Honoring African-Americans Lost to AIDS

The AIDS Memorial Quilt stretches more than 50 miles. But as of last year, only about half a mile of the quilt represented African-Americans who’ve been lost to HIV/AIDS. That’s now changing, thanks to members of the Black Brothers Esteem (BBE) program at San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Program participants are putting the final touches on a new quilt panel that honors 32 BBE members who’ve passed away. Each person is represented as a phoenix rising from the flames.

Not only does the panel pay tribute to those who’ve died, it also brings awareness to the greater African-American community’s work to ignite change and address the disproportionate burden of HIV/AIDS.

Close to 30 members of BBE have donated their time and talents to make the quilt—many of them learning to sew so they could contribute to the project. Once the panel is done, it will be part of the large-scale exhibitions of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. It will also travel around the country as part of smaller displays that are used at educational, historical, and awareness events.

“Of all the projects we’ve done, this definitely ranks as one of the most meaningful,” said Micah Lubensky, community organizing manager for BBE. “Creating the quilt has been extremely meaningful for our participants. There’s an enormous sense of pride and connection that comes from honoring people we’ve lost in the past. This project has strengthened our community and reinvigorated discussions about HIV.”

“This type of project speaks to the holistic aspects of health that we promote,” said Lubensky. “Everyone on the panel had HIV, but not all of them died from the disease. Some died from substance use or suicide because they were feeling the impacts of depression, isolation, or poverty. So when we do community-building projects like this, it reminds people of the importance of staying connected and staying on top of your health.”

Below is a slideshow of BBE participants creating the quilt.


Let the Brothers know what you think of their quilt panel! Share words of encouragement in the comments below...

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