July 24, 2012
On June 10 I received a brief email from Lawrence L. Denson, Ph.D., informing the members of Men Of Color in Motion (a psycho-social spiritual support group) in Atlanta that a quilt in honor of Richard Anderson, the group founder, is being created for display during the 2012 International AIDS Conference. The message went on to say: "If you are interested and available to assist with this endeavor a representative from The NAMES Project Foundation will meet us on Wednesday, June 13th from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m." The message included the regal black and white photograph of Richard Anderson.
I began to cry tears of both joy and sorrow. Richard touched my life as he did many other Brothers who came to sit in the circle of support every Thursday for nearly a decade. When I lived in Atlanta or was just visiting the city I always knew where I could go to find love, respect, freedom, support and a comforting word. With a candle lit in the center of the circle unbroken, breathing in love and breathing out the stresses of the outside world, each of us would have time to check-in and share exactly what state of mind we were in at that very moment.
We gathered that Thursday with Stephanie B. Laster (artist, craftsperson, HIV educator and Call My Name workshop leader) and together began to create a quilt that would represent the man we all loved. The time we shared with Stephanie was just not enough so I took the quilt with me so that other hands of friends and artists (Henry Leonard, Sammie Nicely and Roderick Moore) could fully bring the quilt to life. After these artists and I embellished the quilt with fabric that was Richard's, cowry shells and love, I returned to The NAMES Project Foundation headquarters in Atlanta seven days later to submit the quilt to honor Richard's life.
Call My Name (CMN) is a program designed to draw attention to a public health crisis by fostering the creation of new panels for The AIDS Memorial Quilt made by African Americans in honor of their friends, family and community members who have died of AIDS.
With the introduction of The AIDS Memorial Quilt, The NAMES Project redefined the tradition of quilt making in response to contemporary circumstances. Call My Name uses this model and through hands-on, panel-making activity brings people and communities together to remember loved ones, grieve, find support and strength, and engage in dialogues for change.
"One of the most powerful things I experienced during Call My Name workshops is seeing women and men from different generations as they commune together and transform from a group of strangers into an intimate community. Within a few hours I hear laughter, tears and witness people finding safety in expressing the most vulnerable details of their lives openly."
-- Jada Harris, The NAMES Project
Right now there are not enough Quilts made by and for the African-American community to meet the demand for the request for their display. Without your stories, The Quilt cannot do its job of opening hearts and minds and saving lives. Honor African-American lives lost to AIDS and contact The NAMES Project Foundation to gather all the information you we need to have to submit loved one honored. I still have others quilts to make and I will start with:
Call My Name also enhances The NAMES Project's ability to collect and display greater numbers of panels that reflect the epidemic's impact within the African-American community. As a result, Quilt prevention, education and awareness programs have greater capacity to deliver even more cultural relevance and provide poignant personal connections for African-American men, women and children visiting who see it.
The Existing Core Team of Sheryl Lee Ralph (spokesperson/host), Jada Harris (NAMES Project, director of programs), Marquetta Bell Johnson (textile artist, arts educator and CMN workshop leader), Juanita Williams (artist, craftsperson, HIV educator and CMN workshop leader), Stephanie B. Laster (artist, craftsperson, HIV educator and CMN workshop leader) and Rasheeda Burton (artist, craftsperson, HIV educator and CMN workshop leader) traveled to 10 cities with the support of Merck, National Endowment for the Arts and Black AIDS Institute.
"This Quilt is our reason to gather, our chance to heal and to create, our hope for greater responsibility and compassion."
-- Sheryl Lee Ralph
Remember. Understand. Educate. Act.
Call My Name