Action for AIDS Committee hosted a free viewing of the AIDS Memorial Quilt from Monday, World AIDS Day, through yesterday in Emerson Suites in the hopes of bringing a greater awareness to the disease and educate viewers on being a voice for people who don’t have a voice.
The exhibit was meant to educate viewers about the issue of AIDS as an epidemic and inspire them to take a closer look at their sexual decisions.
Erica Shockley, acting assistant director for New Student Programs, said the quilt allowed interaction with viewers. Spectators walked around the quilt and could interact with it by opening sections to read what contributors had written about their loved ones lost to AIDS.
“The quilt in nature is about celebrating, it is about hope, and it is about remembrance,” Shockley said. “Obviously, it is about people who have passed away from AIDS, but the reason why the quilt exists is because people are celebrating these individuals’ lives.”
This was the 11th year that the quilt had been brought to Ithaca College by the Action for AIDS group. The committee must first apply and then fundraise, have a
co-sponsorship or use money set aside in the budget to receive the quilt each year. The college only receives 16 of 46,000 panels that make up the entire quilt because of space constraints. The panels are sent from Atlanta, where the 18-football-fields long and 52-ton quilt is stored.
“They trust us with these beautiful pieces of art, which is just an honor,” Shockley said.
The quilt was first displayed in Washington, D.C., in 1987 after Cleve Jones, a gay rights activist, and others looked behind them during a march as they were walking away from the Federal Building and saw what looked like a quilt. It was cardboard taped on the wall with names of friends who had died from AIDS.
Today, the quilt has 91,000 names, which represent 17.5 percent of all U.S. AIDS deaths. The NAMES Project Foundation has raised more than $3 million. The quilt is still growing, and anyone can create a panel at no cost because the foundation thrives on donations.
Sophomore Tara Baron, co-president of AIDS Aware, said the quilt is an education tool. She said it was an event everyone should experience because it affects people’s lives every day whether they know it or not.
“There isn’t a presentation, and you don’t have to talk to anybody,” Baron said. “A lot of people think it is an intimidating presentation, and it is really not … it is very moving.”
Shockley said students came in and supported the event because not only is AIDS a global issue, but it’s a way to teach students to be responsible in their own lives.
“It is really important while you’re getting this education that you understand how you can use your skills, in whatever major you’re in, to be that voice, to be that educational leader in your community,” Shockley said.
After walking around the panels, freshman Jessica Hulse said the stories and pictures of those who had died from AIDS influenced her. She said she now feels more appreciative of her life.
“[The exhibit is] really powerful when they were reading the names, and it makes you realize that a lot of people are affected,” Hulse said.
As viewers walked around the room viewing the panels made up of items like pieces of jeans, cookies, first-place ribbons, car keys and human hair, the names of the people represented on the quilt are read.
“What really gets me is how much love goes into the quilt,” Baron said. “In the end it isn’t about the disease. It is about the person.”
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