For Immediate Release
ATLANTA (August 20, 2022) – The National AIDS Memorial is bringing sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to communities throughout the Southern U.S to highlight and honor Black and Brown and lives lost to HIV and AIDS as part of Change the Pattern, a new initiative to reimagine the response to the epidemic in the region.
Partnering with Southern AIDS Coalition, the multi-city initiative will address opportunities to take action and support communities in the fight to end the southern epidemic. Funded by a $2.4 million grant by Gilead Sciences, Change the Pattern will focus on reaching, engaging and sharing the experiences of marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS. The program will bring an opportunity for learning through immersive Quilt displays, educational programming, advocacy and quilt-making.
“The National AIDS Memorial is honored to partner with Southern AIDS Coalition and Gilead Sciences to bring the Quilt to the South as a touchstone to actively engage communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS,” said CEO John Cunningham. “By creating an empowering message and safe spaces for conversation, we can uplift, inspire, and make progress toward ending the HIV epidemic, challenge cultural stigmas, and continue the legacy of advocacy that the Quilt represents.”
The first major Change the Pattern Quilt display will take place in Jackson, Mississippi from September 28 to October 4 with a week of free events and programs drawing multigenerational audiences for community activities and fellowship. More than 500 hand-stitched Quilt panels, many from the local area, will be displayed for the first time at various locations in Jackson and surrounding communities. It will be the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt ever in the state.
Accompanying the Quilt displays will be powerfully curated stories that share the love, remembrance, pain, and celebration sewn within each panel from the Black, Latinx, Indigenous and Trans communities, providing historical reflections on the issues of stigma that still persist today in the long struggle for health and social justice in the South.
“Just as the Quilt was founded thirty-five years ago as a visual representation of the need to end stigma and provide equitable resources to communities most impacted by HIV and AIDS, Change the Pattern is a call to action and change in the South,” said Dafina Ward, Executive Director of Southern AIDS Coalition. “Quilt-making has such a deep cultural connection in the Black community and in the South. We recognize that the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS on our communities is woven together by systemic injustices and historic wrongs that must be corrected. The sharing and telling of these powerful stories through the Quilt, coupled with advocacy and open dialogue, can help end HIV-related stigma and bring the stories of those we’ve lost to light.”
The Change the Pattern initiative was announced in honor of Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day during the Southern AIDS Coalition’s annual Saving Ourselves Symposium (SOS), a conference attended by hundreds of attendees from across the South and focused on the Black LGBTQ+ community. Nearly 100 Quilt panels were on display and attendees participated in quilt-making workshops to make new Quilt panels representing their loved ones.
During the conference, the National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition joined Gilead in announcing that as part of Change the Pattern, interested Southern-based organizations will be invited to apply for funding to support local quilt-making workshops in their communities to ensure that the legacies of stories of Black and Brown lives lost are captured through newly-sewn panels on the Quilt through the Memorial’s Call My Name program. The application process will open September 15, 2022, with up to 35 eligible organizations receiving up to $5,000 to support hosting local workshops.
Dr. Shanell McGoy, Director of Corporate Giving at Gilead Sciences, who attended the SOS conference and helped make a Quilt panel during one of the quilt-making workshops said, “Gilead is so proud to support this innovative program that will use the Quilt as a powerful teaching tool and connector to raise greater awareness and help change these statistics. To end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we must continue to examine new ways to reach and actively engage communities that continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV.”
The statistics speak to the importance of the Change the Pattern initiative in the South. In 2020, the South comprised 38% of the U.S. population but represented over half (52%) of new HIV diagnoses. According to AIDSVu, the disproportionate burden of HIV in the South is experienced among certain populations, such as Black women, Black and Latinx gay and bisexual men, and Black and Latinx transgender women. Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee rank in the top 15 with the highest rates of HIV in the country. Racism, HIV stigma, homophobia, poverty, and barriers to health care continue to drive these disparities.
In the coming weeks, the National AIDS Memorial and Southern AIDS Coalition will announce additional Quilt displays, programming, and Quilt-making workshops in these states and other southern communities most impacted by HIV today. More details and information can be found at www.changethepattern.org.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is considered the largest community arts project in the world, now surpassing 50,000 individually sewn panels with more than 110,000 names stitched into its 54 tons of fabric that honors lives lost to AIDS. Its first panels were created 35 years ago when a group of strangers, led by gay rights activist Cleve Jones, gathered in a San Francisco storefront to document the lives they feared history would forget. This meeting of devoted friends, lovers and activists would serve as the foundation for The NAMES Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt. Each panel made measured 3 ft by 6 ft, the size of a human grave. They saw the Quilt as an activist tool to push the government into taking action to end the epidemic. In 2020, the National AIDS Memorial became the permanent steward of the Quilt. Learn more at www.aidsmemorial.org.