Family, it’s your favorite queer radio personality Anna DeShawn with our queer news for today. Now, I want to make you a promise. We will continue to bring you the latest in queer news, culture, and politics . So, if you are digging our intersectional take on the daily, consider joining the QCrew.
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Okay, now let’s get into this special edition.
Now family, you all remember back in June when the QCrew funded me to cover the 35th anniversary of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in San Francisco. I was blown away by your willingness to support this work. The financial gifts of the QCrew afforded me the opportunity to see the quilt up close and personal for the very first time. There are so many moments of that trip that I could share and I will in a podcast to drop on World AIDS Day which is December 1st. Feel free to put a reminder in your phone right now because it’s going to be good. But when I was on the lawn in San Francisco, walking in the aisles of the quilt and I do mean aisles as there were 350 blocks laid out which represented 3,000 panels. 3,000 stories of people who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS, and listening to the soundtrack of the names being read & understanding that the average age of a person on the quilt is 33, understanding that each panel quilt is 6×3 roughly the size of a coffin, telling a story of remembrance through art and words. There was a deep emotional response that came over my entire body. Tears just began to drop because when you walk through a display of the AIDS quilt you understand it is more than the largest community arts project ever in the world. You understand that it transcends needle and thread. As the manager of the Call My Name project, Jada Harris, likes to say. There is quilt magic. And I know this for sure because I have experienced it.
Now the Call My Name project exists in an effort to honor the Black lives lost to HIV/AIDS and I could explain it but I think it’s way better coming from Jada herself. Take a listen family. That’s right. We pour libations. We have altars. We honor our ancestors. We quilt. The Call My Name project was the magnet that drew me to cover the quilt display in San Francisco and now through funding from Gilead Sciences the quilt is going on tour in the South. This tour is called “Change the Pattern” and it kicked off in Jackson, Mississippi at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and guess who was there. Now for real, guess. Fresh off her first Emmy win, Sheryl Lee Ralph. I got to meet the legend that is Sheryl Lee Ralph. Now, Sheryl Lee has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS for over 30 years with her organization the Divas Foundation. She walked to the mic with her very own panel she curated behind her and she did this. Ohhh can we talk about the chills and y’all know she wasn’t done right. Just take a listen.
Now, the quilt wasn’t just on display in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. It could be seen throughout Jackson as well; at the Jackson the medical mall, Jackson State University’s Student Center, Craftsman’s Guild, the Jackson Welcome Center & the Capital Pride celebrations. Also, let me note that Jackson wasn’t the only city in Mississippi where folks could see the quilt. It was also in Hattiesburg and Greenville. Of course making it the largest display of the quilt in Mississippi history.
Now you may be asking why Mississippi. Why the South? So a couple little known facts. The South comprises 38% of the U.S. population but get this it represents over half, yes over half at 52% of all new HIV diagnoses. Hmm mm let me drop another on you. Out of the 17 states defined as being in the South by the U.S. Census; 13 of them have HIV-Specific Criminal Laws or Statutes on the books & 11 of them have actually prosecuted people for living with HIV. HIV Criminalization is still real. I’m sharing these stats because you need to know. I didn’t know. We all need to know that we still have a long way to go before we see zero new infections because how did we go from San Francisco in 1981 to the South in 2022? How did we get here? Now I’m going to dig into that more during that podcast I was telling you about. The one dropping on World AIDS Day, December 1st. Hmm, the one you’ve put a reminder in your phone to listen too. That one. I’m digging into those very questions with thought leaders from around the country and specifically in the South.
The week-long celebration of “Change the Pattern” was powerful. It was even lamented with a Jackson proclamation that September 28-October 4 is Change the Pattern Week. The people doing this work are warriors and I can’t wait to tell more of their stories. I can’t wait for you to hear their stories. The Executive Director of the Southern AIDS Coalition, Dafina Ward, who is the truth period with a “t” said “We can’t just talk about HIV to end HIV”. We have to change the pattern in all facets that affect Black life. Family, we have to change the pattern.
Y’all know I always end the podcast with a word. Well today the word is coming from Sheryl Lee and a song that was born during that week and led by HIV advocate LS. If you know the song, sing along or humm to yourself if you’re out in the streets. If you don’t know it you will by the time it ends. Till next time family, peace.