key to her neck she asked why she was exhibiting this magnetized condition.

I have been quite distraught since learning about this. After all, I am fully vaccinated but am not exhibiting magnetism. I usually drop my fork, or whatever else I am holding. But I cannot help fearing for these poor souls whose bodies now attract metal. Just consider the danger they must be in. Metal could hit them at any time from any angle. Are there public resources the afflicted could access? Hotlines? Trauma centers? Metal removal offices? Do they no longer sit at the table with family during meals? Must they relocate to houses made of wood or plastic?

Hard as I try, though, I cannot discern this rising affliction within my city environment. I see no signs of magnetization anywhere. So, the problem must exist elsewhere. If, dear reader, you can direct me to an appropriate agency or charity I will do my best to help those afflicted. And, Bryan, if you are reading this, thank you.

Mark Sumner, ”The ‘vaccines make you magnetic’ claims are ridiculous, but the cult of ignorance is terrifying,” Daily Kos, July 14, 2021; https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/7/14/2039822/-The-vaccines-make-you-magnetic-claims-are-ridiculous-but-the-cult-of-ignorance-is-terrifying

Jake Zuckerman, ”She says vaccines make you magnetized. This lawmaker invited her testimony, chair says,” Ohio Capital Journal, July 14, 2021; https://ohiocapitaljournal.com/2021/07/14/she-says-vaccines-make-you-magnetized-this-lawmaker-invited-her-testimony-chair-says/

Get up and go got up and went.

27 Oct
Photograph: Lisa DeCrais.
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Crissy Field

27 Oct