I just saw a clip about The Names Project as the quilt is being installed in Washington, DC. I immediately knew I would have to share it with you all. This is a clip shot by Aram Vartian and featuring Ebone Bell, both of whom I met while they were hard at work on the last Tom Goss Video, for "It's All Over".
Watching this reminded me of a time not that long ago, when I found a bunch of pictures in a shoebox, and then catching my breath. When I went to the original showing of the Names Project in 1987, I did not bring my camera. It was a trip to participate in the National March on Washington for Gay & Lesbian Rights. That is when I saw it. Spread across the mall, there was what seemed like miles of fabric set up in a symmetrical pattern, a beautiful patchwork quilt. People were wondering around, looking at individual 'patches.' I knew what it was, but the sheer size was jolting, at first so pretty, a beautiful quilt the quilting bee had been working on together. but then just jarring that so many had died to make this beauty happen. I returned in 1989, with friends and feeling much better prepared for what I would see. I brought a camera, and captured these pictures you find on this page. And still today, over 20 years later, they still give me pause, and can bring a tear to my eye.
The Names Project was started by Cleve Jones, based on something he noticed when organizing an annual march for Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in San Francisco. As more people were claimed by AIDS, he started asking people to make placards of those who had passed and hang them on a wall of the Federal Building. He thought it looked like a quilt once the names were hung. From that sprung The Names Project, and the Quilt. For more information about the Names Project, to donate, host a display, or submit a square, click here.