Panels to the people

In November of 1985, Cleve Jones, a San Francisco gay rights activist, helped organize an annual candlelight march honoring gay city leaders. During the planning, Jones found that over 1,000 San Franciscans had lost their lives to AIDS.

As a memorial, he asked each of the marchers to carry a card bearing the names of friends and loved ones that had died of AIDS. At the end of the march, Jones and others taped the cards to the walls of the San Francisco Federal Building. Standing from a distance, Jones realized the wall of names looked like a patchwork quilt.

Inspired, Jones gathered with some friends to make plans for a larger memorial. Not more than a year later, the first quilt panel was created. By June of 1987, the NAMES Project Foundation was formally organized. That October, the quilt was displayed for the first time at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

Inspired by the NAMES Project, the USF community is striving to remember the victims of AIDS as well. Since its conception in 1997, the USF Committee on HIV/AIDS has sponsored an AIDS memorial quilt display to educate the campus community about the epidemic and to bring attention to the matter in a symbolic way.

“It’s a way to appreciate and pay tribute to the people who are living with, have died or are affected by the disease,” said Penny Phillips, event organizer and Human Resources employee relations coordinator. Phillips came across the NAMES Project while doing research for her master’s degree in communications.

This year, instead of the customary live program and quilt dedication ceremony, the committee is holding an event to find adoptive homes for each panel.

The event is part of the Adopt-A-Panel Project, which was created to make the panels more visible in the community.

“Instead of having more panels made, we’re displaying the remaining (ones) for adoption,” said Phillips. “Hundreds of hours have been put into making them, and it’s important that they have a safe place for others to see them.”

During the past four years, students and employees all over campus have joined together to design and create 3-by-6-foot panels for the quilt.

Currently, panels are on display throughout the campus. The bookstore alone displays 16 panels, with individual ones exhibited at other locations. Among the current adoptive homes are the Center for Urban Transportation and Research, the School of Social Work and the USF Card Center.

Several pieces have also been sent off-campus as well. Recently, the Hillsborough Health Care Unit acquired 97 panels and, within the last month, St. Joseph’s Hospital adopted another six.

Of the 123 panels created for the USF AIDS Memorial Quilt, almost 50 are still available for adoption.

Because World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) fell on a Saturday, the USF Committee on AIDS/HIV scheduled the adoption event for today. After a few words of dedication at noon, the panels will be displayed to prospective “parents” until 2 p.m. at MLK plaza. Several health organizations will also be present at the event, handing out condoms and educational pamphlets.

Phillips said she is hoping for eager homes for the panels still needing adoption. She said that many campus organizations have contacted her, inquiring about adoption, finding that their own past members have created a panel during previous events.

“Once they get the list and see their name on it,” she said, “they decide right away to adopt it.”

The committee only asks that the panels be displayed in a secure location where they can be easily seen. Metal rods are included with the panels; those wishing to adopt must supply the hooks and chains for hanging.

For additional information about the Adopt-A-Panel Project, contact Penny Phillips in Human Resources at (813) 974-5703.

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